Alumni profile: Wealth manager Cinzia Coppola ’09 says Saint Michael’s built ‘a foundation for growth’
As Vice President Banker at J.P. Morgan, she continually taps College lessons about community, relationships and the human side of business; she advises students to 'be exploratory' as undergraduates, and favors a liberal arts background for her field
What year did you graduate and what did you study?
I graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a double minor in international business and Italian.
Is there a certain class or professor at Saint Michael’s that made a memorable mark on you?
My sophomore year, I took macroeconomics with John Carvellas, who always called on me to answer questions. He held me accountable to understand and digest the material, which has aided me, from a macroeconomic view, in my career at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. I also had an in-depth relationship with Robert Letovsky, who was my business adviser through my four years at Saint Michael’s. Through his tutelage he became a confidante during my time as a student and as my career progressed outside of Saint Michael’s College. Additionally, my philosophy professor Crystal L’Hote helped me develop a philosophical vantage point. Her teachings, blended with my liberal arts knowledge, crafted me in a well-rounded manner, balancing the business focus of my major with the human component.
What do you do in your current career, and how did you end up there?
I currently work in Wealth Management for J.P. Morgan Private Bank as a Vice President Banker. My role as a banker is to empower, educate, and engage clients in order to goal-set for their future. Much of what my role entails is understanding their values and their needs, so that I can best serve the relationship. The four pillars of holistic planning and advice that we provide come from the core of banking, investments, credit, and planning.
The way I found myself in my role was networking, determination and pure luck. After graduation, I was fortunate enough to become a transfer agent associate working as an administrator to hedge funds. The experience that I have accumulated in the past couple years led me to where I am now. After being a transfer agent, I was working similar back office roles reconciling accounts. After that, I went to BBR Partners a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). BBR Partners was where I got my first exposure to the ultra-high net worth space and working with clients. After that, I went to Northern Trust and I was working with someone who had been in the field much longer than myself, so I was able to become a sponge and absorb all of the knowledge that they had to bestow upon me; it was a great breeding ground for learning.
J.P. Morgan Private Bank is world class. The opportunity to work for the Private Bank has given me the resources and expertise I need to be successful, with an established platform that has the breadth and the depth to best serve sophisticated and complex clients.
How does your Saint Michael’s education play into your current career?
Saint Michael’s is a very small, tight-knit community and its size emphasizes the importance of connecting within that community. When I moved down to New York City, I made an effort to re-establish myself and make my own community where I live. The liberal arts education allowed me to be a balanced student and to think about the logical and illogical. It helped me deal with facts and problems in the black and white, but also taught me to make sure that I’m living in color. I knew I wanted to study business administration, but I also knew I didn’t want to be so entrenched and concentrated in business. I chose a liberal arts education as opposed to a business school because it gave me a background in philosophy and writing, and I even took astronomy! These components are essential in how you draft your persona because, firstly, we’re human beings. You must be able to socialize, communicate and build genuine relationships with other fellow human beings on this earth. I can’t stress enough how the Saint Michael’s education helps to build a foundation for that growth.
What are your favorite things about your current job/working in finance, and what has it taught you?
I am enthusiastic about Wealth Management because it is fundamentally relationship based. It’s based on listening. In my opinion, one must listen in order to provide intentional planning advice tailored to the client’s specific needs. If you have emotional quotient, the ability to empathize, listen, and problem-solve, your business will grow exponentially. These things all play into the success of your relationship with your client. The beauty of my job is that if I do it really well, I’ll get to benefit from having a long relationship with my client. I am invested in my client’s personal success and I am privileged to see their wealth grow in a really impactful way, which is something that I’m truly passionate about.
Coupled with my career that involves empowering ultra-high net worth clients, I also am philanthropic, empowering teens. I am a part of the Junior Board for an organization called Cents Ability, Inc. Cents Ability, Inc. is an organization that teaches financial literacy to underprivileged teenagers. The mission of the organization is something that I consider to be integral to a teen’s upbringing and is missing from the American education system these days. The significance of giving is something that became embedded in me from my time as a student at Saint Michael’s: giving back to my greater community.
Another thing I love about my career is that every day is different. One day, I might be crunching numbers, analyzing, and looking at balance sheets. And the next day, I might be meeting with clients all day. It’s a nice mix of diversity.
Lastly, I love the collaboration at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Everyone works together and understands that there’s no “I” in “team.” That’s something that emulates the Saint Michael’s motto very well. We’re all a part of a common goal.
What is your advice for students looking to find a job soon?
Be as broad as possible, especially as a student. Be exploratory because this is your opportunity to leave no stone unturned. I believe every student should go out and try new things, and ask himself or herself, “What are my values?” … “What interests me?” You need to know who you are, what you’re about, what you value, what your goals are, so that when you see it out in the world, you can say, “I align with that.” As a student, your tool kit is small in the beginning and those few tools you have may not be as refined as someone ten years out in your career. But, at least you have those rudimentary tools. As you progress and take on new experiences, you refine those tools and hone those skills. It’s always important to lean into discomfort; discomfort and challenges are from where the most growth and learning happens.