Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Catherine Romero, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Catherine Romero

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“First-generation, woman of color in finance. Uplifting the minority experience through financial equity.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have hiked 7 of 9 National Parks in California.

Undergraduate School and Major: UC Santa Barbara; Global and International Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: City National’s Private Bank; senior private wealth analyst

Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which pillar resonates most with you and why? The pillar that resonates the most with me is Question the Status Quo. As we move into a more inclusive and equitable society, we see that the norm sometimes overlooks aspects of culture that need modernization. Pushing and questioning why something is the way it is allows us to remedy any gaps found. This pillar reminds me that innovation and change are much needed in our society as time passes and our demographics shift.

Aside from the four pillars and your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose Haas and why was it so important to you? Haas’ tight-knit community and its focus on sustainable finance and investing led me to choose the program. I wanted a program where I could focus on innovating small business investments while managing a socially-responsible investment fund. The intersection of social impact and finance made it an ideal program for me.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Genuine. Everyone that I’ve met has been intentional about building community, especially during this unprecedented crisis. My classmates have leaned on each other to organize socially-distanced picnics and Zoom happy hours to stay connected.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment has been taking on a leadership role during this pandemic. As the global crisis pushed us to work from home, I found myself serving as a liaison between my team and direct managers. I communicated the status of projects and checked on the analyst team’s accuracy. I engaged with senior leadership and strategized on maintaining the bank’s continuity plan during these unprecedented times. Witnessing our executive team respond in real-time to fluctuating news allowed me to brainstorm and stress-test our technology systems to avoid disruption in workflow and project delays. These experiences have allowed me to witness the importance of proactive and forward-thinking leadership.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After six years in investment management, I believed it was the right time to merge my passion for financial markets and social impact. I wanted to accelerate my understanding of how to assess the risk of ESG funds and gauge their viability.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? In addition to Berkeley, I applied to Wharton, UCLA, and GSB.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Tell me about a time you were part of a project but did not agree with the outcome.”

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? When I was in college, my parents declared bankruptcy on our small business, and unfortunately, our home was foreclosed. This life event sparked my interest in finance and pushed me to teach financial literacy to my community. Since then, financial inclusivity and representation are at the core of every decision I make and every project I take on. This prepared me for business school by giving me the confidence to question our financial systems and help align profit and impact to benefit everyone equally. I am confident that by being the voice of my disenfranchised community, I can help elevate the class discussions.

What is your favorite company and why? Currently, my favorite company is Peloton. During this stay-at-home mandate, Peloton bike rides have given me a sense of normalcy while also staying active.

Look ahead two years and picture graduation. How will you know that your business school experience has been successful? I will know that my business school experience was successful by measuring the impact I have left, whether that be in increasing the amount of underrepresented minority students admitted into the program or by outperforming the market with Haas’ Socially Responsible Fund.


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