FICE students interact with corporate, agency and media professionals

November 7, 2018

The Financial and Investor Communications Emphasis held its annual benchmark trip in New York City

Gary Kaminsky and Julian Wheatland
Gary Kaminsky, left, asks former Cambridge Analytica CCO Julian Wheatland about the lessons learned from the Facebook data scandal.

For the third consecutive year, students in Newhouse’s Financial and Investor Communications Emphasis (FICE) boarded a charter bus from Syracuse for a jam-packed schedule of visits to New York City agencies, corporations, financial institutions and media outlets in order to experience the reality of professional life in the financial sector. Gary Kaminsky ’86, a former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley and capital markets editor for CNBC, sponsors the annual benchmark trip and also hosts a discussion program for the students and other guests at Lubin House.

This year’s program focused on an explosive and momentous subject, as Kaminsky interviewed Julian Wheatland, the former chief operating officer of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL. They discussed the Facebook scandal that drove Cambridge Analytica out of business earlier this year amidst a storm of controversy over inappropriate use and sale of user data. With candor and clarity, they explored the lessons learned for all companies concerning data privacy, commercial ethics and public opinion.

“It may seem strange for someone associated with Cambridge Analytica to initiate this conversation, but one thing I have learned is that issues of data management and data privacy go far beyond any one company—they affect us all,” Wheatland said. He emphasized that Cambridge Analytica focused its efforts on regulatory compliance on both sides of the Atlantic while not paying sufficient attention to complete ownership of its ethical decision-making and its responsibility to inspire public confidence.

Wheatland urged corporate boards to create a director-level “chief ethics officer” to manage ethical considerations of data science at the highest level of company governance, and said internationally accredited standards for ethical management of personal data should be developed to anticipate and manage the increasingly powerful data technologies that are in effect turning all companies into data companies.

Students were able to pose their own questions about the Cambridge Analytica controversy and the extensive news coverage surrounding it.

Students were able to question Kaminsky and Wheatland, and came away with an increased sense of professional responsibility as they prepare for their careers. “In this new age of transparency and the focus on corporate social responsibility, we have an increasing responsibility to understand the impact of a company’s environmental, social and governance policies,” said Nicole Rizzuti, a junior with a dual major in public relations in the Newhouse School and finance in the Whitman School. “PR professionals are called on to take a high degree of care to ensure a company is fulfilling [its responsibilities] and not employing deceptive measures.

“I learned a lot from this conversation about how important ethics is and will continue to be.”

Students at a conference table
Students gather in a conference room at Finsbury, an agency specializing in financial and investor communications.

In addition to meeting with the two newsmakers, the students and FICE academic director Anthony D’Angelo, a professor of practice in public relations, heard presentations from a variety of potential employers. Over the course of two days they visited Bloomberg; the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; PR and IR agencies including Finsbury, Joele Frank, Prosek Partners, Edelman, LHA Investor Relations and Teneo Strategy; and insurance/reinsurance company AXIS Capital.

“The FICE benchmark trip was extremely valuable for me,” said James Carver, a junior majoring in public relations and finance. “One can only learn so much about careers from inside a classroom, but the trip allowed our group to experience first-hand what a career in financial and investor communications would entail.”