Ambiguous goals led Stewart into media, banking

In the fall of his senior year, Charles Stewart ’92 was forced to confront a difficult issue — he had no idea what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

At a Calhoun College Master’s Tea on Wednesday, Stewart — a history major who was interested in squash and singing — talked about how he succeeded in business despite not spending his summers bolstering his resume with impressive internships.

Stewart, now the managing director of the Media Investment Banking Group at Morgan Stanley, talked about becoming involved with investment banking and the ways in which his job exemplifies the influence of the media in modern culture. Students in the audience said they valued Stewart’s insights into the world of investment banking.

Although many of his peers arrived at Yale clear about their career goals, Stewart said he was taught by his professors to explore all of his intellectual interests. He said he was uncertain about his post-graduation aspirations because of Yale’s emphasis on a liberal arts rather than a pre-professional education.

“I thought, as a senior, Yale did me a major disservice,” Stewart said.

After graduation, Stewart taught in Australia and began working to establish a co-op in Guatemala. When he saw that one of his former classmates was working with an investment company that had financial relations with Brazilian companies, Stewart said he decided that investment banking would be a career that would allow him to make an impact.

He began a career in finance even though it contradicted the ideals he had developed in college, he said.

“When I was in your position, I really had no idea what i-banking was other than the notion that it involved a massive sellout,” Stewart said to the audience members.

His work at Morgan Stanley in media investment banking — a sector that helps companies generate funds through media advertising — has allowed him to be a part of a rapidly changing world dominated by ads, Stewart said. He said the media is becoming more interactive and instantaneous, although its ultimate purpose is to manipulate cultural trends.

“Most of the media you see is a function of creative ways to sell cars,” Stewart said.

Stewart also pointed to the breakdown of the dichotomy between online and traditional media as one of the most important trneds in the financial world. The advent of social networking Web sites has generated an increase in corporate mergers, such as Microsoft’s rumored impending investment in Facebook.com, he said.

No hands went up when Stewart asked how many people in the room subscribed to the New Haven Register.

But when Stewart asked how many people had Facebook accounts, almost all students raised their hands.

The Internet is a pervasive part of the modern world, and businesses must adjust their advertising methods to maintain their competitive edge, Stewart said.

Many students said they appreciated Stewart’s discussion of investment banking in the context of popular culture, as well as his anecdotes about life in Calhoun during the early 1990s.

“I think by talking more about the media aspect of investment banking, Stewart made what is probably a confusing and dry topic more accessible for students,” Niki Sri-Kumar ’11 said.

Nathan Segal ’08 said he thinks Stewart’s position at Morgan Stanley gives him unique insight into the advertising world.

“I thought it was an informative look into the current media climate,” he said. “He gave a lot of information that you wouldn’t find in a course at Yale.”

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