Veteran financial executive Peter Zangari, Ph.D., FCRH ’89, has some advice for students pursuing graduate degrees in business analytics and information technology, and it may surprise you.
You don’t need to dive headfirst into computer science and programming to succeed in those spaces, he told students in the Gabelli School of Business during a talk at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in November.
Zangari retired in early 2023 from his role as global head of research and product development at MSCI after more than 25 years in the finance industry. His retirement was a short one, though: Last month, he was named a partner and head of the Americas at MDOTM, a company that specializes in “AI-driven investment solutions.”
What AI Can—and Can’t—Do
During the student enrichment event, Zangari reflected on his professional experiences and shared insights on data analytics to help students better prepare themselves for careers in the industry. He said technology skills aren’t as critical to long-term success in finance as understanding how to apply technical tools like artificial intelligence.
“In this space, students should do their best to understand how people make investment decisions, and then learn about artificial intelligence—learn about what it can do, and what it is capable of doing—and then apply that to how investors make investment decisions,” he said.
He encouraged students to see AI as a partner, not a substitute for effective portfolio managers, and he said problems may arise when people “think [AI] can solve certain problems, like predicting the future, which I think is really a far-fetched idea.”
A Living Resource
The students in attendance said they were grateful for the opportunity to hear from an industry professional firsthand, peppering him with questions about trends, investment strategy, and his experiences with different employers.
“I’m really interested in finance and tech, and looking to go into that after I finish my master’s,” said Ruth Kissel, who is studying business analytics. “So I wanted to listen to a really experienced professional speak about those same topics.”
The M.S. in business analytics (MSBA) and M.S. in information technology (MSIT) programs are offered by the Gabelli School’s Information, Technology, and Operations area.
In the MSBA program, students learn to integrate analytics techniques, data management, information technology, modeling, and statistical analysis to become more effective analysts and informed users of business data. The MSIT program focuses on systems development, training students to gain the technical skills they need to excel in IT management positions. Grads of the two programs have gone on to work at companies including Amazon, American Express, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Zangari, who studied economics at Fordham, said he knows how vital it is for students to have access to alumni and industry professionals, so he spends “as much time as possible being available to students.” He’s an adjunct professor at Drew University in New Jersey, and at Fordham, he’s a member of the President’s Council, a group of successful professionals and philanthropists who are committed to mentoring Fordham’s future leaders, funding key initiatives, and raising the University’s profile.
“I see how the students kind of lean in,” he said. “When you tell a story about your career, you tell a story about your life because, in a nutshell, one’s career is a reflection of life.”
Zangari said that at Fordham, he had an opportunity to learn and work with “people from all different walks of life,” and it was invaluable.
It’s not all about the hard skills, he said. Everyone will have those, but “what makes an employee very attractive is someone who has super-interest in what they’re doing. They’re self-motivated. They’re resourceful.”