Grad Co-Moderated Digital Finance Virtual Conference
Since graduating from FIDM with an A.A. degree in Merchandising & Marketing and a B.S. in Business Management, Hannah Grace Norombaba has moved to Geneva, Switzerland where she is pursuing a MBA from the EU Business School. She recently served as co-moderator of the Digital Finance Virtual Conference Initiative, which was organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). She was also responsible for writing the post-conference summary that was published by the United Nations, UNITAR, and the partners who were part of the initiative, including Deloitte, Swiss Finance & Technology Association, and the Asian Development Bank. We recently caught up with Hannah, who was raised in Southern California where she attended Delano High School and had a decade-long career with Nordstrom, to learn more about her unique journey.
Tell us a little about yourself: My background encompasses retail management, merchandising and marketing, and business management. It is through my 10-year career with Nordstrom that I have developed a passion for people development. I found great meaning in leading and developing my peers, which is the fruition of my six-year leadership experience. After 10 years in the retail industry, I took a risk and decided to start over and explore my skill set in financial analysis and build expertise within the financial industry. I truly value learning and it is through gaining new experiences and new knowledge that we enrich self-growth and development, we are lifelong learners, after all. I love to travel and experience different cultures, I love to read, run, hike, and relax by the beach.
Why did you choose to study in Europe? An MBA in Global Banking & Finance from EU Business School in Geneva, Switzerland is a specialized degree that equips me with the analytical foundation and the right tools, experience, and knowledge needed in a finance-centered career. The program covers a diverse range of areas in the finance industry, from the financial organization, operations and challenges of the economy at large to issues of financial management in firms and financial institutions. I chose Geneva as a destination for my MBA studies because it is central to international organizations such as the World Economic Forum, as well as the European headquarters of the United Nations.
Geneva is a center of business, culture and creativity, and acquiring training from Swiss companies is key to my success in propelling a career in Finance. In addition to an MBA degree, I am preparing for the CFA designation (Chartered Financial Analyst), which is considered to be one of the highest distinctions in the investment management profession. I am a part of the CFA Society Los Angeles charter (CFALA is a charter member of the Financial Analysts Federation) and being mentored by CFA charterholder, Geoff Wainwright.
Tell us about your experience co-moderating the Digital Finance Virtual Conference: There are many key learnings from this initiative by the UNITAR. Perhaps, the main takeaways would be (1) Digital Finance is a catalyst towards growth and a crucial tool in providing solutions leading up to the Sustainable Development Goals; (2) FinTech empowers consumers to be in control of their financial lives using technology; (3) FinTech holds the potential to improve financial inclusion.
Tell us about the networking opportunities the conference afforded you. Our Global Economics Professor, Judit Kozenkow, offered this unique opportunity for one student to join the conference organization team on site to assist with moderation and later write a joint article about the event for UN-based media. I immediately reached out to Professor Kozenkow and I was fortunate enough to be considered. Professor Kozenkow is well respected in EU Business School and has held various positions as a lecturer and also as a consultant for UNCTAD and UNITAR. She is an expert in International Economics with a focus on trade and sustainable development.
Through Professor Kozenkow, I was exposed to highly respected professionals within the industry and companies such as Swiss Finance + Technology Association (SFTA), SIX Digital Exchange, Asian Development Bank, Deloitte, and UNITAR, for example. Being a member of the CFA LA Society afforded networking opportunities for me as well. I recently chatted with CFA Charterholder Roxanne Cheng who is a Business Valuation expert and she shared some valuable lessons and tips from her life experiences and career.
How did it feel to get something published by the United Nations? Surreal. The real reason I joined the conference was to gain insights and knowledge about digital finance. Although I didn't know much about it, I understand the impact FinTech innovations have created in the finance industry. Among the variety of forces that put tremendous pressure on the financial services industry, living through a pandemic forces us to reflect within our society and address numerous social and economic challenges. I truly resonate with the need to promote and address financial inclusion, especially those of vulnerable communities. Financial inclusion is a key enabler into achieving the sustainable developmental goals.
How did you learn about FIDM and why did you choose the college? I originally applied for the Graphic Design major and I got accepted. However, growing and aspiring to become a buyer with Nordstrom at the time, I realized that a major in Merchandising & Marketing would benefit me more. With no hesitation, FIDM was able to change my major upon attendance. I chose FIDM because of its specialized programs and great networking opportunities. At the time, I wanted a career in fashion, and I know FIDM was the perfect school to build a foundation.
As time progressed I found myself becoming more business-oriented and people-focused being exposed to a corporation like Nordstrom. I decided to come back eight years later and complete my education through FIDM and I am grateful that I did. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with mentors who guided me and supported me along the way. If I didn't apply to the Business Management program, I wouldn't have met Dr. Dennis Morrison, who is now one of my mentors.
How did the FIDM Business Management program help you in preparation for your MBA? The learnings I have acquired from FIDM's BUMT program built the foundation for me. If I were to compare the curriculum offered in my MBA program, much of the learnings overlap along with the basic knowledge provided in the BUMT program. The knowledge I gained from FIDM courses such as Strategic Management, Accounting II, Management Strategy, Applied Management Strategies, Applied Statistics, Financial Management, HR Management, Issues in Contemporary Society, and International Finance were useful in my MBA program.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? Find the right mentors and surround yourself with a carefully curated group of people who you admire and respect and with whom you share common beliefs and values. This group will set the tone for the foundation of your larger network; your core network should be filled with people who provide value in your life. Never stop being curious — be a sponge and challenge yourself every day. The greatest investment you'll make is investing in yourself! So cliché, but it is 100 percent true!
What are your career goals? My goal is to become a financial analyst and eventually get into investment banking. There is so much to learn and this is barely the beginning of my journey. My ultimate goal is to eventually start my own foundation that promotes financial inclusion that serves and provides resources to vulnerable communities.