Recently, we had the privilege of sitting down with John Kim from Stifel during a lunch and learn session. Stifel is a publicly traded firm renowned for its expertise in corporate finance, commercial banking, public finance, and asset management. Our association with Stifel revolves around the financing of various charter school facility projects, a partnership that has yielded great results.
The session began with John sharing some invaluable takeaways for our interns, emphasizing the importance of effective communication and active listening. He encouraged interns to take diligent notes and reflect on specific insights gained from their experiences in different roles during their internships.
Charting his own career
John then took us on a journey through his own career path. Hailing from Palos Verdes, he attended public school and became the second generation in his family to pursue higher education. From a young age, he learned about customer service while working at his father’s gas station. While studying at UC Berkeley, he initially aspired to attend medical school and pursued a degree in Molecular Biology and Rhetoric. However, life’s twists and turns, along with some inspiring history classes at UCLA, led him to reevaluate his career goals, ultimately majoring in History and Rhetoric at UC Berkeley.
Following his undergraduate studies, John taught high school in Berkeley and contemplated the idea of going to graduate school. However, a conversation with his sister proved pivotal as he found his calling in the world of finance. He embarked on his 26-year journey with Stifel in Los Angeles, where he has made significant contributions to the company’s success.
Stifel and the world of finance
During the session, John delved into Stifel’s expertise in four key areas and shed light on how lending works in the world of finance. He emphasized the crucial information required to secure a loan and why someone might lend to you. In his domain of public financing, and in other areas, a well-prepared prospectus (or story book) is essential when approaching potential investors. The prospectus presents all the relevant facts and information investors need to know and conveys a compelling narrative. John’s work in public finance involves raising capital for various government entities, including states, counties, cities, school districts, nonprofits, and charter schools. These entities can obtain funding by issuing bonds.
It’s worth noting that while the public finance division at Stifel comprises a relatively small team of 250 employees, the asset management division boasts a workforce of 8,000. Despite its size, the public finance division plays a crucial role in the financial ecosystem, and John actively markets to credit analysts at prominent investment management firms.
Investing in charter schools
The lunch and learn session concluded with a thought-provoking video presentation on STEM Prep, a Los Angeles-based charter school and a valued partner of PCSD. The video highlighted the positive impact of partnering with charter schools, illustrating how such collaborations can benefit the community, students, and education as a whole.
In closing, the lunch and learn with John Kim from Stifel was an eye-opening experience that shed light on the multifaceted world of finance and the importance of adaptability in one’s career journey. John’s personal story serves as a reminder that career paths are rarely linear and that the ability to seize opportunities and reevaluate goals can lead to fulfilling and successful outcomes. We are grateful for the insights shared during this session and look forward to continuing our partnership with Stifel in making a positive impact in the education sector.
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