From Decatur Street to Wall Street
Travis Steed, MS in Finance, 2010Originally from Ringgold, Georgia, alumnus Travis Steed, ’10, knew from an early age that he had an interest in finance. But, it was during his time as a student at Georgia Tech that he decided to make what would be a life-changing decision and enroll at Georgia State University to seek a master’s degree in finance. While a student, he was a member of the first group of Georgia State students to participate in what was then a groundbreaking program, Panthers On Wall Street, where he would get an inside look at what a career in the highest levels of the financial world would entail. From that life-altering decision, Steed now wakes up each morning in New York City working in Equity Research on Wall Street. He spoke with the Alumni Association’s Dave Cohen about his journey from Decatur Street to Wall Street.
You’ve been successful in making the journey from Decatur Street to Wall Street, where you now work at a top investment bank. Was it always a goal for you to work in what many consider to be the major leagues of the financial industry, Wall Street?
It was a lifelong dream of mine to be in finance but I didn’t know what that really meant. Finance was always more of a hobby but as I learned more, I realized that I could do my hobby as a job! Once I realized finance could be my career, I took initial steps to make the transition from engineering to finance. I used the platform at Georgia State to do that. I decided about half way through my undergraduate engineering program that I wanted to be in finance so two weeks after graduating from Georgia Tech I started night classes at Georgia State. I graduated with my master’s in Finance. My whole goal, starting from day one at Georgia State, was to be successful in finance. As I progressed and participated in programs like Panthers on Wall Street, I realized that specifically what I wanted to do was equity research. I knew that the best place to launch my career would be in New York City. I wanted to go all in — I just took a leap of faith. I quit my engineering job after graduating from Georgia State and just moved to New York. I worked for free for about six months at a small firm and then landed a full-time position at a leading investment bank. I’m living the dream, doing exactly what I came here to do, and so far I am thankful to say I’ve been very successful.
Comment on your experience with Panthers on Wall Street and how valuable that was in getting you to where you are today.
It was very valuable. It allowed me to understand the industry so when I moved to New York I had an idea of what area to focus on, which firms to target, and the people inside those firms to pursue. I came up here with a very detailed plan; it was an action plan and I knew exactly what I needed to do to get in the door and get a job. I just knew it would take time and perseverance. My experience with Panthers on Wall Street gave me the knowledge of the industry with regards to what to do once I got here and it also gave me the confidence to know that I could obtain a job on Wall Street. I was confident in the fact that enough hard work and persistence would get me a job, and once someone would give me an opportunity, I knew I would succeed. The program also allowed me to gain numerous connections, including alumni and friends of alumni who have served as advisors and mentors since starting my career here. It really strengthened my network.
Were there one or two professors at Georgia State that, as you look back, were instrumental in assisting you to get to where you are today?
Yes, absolutely. Doctor Gerald Gay in the Finance department at Robinson was instrumental. I took several classes with him, and he was very good at bringing current events and real-world problems into the classroom. That enabled me to connect the dots between the academic side of finance and how the markets work. In addition to that, he was very encouraging to me and helped me finish my studies with an independent self-study course once I was already in New York.
What is Equity Research exactly and what does the position entail?
In equity research, you work with a team to specialize in a particular industry and subsector and closely follow around 15-20 publicly traded companies. I follow companies within the healthcare sector. Our goal is to provide differentiated investment and industry insights to our clients, which are generally institutional investors. We do a lot of modeling and writing research notes but we also spend a significant amount of time communicating our ideas over the phone and in meetings.
You’ve been involved with volunteering your time and insight with the students that have participated in the Panthers on Wall Street trips now that you are working in New York. Is there some pride and satisfaction combined there from someone who was on that inaugural trip?
It is very humbling to know that I was just in their shoes a few years ago. I can relate to what they are going through but I also know what steps they need to take. Having been in their situation recently, I’ve been able to help several students in multiple ways — whether it’s been just talking on the phone when they are back in Atlanta or being able to meet them in New York. A couple of students have moved to New York and I’ve helped set them up with internships at another firm, which has been very rewarding.
How exciting is it for you, a guy from Ringgold, Georgia, who came to Atlanta and graduated from Georgia State, to now be living and working in New York doing what you’ve always wanted to do?
It’s amazing! Occasionally I have to shake my head and make sure I am not dreaming. It’s sometimes hard to believe that I actually live here and that I’m doing the work that I love. It’s a dream come true.