University of Rochester, Simon Business School
“Creative and curious, always excited to build solutions and improve systems.”
Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa.
Fun fact about yourself: My brother-in-law and I founded a coffee business, Mokato Coffee, two years ago in Cape Town. We have our own brand that we market online and in grocery stores as well as supply cafés and restaurants. We bootstrapped our business with an initial $1,000 and have seen some exciting growth in the short time since we started.
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Cape Town, Bachelor of Business Science in Finance.
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Standard Bank, Commercial Banking Analyst.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Credit Suisse, New York City.
Where will you be working after graduation? Credit Suisse, Investment Banking Associate in the Consumer & Retail team.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
VP of Investment Banking: I initiated and headed up investment banking training sessions for a Master’s in finance students and MBA students alike, coaching, and mentoring them through the investment banking hiring process.
Student Career Advisor: Mock interviews and resume advice to students going into various careers in finance.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? 2019 Dean’s Leadership Award. This award is given annually to two students in the class based on peer and staff nominations for individuals who have made significant contributions to the school and demonstrated leadership among their classmates. For my contributions to be recognized like this by my peers and staff blows me away. Every day I step out giving my best and try to extend what I have received, hoping that I can be an encouragement to those around me.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Pitching an investment thesis to the CFO of a major South African company to acquire a foreign entity. Three months later the company made its first overseas acquisition in the suggested country, growing our revenue from this company by 35%. It was incredibly rewarding to lead the initial analysis, strategic internal discussions, and client presentation that ultimately materialized and resulted in a mutually beneficial deal.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? Urs Wälchli was my professor for Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurial Finance. Professor Wälchli has an incredible ability to distill information and deliver the content systematically with bite-sized information that allows students to fully engage in the material. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from his real-world experience both in the corporate and venture capital environments respectively. His class was a rich synthesis of theory and real-world application that I know will only benefit me as I progress in my career.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Simon Scholarship Weekend is an incredible event held annually in February. Admitted students get a chance to visit Simon and compete for the various scholarships available through the school and its partners. What is truly incredible about this event (other than the generous scholarships Simon students typically receive) is the number of alumni that fly in from all over North America to be a part of this, playing a role in getting to know the new group and making judgments on future Simon students. This level of involvement speaks strongly to the sense of community that we experience at Simon on a day to day basis – there is an unspoken conviction among Simon students and alumni to give back and pay it forward.
Why did you choose this business school? Simon has a phenomenal student culture and community. Daily life at the school is an integrative experience where students are intimately involved in the program and activities. Throughout my journey prior to joining Simon, I experienced the admissions staff, current students, and alumni to be warm and welcoming. This made me feel confident throughout the process and gave me the platform to be myself and bring my strengths and experiences to the table.
What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know that you bring value to the program through your experiences. There will be plenty of students who come along with you who have such amazing stories and resumes. It can be easy to fall into the trap of not feeling good enough or, on the other hand, an overwhelming competitive urge. I advise students to be their genuine selves and reveal their strengths while being honest about their dreams and goals in life. Ultimately, when choosing a business school, there should be a mutual fit that will create an environment for you to thrive.
What is the biggest myth about your school? Small class size means a lesser program. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our ~100 student class size reflects a rich concentration of culture, experiences, and relationships. I have engaged with several students from larger schools who, after almost two years, know only a fraction of their classmates. At Simon, we all know each other and have developed meaningful relationships with most of our fellow students. This creates a supportive environment and plenty of friendships to build on in the years that lie ahead.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would travel more and spend more time seeing the beauty of the Finger Lakes region and Canada. There is so much natural beauty in Upstate New York that I still have not seen. From amazing hiking trails and skiing to beautiful lakes and wineries, the area is a real hidden gem that I wish I explored more.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Adeeso Adetoye is a truly remarkable person. Before business school, he founded two businesses: a consulting firm and a food startup. Since being in the USA for his MBA he has lived away from his wife and child and continued to succeed in his career after a successful internship at General Mills and now heading up the Consulting Club on campus. His qualities of hard work, positive attitude, and kindness will certainly stick with me.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father played an impactful role in inspiring me to pursue business. He came from a humble background and never had the opportunity to study at college. He made the most of what he had and was able to build a business that, in turn, allowed me to pursue a degree in finance and start a business of my own. His attitude of hard work, determination, and pushing beyond what seems possible has encouraged me to reach further and dream for greater things.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
I want to see my coffee business expand and start exporting overseas, thereby promoting the story of high-quality African products. Being able to grow a business to a level that the brand has influence in society and industry is something I hope to be involved in. Promoting African coffee and products to the world would be a dream come true.
I also want to be intimately involved in the full process of cross-border M&A integration. How large companies integrate after an acquisition is incredibly fascinating. From culture to systems to operating models, meshing companies together is a complex and intricate process. I would love to see this first-hand and witness synergies being unlocked.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who never saw any challenge or opportunity as impossible and who approached everything with a positive attitude.
Board games: Bring out any board game and I’m always in.
Finding the perfect espresso: Exploring coffee shops wherever I travel is a lot of fun. Each city has its own take on coffee that says something about the local culture.
Five-a-side soccer: I have made some great friends playing soccer in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Rochester. It’s a great way to bond and get involved in some healthy competition.
What made Benjamin such an invaluable member of the Class of 2020?
“There are no shoe-ins for investment banking associate positions, but Benjamin consistently exhibits the professionalism, intellect, and work ethic needed to secure and succeed in a sell-side banking role. The result of his tireless internship search, including frequent trips to New York City, was a Summer Associate position in Credit-Suisse’s Consumer & Retail Group, where he will return upon graduation as an Investment Banking Associate.
Benjamin is a leader on campus who has quickly gained the respect of faculty, staff, and students alike. Coming into Simon, he earned the Fielding Leadership Fellow scholarship, and then the 2019 Dean’s Leadership Award, but these only begin to tell the story. His leadership at Simon has primarily been through his involvement mentoring students in the career center and through his club board position.
As a Benet Career Peer in Simon’s Benet Career Management Center, he selflessly worked long hours after returning to campus from his internship to help prepare others for their investment banking career search. A key to Simon’s career preparation strategy relies on 2nd-year mentors to help prepare the incoming 1st-year class. I gave Benjamin the latitude to run in a less structured manner so that these fresh students would need to earn coffee chats with him through their outreach, just as they would soon after with banking contacts. Whether in these coffee chats, mock interviews, or while working with a student on their story, Benjamin doesn’t concern himself with what students want to hear, but rather gives them the realistic, tough-love approach they need to hear in order to make informed decisions about the direction of their careers. He does this with a focus on each person’s unique situation, rather than using his path to banking as a template for all. Students respect his style and highly value the advice they receive from him.
During his tenure as the Simon Finance and Investment Club’s VP of Investment Banking, Benjamin ensured that students received the guidance and exposure they needed to determine their best shot at success within investment banking. From creating a robust networking tracking model to evening Bloomberg training to setting up alumni panels, he inspired his fellow Simonites to think beyond the job search. Students were the beneficiaries of his weekly M&A case discussions covering many aspects of finance and strategy, just as a real-world M&A engagement would.
In the ten years I have worked at Simon, Benjamin is certainly one of the best and brightest I have seen walk the halls. I look forward to watching his career accelerate post-MBA, and the personal and professional rewards this will bring him.”
Ron Carlson, Simon MBA 2001
MBA Director, Finance
Simon Business School, University of Rochester
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