Ashley Lannquist’s first experience on Wall Street was one she’ll likely remember the rest of her life. It was March 2008 and she stood with her fellow classmates from Barnard College on the floor of Lehman Brothers as part of a program to get more women into finance. Bear Stearns had imploded earlier in the week and it was the beginning of the months-long dwindle to bankruptcy for Lehman.
“I was on this trading floor — just a young, impressionable sophomore in college, first time ever on a trading floor — and everyone was screaming,” Lannquist, 28, recalls. “The Lehman Brothers people were calling their clients, comforting them. They were like, ‘Keep your capital with us, we’re fine, we’re not going to default as well.’”
Nearly a decade later, Lannquist has had a successful young career in finance. Now she has helped co-found one of the newest clubs at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The Berkeley Haas FinTech Club is the latest student-run club focused on financial technology (fintech) to sprout on an elite business school campus. Fintech’s rapid rise in popularity among MBA students has been impressive. Over the past few years, fintech courses have popped up at most elite business schools, and clubs have been established at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. New York University’s Stern School of Business even has a specialized fintech track for MBAs.
‘A GROWING CAREER INTEREST IN FINTECH’ AMONG HAAS STUDENTS
At least two things stand out about the Haas fintech outfit. First, its rapid growth: from five co-founders in August 2016, the club ballooned to 115 members at the end of the fall semester, and now has 145 as MBAs continue to sign up and pay club fees despite the lateness in the academic year — a fact that speaks to the club’s popularity.
“About a fifth of the first-year full-time MBA class joined the FinTech Club within six months of its founding, putting it among our most popular new clubs in recent Haas history,” Bill Rindfuss, the club’s faculty sponsor, said in an article published by Berkeley Haas. “There’s a growing career interest in fintech among our students and we’re fortunate that the Bay Area is a hotbed for these jobs.”
Perhaps more impressive than its growing membership is the club’s six-person leadership team. It’s comprised of all women. According to Caitlyn Driehorst, club co-president, of the more than 40 clubs at Haas only four have all women on their leadership teams. “Even the women’s club has male VPs,” she points out.
COMING TO HAAS TO ESTABLISH A FINTECH CLUB
The chance to establish a fintech club was the main pull that drew Lannquist to cross the country for business school. A Florida native, she has lived in New York City since enrolling at Barnard College. Her initial draw to finance stemmed from traveling the world with her twin sister and aunt and uncle, who retired early after successful careers in international business. “I always liked geopolitics and macroeconomics,” explains Lannquist, who speaks French and Turkish as well as her native English. A Florida state and Junior Olympics taekwondo champion, after graduating in 2010 she worked in analyst positions at Segal Rogerscasey and BNY Mellon. “I’m coming from finance. And I was serious about investment management, in general,” she says.
“I knew I wanted to get into fintech,” Lannquist continues. “And I saw a really good opportunity specifically at Haas to build a fintech club.”
Lannquist even wrote about her intention in her application essay. That led to her being awarded the $50,000 CJ White Fellowship. Before arriving on campus, Rindfuss put Lannquist in contact with four first-year students already at Haas who had been hoping to establish a fintech club. She also attended the MIT Sloan FinTech Conference and met with Daniel McAuley, who founded the Wharton FinTech club.
FROM RUSSIAN LITERATURE TO VEGAS TO HAAS FINTECH
Driehorst’s route to her fintech interest and leadership wasn’t as direct. Growing up “all over the place as a military brat,” Driehorst attended the University of Chicago, where she earned degrees in Russian and English literature — “proving that two useless degrees are just as bad as one,” she jokes. After college, Driehorst says, she took the “liberal arts kids’ traditional introduction into business,” by joining Boston Consulting Group. After a two-year stint, Driehorst took a strategy position with MGM Resorts and moved to Las Vegas, where she was born and where her family was living at the time. Driehorst went from managing hedge funds to Vegas, where “A lot of our VPs had never gone to college, a lot of people had never worked outside of Nevada,” she says. “I was really exciting to be a part of this strategy group.”
Wanting to round out her business skills, Driehorst decided to pursue an MBA at Berkeley.
“Having worked at BCG, I knew people who went to many different business schools and I also took business school classes as an undergrad,” Driehorst, 28, explains. “And I wanted to be in a place where there was a culture of cooperation and a culture that didn’t pit students against each other. That’s something that really drew me to Berkeley.”
Driehorst got her first deep-dive intro to fintech by interning at Accion Venture Lab in Washington D.C., an impact investing venture capital fund focused on financial inclusion. “I got to see how a lot of big banks look at financial inclusion as their next domestic growth opportunity,” she says of her initial interest in fintech, which she says can play a major role in driving costs down for big banks.
When Driehorst learned about the fintech club at Haas, she didn’t wait around for an invite. She showed up to meetings and just started helping.
“I’m really happy to be someone who blocks and tackles and just gets stuff done,” she says, noting her upbringing with her father, a pilot for the United States Air Force. Driehorst literally walked around campus putting up fliers for events and set up and took down chairs and tables at events and meetings. The blue-collar work ethic led to her current leadership position.