Preparing Students to Invest in the Post-COVID World

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 7, 2020) — The rapid evolution of communications technology that has helped businesses stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic is also speeding up big changes in organizational structure that will outlive the virus, according to Shayan Hussain, managing director for investment firm BlackRock, the world’s largest assets manager.

Hussain recently spoke to more than 100 Kennesaw State University students as part of the BlackRock Lecture series, a semester-long partnership between the company and the Michael J. Coles College of Business, the College of Computing and Software Engineering, and the College of Science and Mathematics. The series’ goal is to help students better understand interdisciplinary trends in investing. Each participating College is hosting an event, with the series running until November.

Shayan Hussain, managing director of BlackRock, speaking at Kennesaw State University

BlackRock manages $7.4 trillion in assets and has more than 16,000 employees globally.

During his presentation, titled Investing With an Eye Toward a Post-COVID World, Hussain discussed how advances in computing power, data collection, artificial intelligence, and high-speed internet delivery are upending traditional ideas about how organizations operate and raise capital.

“Think about the amount of investment you once needed to start a business,” he said. “Now, you can scale instantaneously with a fraction of the capital investment of traditional business models.”

The result is that the longstanding debate between investing in established, high-value businesses versus newer businesses with high growth potential is becoming more complicated. As many once-solid industries struggle to adapt to changing consumer trends, growth companies are looking increasingly attractive to investors.

“The rapid pace of technology evolution is making some [established] businesses obsolete,” he said. “If anyone remembers Nokia and Blackberry, those were once value stocks. Today, those companies don’t exist anymore.”

Hussain’s presentation was moderated by Kennesaw State students Raicheal Tringali and David Lee, the chief operating officer and chief investment officer, respectively, of Kennesaw State’s Student Managed Investment Fund. They guided the conversation to several topics including the effect of the Federal Reserve reducing interest rates to zero and how increased teleworking is affecting workplace culture at BlackRock – a subject relevant to many students on the call interested in one day working for the firm.

“Work-life balance will look very different going forward,” Hussain said. “The impact that has on culture is something we’re keenly focused on. … While we’re excited to get back into the office, I think we’ve created some things on the back of technology that are taking us to the next level.”

Hussain described how the staff has become more connected through online group chats, even using the platform to organize volunteer activity to help pass Georgia’s recent hate crime bill. They have also instituted new virtual training sessions for junior-level employees where senior members of the team interview their peers on the investment side.

Economics professor and SMIF chairman Govind Hariharan helped organize the event, saying that it helped students put the economic challenges brought on by COVID-19 into perspective.

“This has more or less become a catalyst for structural change that has been waiting to happen,” he said. “Because of the technology revolution, people today are more comfortable working from home than traveling hours to get to work.”

BlackRock views the lecture series as an important part of its corporate culture, which values engaging directly with the communities in which they operate.

“Local relationships are critical to our success,” said Lukas Pilgrim, a BlackRock global consultant relations associate and a Kennesaw State alumnus. “A lot of the responsibilities our team take on start with student engagement, and engagement with universities across the world where our employees have graduated from and in the cities where we work and live.”

-Patrick Harbin

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