Bianca Baldassaro ‘23, a Merrimack College Junior majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Corporate Finance and Investments and minoring in Music, is beginning her role as the first female Co-Portfolio Manager of the Merrimack Investment Fund! Previously, Bianca was an Intern at Putnam Investments, a teller at Eastern Bank, an Employer Engagement Intern at the O’Brien Center, and a Lab Assistant at Mucci Capital Markets Lab! Besides the Merrimack Investment Fund, Bianca can be found singing for Mackapella, dancing on the Dance Team, on the Merrimack College Fixed Income Fund, on the Girard Business Student Leadership Board, and in the Honors Program!
Congratulations on your new position. Thank you for meeting with me. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to get involved in the Merrimack Investment Fund? What makes it a great place to be involved?
I joined my second semester of freshman year. It was always my goal coming into college to join and is part of the reason why I came to Merrimack. It’s a great hands-on experience with analysis opportunities that you don’t get in classes. It’s a fantastic opportunity since it provides that hands-on-learning experience, and I’ve met some of my best friends through it. It’s one big family, we work great together, and it comes with the work we do and the bond over common interests.
How did you find this fund, and can you tell us a little bit about what you do there? And is there any advice you’d give to other students looking to break in?
I found the fund when I was first applying to Merrimack College, and at Admitted Students Day. I started off as a junior analyst, which was the learning phase of things. Once I pitched my first company I moved up to analyst. In Fall 2021, I was promoted to Senior Analyst Consumer Staples and Discretionary Sectors. And this semester I started a role as co-portfolio manager. William Eagan and I, we manage a portfolio of $400,000 in assets under management. We currently have 32 members on our team. We help the team to research new companies, we look at economic trends, & we value and monitor existing holdings.
Can you talk us through the process of finding and applying to get into the Fund?
How did the O’Brien Center help with getting prepared to enter your career?
The O’Brien Center has helped build my resume and helped me find the skills I need for future positions, and a lot of those skills have helped with my time in the fund. These skills include Excel, research, analysis, and working collaboratively. In past experiences, I’ve applied for internships through Handshake and met recruiters at Career Fairs.
In general, how did Merrimack contribute to your career development? What resources did you use?
Mary Papazian, a professor here at Merrimack, has been a big contributor. I met her at Admitted Students Day. I knew with her help and the O’Brien Center and Finance Department, I would be led in the right direction for success in my career. Whether it’s the classes, the opportunities here at Merrimack, or career opportunities, I knew I was in the right place. I also got the opportunity to earn a financial license (FINRA Securities Industries Essentials (SIE)) that students don’t get to test for in college. I passed an exam that I had to take in order to get the license. Most people who go into certain industries, like finance management, need to get this FINRA license to get jobs. Most don’t get those licenses till they are on the job. But Merrimack offers the opportunity to get a leg up and help you stand out in job applications with an early opportunity to take the test.
How does it feel to be the first female co-portfolio manager?
Honestly, it feels like a dream come true. It’s such a male dominated industry, and it feels like such an accomplishment to say I’m the first one. My goal is to get more women in the fund. That goal and initiative started about a year and a half ago, and it’s a reason why I joined. My future goal is to have more women by my side in the fund.
What surprised you about your Co-Portfolio Manager experience? Were there any situations that came up that you were unprepared for?
I was surprised to see how much of a change it would be from being a Senior Analyst to Co-Portfolio Manager. Your knowledge must be broader and encompass everything. It’s different from when you’re looking at one sector, but now I’m looking at everything and managing what is already in the portfolio.
What skills have you developed working for the Fund and what do you wish you had known prior to starting your time there?
Working collaboratively, research and analysis, a lot of presentation skills; I feel much more comfortable presenting now. It used to always be very nerve wracking for me. Dance used to be my thing and my only thing. I really stepped out of my comfort zone when I applied for the fund, and once I joined the fund, it was great to have a different variety of involvement, and to find a place outside of dance.
I wish I knew what my future held. I had no idea that this team would have my best friends and now I can’t imagine my life without these people.
Any campus shout-outs to folks who have helped you along the way in getting you to this point?
Speaking of your time at Merrimack, how did you grow in your time here? Were there any influential clubs, jobs, professors, or moments for you?
When I came into college, I was definitely in my shell, but I’ve grown a lot in my time here! College was a transition that I wasn’t ready for. I started commuting and felt a huge change. I met new people, stepped out of my comfort zone, and all of my clubs really contributed to that because I’ve met great people in every one of my involvements. I’ve Also made fantastic memories dancing at sports games, singing at the Celtics game, and my very first time speaking at an investment board presentation.