Citi ’Canes: a model partnership

Citi ’Canes: a model partnership

Alumnus Bill Fisse, B.B.A. ’75, M.B.A. ’77, with University of Miami students Louis Shaw, Richard Bosco, Bridget Scanlon, and Cory Levy during Citi's on-campus recruitment event in February 2020. 

By Nastasia Boulos

Alumnus Bill Fisse, B.B.A. ’75, M.B.A. ’77, with University of Miami students Louis Shaw, Richard Bosco, Bridget Scanlon, and Cory Levy during Citi's on-campus recruitment event in February 2020. 

Citi ’Canes: a model partnership

By Nastasia Boulos
Over 200 ’Canes have been offered jobs and internships through the Citi ’Canes program, which also provides learning opportunities and strengthens the bond between alumni who work at Citi.

After years at Citigroup Inc., alumnus Bill Fisse, B.B.A. ’75, M.B.A. ’77, accepted a new role as the head of human resources at one of Citi’s institutional banking divisions. At the time, the University of Miami was not a target school for Citi, which made it harder for students and recent graduates to get hired at the company. But Fisse’s division was looking to broaden its recruiting activities at various universities, and he saw an opportunity to support fellow ’Canes.    

“That’s when it really clicked for me,” he said. “That it was time for me to invest in giving back to the U. And one of the most important things you can do as an alum is hire a ’Cane, right?” Under his leadership, the treasury and trade solutions division at Citi began actively recruiting University of Miami students for the first time. Those students thrived, allowing for further recruiting at the University and setting the stage for a decade-long dynamic partnership and network – uniquely branded as the Citi ’Canes – between Citi and the University of Miami.

More than 10 years later, Citi has become one of the University of Miami’s largest corporate recruiters, with more than 200 ’Canes offered internships and full-time positions. The Citi ’Canes program, led by Fisse and other alumni, faculty, and staff at the U, has had a tremendous impact on hiring ’Canes, providing learning opportunities through internships and other programs, and strengthening the bond between alumni who work within the company.

The program saw its best recruitment numbers this year, with 13 UM graduates beginning their careers at Citi in August 2020 and 14 summer interns receiving offers to join upon graduation next year. An additional eight students have committed to summer internships in 2021, with many more currently in the pipeline.

Many of the first connections between Citi and students happen during Citi’s unique on-campus recruitment events – two-day long visits organized through the Toppel Career Center that feature meetings with student organizations, presentations in class, diversity and inclusion lunches, information sessions, and panel discussions at the Shalala Student Center. “Citi is always trying to be strategic and engaging in different ways to connect with as many students as they can,” said Ali Rodriguez, executive director at the Toppel Career Center. 

Olivia Frejka is one of the students that Citi engaged with early in her studies. As a first-year student, she attended the company’s diversity lunch on campus and connected with Fisse, who helped translate her experiences as a leader on campus into marketable skills and provided feedback on where she could improve. Frejka recently completed a virtual internship over the summer and was offered a full-time job once she graduates in Citi’s finance organization.

Now a senior majoring in finance, Frejka serves as one of two campus ambassadors for Citi (senior Caroline Lanfrank is the other), helping with student outreach, advising fellow students on the application process and connecting them to alums who work at Citi in the divisions that they’re interested in. “I wanted to give back the way that Bill and the Citi ’Canes did for me,” she said.

The Citi ’Canes program goes far beyond recruitment. Fisse and his team have created a number of educational and mentorship programs at the U that allow students to gain hands-on experience.

They’ve co-sponsored lectures on doing business in other regions, particularly Latin America and China, as well as semester-long consulting projects for MBA or analytics students to tackle a given corporate problem at Citi and present their findings. Fisse himself has lectured at the business school about building a personal brand. 

More recently, Citi partnered with the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School to host a competition around sustainability, a major focus for the business school. Teams of students competed to present ways Citi can improve its commitment to environmental sustainability. Members of the winning team were guaranteed internship interviews at Citi.

Additional programs have included reverse mentoring, freshman branding sessions, lunch and learns, recruiter office hours, super-day prep workshops, and a special mentorship and recruitment program for Division 1 student athletes, several of whom have since been hired at Citi.

And, perhaps most importantly, they’ve created an extensive and supportive network and strengthened the bonds between alumni who work at Citi. Citi ’Canes hosts events throughout the year, from welcome dinners for new ’Cane hires to Hurricanes football watch parties at alumni-owned Brother Jimmy’s to happy hours at spots around New York.

A structured mentorship program pairs new hires with mentors who are University of Miami alumni and who can help them navigate corporate life, answer questions, or connect them with others. The mentees later become mentors for the next round of Citi ’Canes, and so on. “It’s about paying it forward,” Fisse said. “You had the opportunity to avail yourself of this network of Citi ’Canes and now you’re serving as a mentor.” 

For Kyle Kingma, B.S.B.A. ’19, who joined Citi as a full-time employee last year, the Citi ’Canes network allowed him to go into his first day knowing a few faces around the office. It also meant he could reach out to people across the bank and expand his network. “You can get insight, knowledge and perspective from people that genuinely care about your success and how you’re doing,” he said, “because you share that common connection, which is the University of Miami.”

The Toppel Career Center presented Citi with the Patricia Toppel Employer of the Year award in 2017 for its dedication to enhancing and expanding the relationship between Citi and University of Miami students and faculty, as well as its commitment to diversity and inclusion. “Citi’s candor, their intentionality, and then their willingness to deliver on supporting communities of color and women made it clear that the company was committed to the prospect of inclusion,” said Ellenmarie McPhillip, assistant dean at Miami Herbert Business School.   

Fisse, who is also a member of Iron Arrow, the highest honor achievable at the University, received the 2019 Patricia Toppel award for his leadership, creativity, and dedication to mentoring, guiding, and hiring students. Though recently retired after 40 years at Citi, he is continuing to provide support to the Citi ’Canes network as Nick Van Stedum, B.B.A. ’15, a corporate banking senior associate at Citi, takes the lead.

Looking ahead, Citi ’Canes aims to recruit ’Canes into more divisions at Citi and to broaden its recruitment to include students from other schools and colleges. “What we want to get across to students is that though Citi is a financial institution, there are many opportunities for non-business majors,” Van Stedum said.

At the same time, Citi will continue to expand its commitment to diversity and inclusion, leveraging the presence of underrepresented minorities and women, and to create more structured programs that are not focused exclusively on recruiting.

“We’ve enjoyed a two-way partnership that has been defined by many programs that started and grew, and we’ve worked with important colleagues, professors, and leaders at the U,” Fisse said. “In turn, we’ve been able to cultivate, proudly, a set of students that want to give back and feel good that they are part of the Citi ’Canes network. My hope is that it continues to grow. Go (Citi) ’Canes!”