James G. Norman has always been passionate about financial literacy and is very well acquainted with the business world since his teenage years.
Throughout his early years at The High School of Economics and Finance, he has held prestigious internships at Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four accounting firms as well as Moody’s Corporation, which is a credit rating, research and risk analysis firm located at the World Trade Center – in the heart of the Financial District. He recently graduated from Susquehanna University on May of 2018, holding a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management. Right out of graduation, he was offered a full-time role as a Financial Institutions Group Analyst from Moody’s, which comprised of insurance and asset management.
James started his new role as a Risk Management & Analytics Associate on January 2020 and was recently promoted to a Risk Mitigation Manager at TheGuarantors, a Fintech company that offers innovative insurance risk/products and financial solutions for the real estate ecosystem in residential and commercial properties.
I can confidently say that anyone who has closely worked with James, is extremely grateful during a pivotal time in their career and any team would be privileged to have him as a leader. James has successfully scaled business and tackled challenging numbers during his time at TheGuarantors. While he is transitioning his responsibilities into his new role, I can assure that he is bound to build a great culture for his team from the ground up to succeed. James is the definition of a T-shaped business leader, leveraging his breadth of experience and inherent curiosity to tackle new challenges and surface actionable solutions that have long-lasting impact on the company.
He is in transition from finance to public service as he has always enjoyed working with the community and giving back. At just the age of 24, James has accomplished so many incredible things – let alone, achieving extraordinary success so early in his life.
When I think of James, this saying comes to my mind:
The idea of the young prodigy is by no means a modern phenomenon.
When it comes to James’ presence and reputation, I only have positive things to say about him, his leadership, his motivational speeches, his incredible relationship building, his keen intelligence and his business acumen in the professional world. He is a visionary, an inspiration, a role model and an original to many.
James is a very goal oriented and gifted kind of individual who’s qualities outshine in a way that truly motivates his peers, classmates and colleagues to hit their own individual goals. From the way he presents himself in front of a group of Millennials and Generation Z’s, I can see the emotion that’s written on him as he speaks. He shows humor, empathy and compassion in the work that he does. James is a quick problem solver and would swiftly turn around any obstacle into a great learning experience, despite any challenges and blockers.
Being the dedicated and well versed professional that James is, he truly believes that if you want to achieve something, that you will do it. He is eager and driven in giving back to his community and setting young students up for success by teaching them financial literacy, identifying their personal/professional goals, developing leadership skills and planning career moves and transitions. The one who always goes the extra mile and is airtight in his delivery. Many great things will come of the financial sector and the NYC community due to his excellent work ethic coupled with his go-getter attitude/mindset.
Finance is very dynamic field due to the expansion of the global economy, the proliferation of new financial instruments, and the fluctuations in laws and regulations.
Is finance a dream career that you are looking to pursue OR a career that you are looking to transition into? Are you mathematically gifted and love working with numbers? Do you possess strong analytical and quantitative skills? Then this may be the trajectory that you want to take.
Not only do companies seek for the hard skills, however soft skills are just as major. According to GoGig, many companies hire finance employees based on personality as well – such as those who hold common traits of resilience, curiosity, persistence, loyalty, integrity and professionalism, team spirit, empathy, and sense of humor.
Below, James outlines a more detailed career snapshot of his journey.
• Many folks are uncertain about their career path until they enter college and even after they graduate. How did you know that this trajectory was “the one” for you? In other words, what propelled you to go into the finance sector?
From a young age my godfather, Leslie Roberts, introduced me to the world of finance. I remember in the summertime I would visit him in New Jersey and some days we would just go to the library to learn the ins and outs of the stock market. That is what birthed my interest. No pun intended. That combined with knowing I loved business and helping individuals solidified my interest down the line. People hold their finances near and dear to them. So, if I can help improve that aspect of their life in any capacity, I am happy.
• You have an excellent proven track record as a business leader throughout high school, college and the clubs/organizations that you were a member of. Could you tell us more about how these experiences molded you personally and professionally?
I have always enjoyed using my skills to help people or improve processes. I actively take opportunities that will allow me to do this. Throughout my academic career I was afforded many. One of my favorites was being CEO of my Virtual Enterprise class during my senior year of high school. This was a class but took on the format of an actual business. We specialized in selling 401K plans to other “businesses” across other high schools. This experience allowed me to learn a great deal about myself as an emerging leader and professional. I learned how to work with many different personalities and unify them to accomplish one common goal. I also learned that when you are tasked with leading, you must take the good with the not so good. As a company we did well but we did have our bumps, however it brought out the best in us. This experience set me up for what was to come in college and my professional career. I also took on many other positions such as SGA Treasurer and my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma’s, Treasurer in college. I was able the use my skills in financial management to create budgets and funding that would prove beneficial to all stakeholders of these respective organizations.
• You have held various roles throughout your career in the field of finance. Which one would you say is your favorite and why?
My favorite position in the field of finance to this date would have to be my internship of Summer ’16 at Moody’s in their Treasury department. I had an active hand in the cash management section of the team. Being trusted with some of those checks made me feel official because those amounts were crazy. My boss, Zeeshan, was a savant when it came to treasury. I learned so much from our 1 on 1s. Lastly, I was able to work closely with the Treasurer and CFO of the company. They knew me on a first name basis, and I sat in on many meetings with them leading. It was an overall cool experience that I will never forget.
• I know that you recently started a new role at TheGuarantors. What does your current role involve? What do you enjoy about it? Are there any challenges?
My role at The Guarantors is a Risk Mitigation Manager. I am responsible for making sure our loss ratio is as low as possible. Being that we are a real estate tech start-up that specializes in providing insurance products, we need to make sure that we limit the amount of loss we take on. I do this by making sure tenants are honoring their lease obligations as well as being in constant contact with landlords and property managers for when cases do arise. This is my main responsibility, however given the nature of start-ups, I wear many different hats around to the company. I enjoy being given free range and the trust to control my own projects and responsibilities. Knowing that my work is directly impacting the success of the company is something that makes me put my best foot forward. There a few challenges, however. The main one being that in a company structure like mine, it is learn as you go. There are sometimes where mistakes are made but it gives you the chance to remedy and learn from the situation. This just comes with the territory.
• What key skills are entailed to be successful as a Risk Management & Analytics Associate?
Some key skills that are vital in being a successful Risk Associate are great communication, attention to detail, empathy, and negotiation. You need to be able to get your point across clearly and concisely to stakeholders, no matter what the problem is. Attention to detail is important because we deal with a lot of numbers and documentation. One missed piece of information can be detrimental. When dealing with tenants, you must be empathetic of their personal financial situations. This will in turn show them that they are valued and will prove helpful in trying to accomplish a predetermined conclusion. My mother always told me “you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” Lastly, you must possess great negotiation skills. I constantly am trying to negotiate lease changing options with tenants or recover losses from them. Finding out how to best glean your desired outcome has proven to be a skill.
• Some of the job seekers and recent college graduates (with minimal to no experience) that I’ve coached, don’t know where to begin when it comes to networking. Do you have any useful tips to offer and potentially share a success story on how your experience in networking with professionals got you to where you are today?
It sounds cliché, but networking will honestly take you farther than any job application ever will. This means that building relationships across the industry whether small or large always has the potential to pay off. Remember that a relationship is not only what one can do for you, but what you can also bring to the table. For example, I attribute my success at Moody’s to networking. I knew from the get-go that I needed to form strong professional relationships with the people who had the power to bring me back. Establishing that I can do the work was half the battle. Networking and setting yourself apart from the rest are the other half.
• What advice would you give to those who are looking to advance in their finance career?
It is important to remember that like many other industries, Finance has hundreds of positions you can take on. I recommend doing lots of research and snagging as many internships as you can. This will give you firsthand experience and allow you to see what you like and do not like.
• What about those who are looking to switch their careers? (Let’s say someone who comes from Investment Banking or even another field outside of the financial sector and wants to go towards Accounting or Risk Management)
Let’s be honest, being young professionals, some of us do not know exactly what we want to do career-wise. This is totally fine. Everyone’s journey is different. There comes a time where you might want to switch careers. The best advice I can give when exploring a new route is take time to evaluate your strengths, characteristics, and interest. Once you have these mapped out, try, and find a career or job that will best compliment all of your listed attributes. Landing yourself somewhere where you can be yourself and apply your skills will produce your best work and will begin to give you a sense of belonging. Remember that it is a process. Most of us do not figure it out overnight. But, laying down the right framework for making your next move your best move will prove helpful in your journey.
If you feel inspired and motivated by James’ story, please feel free to reach out! He does not bite. He is always open to speaking with like-minded individuals and loves networking – a pro at it! Once you get to know James, you won’t regret it. He will be there in every step of your way to mentor/guide you on a both professional and personal level. Connect with James on LinkedIn.