An MBA is the springboard for a leap from advisor to investor

By Eric Askins

If you want to teach yourself about investing in publicly traded companies, reading Berkshire Hathaway’s annual reports to learn from Warren Buffett is a great place to start. Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, did that during his first job at LifeBridge Financial Group in Houston, Texas, where he helped high-net-worth clients build their wealth, diversify their portfolios, and manage their money-related emotions. “That is where I discovered the world of stocks and started to imagine myself as an investor. But self-study can only take you so far,” Xavier acknowledged.

Xavier enrolled in the Berkeley Haas full-time MBA program to leap from financial advisor to investor. He came specifically to gain a practitioner’s perspective, to find mentorship, and to build his network. His summer internship as an equity research analyst with ClearBridge Investments in New York City is early proof of his progress on that career path. “I love the focus on individual equities, the continuous learning, and the pursuit of the best ideas through the lenses of an investor, a leader, or even a historian. I’m looking deeply at companies to understand them as businesses and potential investments. Plus, sitting across the table from the leadership of some of the world’s largest companies is an experience few people will ever have,” he said.

As a first-generation college graduate and white-collar professional, Xavier relishes becoming the first in his family to complete a graduate degree. “I’m proud of the self-made tradition in my family,” he said, “but I’ve learned that I don’t have to figure it all out myself, that getting help along the way doesn’t diminish the accomplishment.”

Family considerations played a role in his choice of Berkeley Haas. He was familiar with the Bay Area from visiting his wife in law school, and the couple already had friends in the area. “When I got accepted, despite knowing that she would have to retake the bar exam, she was nudging me to decide in favor of Berkeley Haas before I confirmed that Berkeley was the best place for me,” Xavier recalled. “Then, I visited campus for an Admitted Students Weekend and knew this was it. Simply put, I loved being surrounded by trees and fresh air. Although I have to say, I had no idea how much it rains here in the winter.”

Another thing that he wasn’t prepared for is the cost of living in the Bay Area. “A good life in Louisiana is cheap, and Houston is cheapish. The Bay Area is not,” he said. “But you need to consider the return on your investment. Graduating from a top-tier MBA program will provide you with many opportunities throughout the course of your career. Most global financial firms don’t hesitate to recruit at Berkeley Haas, and they appreciate the collaborative spirit Haasies bring to teams. Instead of trying to outdo each other during recruiting, we focus on helping each other. That pays dividends now and into the future because you have such a strong network.”

It is 1000% true that Berkeley Haas takes student leadership seriously."

Xavier’s participation in the Investment Club provided him ample opportunities to practice what he had learned in classes and pitch competitions. “We are a small but mighty club in nationwide competitions. Pitching stocks to judges who do this work is the best way to learn, and gaining experience is central to interviewing for internships.” Proof of Xavier’s success is his team’s second-place result in the Chicago Booth Investment Conference and Competition.

As a Consortium student and a Haas Finance Fellow, Xavier has two distinct communities within Berkeley Haas for support. The Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management, an organization dedicated to supporting under-represented students, “is a family. We call each other the C-Bears, and we know that whenever you feel anything but exceptional, you can count on a C-Bear to help you recenter and recover.”

The Haas Finance Fellow program provides financial support and, equally important, a mentor working in the finance sector. Xavier said, “My mentor is phenomenal. He is a Haas alum and is now the CEO of an investment firm. I was not expecting as personal a relationship as we have developed. I’m very, very grateful for his guidance and friendship.”

On the academic side, Xavier listed the core Accounting and Corporate Finance classes among the most meaningful in his first year. Coming to Berkeley Haas with an undergrad degree in Finance, Xavier is confident he could have passed the tests to waive out of those courses yet chose not to. Instead, he used the opportunity to “reinforce and update what I had learned earlier. And I was able to help teach classmates who were new to the subject matter. It felt good to help them, and I realized how much I enjoy teaching. It is fulfilling.”

While Xavier had heard about the student-led culture at Berkeley Haas, he was surprised to find himself among those leaders in the position of VP Finance in the MBA Association. “I'm not the leader who's going to spark a revolution, so taking center stage at times is challenging. That is why I made ‘becoming a better leader of people’ an MBA goal. And it is 1000% true that Berkeley Haas takes student leadership seriously. I appreciate having the opportunity to shape the experience of future Haasies. We are all vocal advocates for what we think needs to change. We are super-passionate and hard-working people who get things done.”

An MBA from a top business school can help you grow your network and leadership skills so you can take the next step toward a fulfilling career and increase your salary. Are you ready to invest in yourself?

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Posted on October 25, 2023
Eric Askins
Eric is the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions. He partners with students, faculty and staff to recruit a diverse student body that enhances our community through innovative leadership and academic excellence.