New Media Management alumni helped ring stock exchange opening bell

By Claire Moran

December 1, 2014

2013 graduates Sebastian Benkert and Tom Staudt work for ARK Investment Management

Two recent Newhouse School graduates checked an item off their bucket lists this fall when they helped ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.

Tom Staudt and Sebastian Benkert (third and fourth from left in the top photo) both graduated from the new media management master’s program in 2013. Each earned an MBA the following year; Benkert from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University and Staudt from Cornell University.

The friends and former classmates are now working together at ARK Investment Management, a start-up investment company that focuses on transparency and open source research. Benkert is the strategic marketing and development manager at ARK, while Staudt is an associate portfolio manager / research, sales and trading manager.

“For me, I didn’t think I would work in finance,” says Benkert. “I never saw myself ever being on Wall Street in any form so because of that it was exciting because just life sometimes plays out in different ways. It’s fantastic if it plays out in good ways.”

The ARK team rang the bell on Oct. 21 because the company launched four Exchange Traded Funds that are now publicly traded at the New York Stock Exchange.

"Since the funds act like a stock, the bell ring ringing scenario is the same as for an IPO," Benkert says.

Watch a video of ARK Investment Management staff ringing the opening bell.

Benkert and Staudt met the CEO of ARK through new media management program director Steve Masiclat. Masiclat introduced the two to Cathie Wood, CEO at ARK, at a conference that Benkert helped organize as part of an independent study. The Newhouse alumni say they were drawn to Wood’s vision and the excitement of doing something different at a start-up. Both say they are doing work at ARK that they would have to wait several years to do if they were working at other firms.  

“It’s an opportunity to really shape, very directly have your fingerprints on the outcome and trajectory of a firm that is in an exciting space with what I believe to be a great idea,” Staudt says. “And so I think that it’s just one of those that we both had enough belief in ourselves that we could do the job and the opportunity was just so unique that it certainly took a lot of thought but then you just couldn’t pass up that chance.”

Both Benkert and Staudt emphasized the importance of networking and maintaining good relationships with professors and advisers. They say that they never would have had the opportunities they have had without their relationship with Masiclat, who they say served as a mentor while they were studying at Newhouse. Both say they also keep in touch with many of their Newhouse classmates. 

Benkert and Staudt also encouraged students who are entering the workforce to take advantage of every opportunity—even if it doesn’t appear to follow the original plan.

“It’s about recognizing an opportunity, believing in an opportunity and then really going all in on that opportunity once you make that decision,” Staudt says. “It’s an opportunity to be part of something bigger and I think that is what ARK has represented rather than taking the safe chance.”

Claire Moran is a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism and international relations major.