Graduation Advice from JMU Alum and VP of Citi Private Bank Chris Martin

“I knew no one attending JMU, but within the first week I met some of the most important people in my life today,” Chris Martin said.

Martin graduated from JMU in May 2009 with a Business degree and a concentration in Finance.

“Halfway through the major, I switched from Business Management to Finance because the job market looked bright in that area. Little did I know that we’d enter the worse finance year after graduation,” Martin said.

“I had really good teachers. I especially remember Scott Lowe in Finance. He was fantastic,” Martin said.

During his time at JMU, Martin participated in the Madison Investment Fund, did community service at the Spotswood Retirement Home, and founded a fraternity.

“My sophomore year,  I founded the JMU chapter of Alpha Tau Omega with 33 brothers,” Martin said. “Academics and community service were extremely important for us.”

“We were starting something from nothing, so there were growing pains,” Martin said.

When asked if he studied abroad, Martin said, “I couldn’t get myself to leave the campus. I loved JMU and couldn’t imagine leaving friends.”

“I probably had a better time than I should have. I did a lot of fun things,” Martin said of his college experience.

From Internship to Career

Martin also had a summer job during college as a Golf Caddy, which he started when he was twelve years old. This position paid off when one of the golfers connected him for an interview with Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. Though he had to miss spring break with his friends, he was offered the internship on the spot.

“It was one of the defining moments of my life,” Martin said. “I probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t done that.”

However, Bear Stearns went bankrupt within Martin’s first week. Fortunately for Martin, J.P. Morgan bought Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. and honored Martin’s internship offer.

“I was in a very lucky position,” Martin said.

“It was not the most glorious internship, but I put in my time. I was the first one in and last one out, I asked lots of questions, and I was offered a fulltime position the following year […] in their two year, rotational Finance Analyst Program,” Martin said. “I demonstrated my ability to put time in and work hard. I believe that it’s of the upmost importance to have a positive, enthusiastic attitude and be a good team player. And they recognized that.”

However, Martin knows that having a job lined up out of college is not always the case.

“I had a job [lined up], so I was not traditional,” Martin said. “Folks I knew very closely, though, were really nervous and felt pressured, thinking, ‘I don’t want to be the only one without a job.’”

“Every one of my friends got jobs,” Martin said, “so that shows the strength of JMU’s reputation.”  

In the first two months of his Finance Analyst Program in New York, Martin was asked to travel to Illinois to work on a project away from the office.

“There was twenty of inches of snow for seven days, and we worked on taxes for six weeks. I did grunt work, grinding through the project. I proved my ability to adapt and persevere because I knew nothing, but I asked a lot of people questions. I showed that I was a good addition to the team,” Martin said.

Though he found success in his first rotation, Martin felt discouraged in his second.

“It was an awful job. I had no interest in it whatsoever. It was more project management and computer related, but I talked to a lot of people. I put in about seven to eight months on that job. I made the best of it, assessing what I was doing and what I wanted to do in the future,” Martin said.

Martin decided that he wanted to enter private banking, so he asked his manager if exploring this path at J.P. Morgan would be appropriate.

“Be comfortable with telling your managers your intentions,” Martin said.

With the okay from his manager, Martin decided to network with other J.P. Morgan employees.

“I ended up meeting with thirty to forty people at J.P. Morgan,” Martin said. “The private bank doesn’t recruit from JMU, so I was getting frustrated. I was making a lot of connections, but it was challenging.”

When his networking did not pay off like he had hoped, Martin decided to reach out to JMU alum Paul Scibetta, who was the CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Asia at the time.

“I was 22 years old emailing the CEO of JPMorgans Asia Private Bank. I sent him an email with the subject line ‘JMU alum.’ I didn’t ask for anything. I wanted to introduce myself and learn about his story. Paul was more than willing to talk with me. We spent months getting to know one another,” Martin said.

Because of their differing time zones, Martin would stay at work until 11 pm in order to email Scibetta. Martin’s dedication paid off when Scibetta referred him to people he had hired in the US.

“Things started to pick up, and I had rigorous interviews, but it absolutely wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for [Scibetta]. I ended up taking a position in the Private Bank Analyst Program,” Martin said.

Martin went from one entry level position to the other, but he knew that was expected.

“I was sitting next to Ivy League kids, and I will honestly tell you that [there was] no difference in [our] work output. It made me comfortable in my own shoes,” Martin said. “JMU really helped me to prepare for the workforce.”

Martin worked from 7:15-8:30 PM, including some weekend work.

“There was no excuse for errors. I was expected to be an expert on everything,” Martin said.

After working for J.P. Morgan for over three years, Martin and his fiancé fiancé Jenny Coppedge, Class of 2010, decided to move to DC. (Martin and Coppedge also just bought a house. Congrats, you two!) Martin then became the Vice President of Citi Private Bank, and has stayed in the position since 2012.

“”My clients are families with a net worth in excess of $25mm. As a Banker, I’m responsible for my clients banking, lending, investing and estate planning needs,” Martin said.

“I receive all types of requests from clients; ranging from administrative to very sophisticated, but you have to address each question with the same respect,” Martin said.

Martin also believes that the people he works with contribute to his love for his position.

“Our team is amazing, and it makes going to work easier,” Martin said. “I haven’t taken a sick day yet because I feel such loyalty to them.”

Martin’s Advice for Soon-to-Be Graduates

  • Work your network,” Martin said. “There’s thousands of people just like you who want the same things.”
  • Always be aware of your grades. You can’t slip,” Martin said. “I do some recruiting for Citi, and GPA is so important. I won’t look at resumes if they’re below a 3.5. It’s not like that at every bank, but that’s where the bar is. You won’t even get an interview.”
  • “You are going to be entering the workforce. You’re going to be the lowest person on the totem pole,” Martin said. “People want to save the day their first year, but it doesn’t work that way. […] Take your time, understand the business, respect professionals around you, and take constructive criticism, gain an arsenal of amazing knowledge, and be patient.”
  • Work your way up. “I started off in an entry level position doing grunt work. Be patient, work hard and good things will happen.”
  • Enjoy every minute you have at James Madison. Enjoy the people that you’re with. Do not take it for granted at all. It’s great to have a couple dollars in your pocket, but the memories you have standing with those people will stick with you the rest of your life,” Martin said.

Martin encourages students to slow down and take in these last memories at JMU, as graduation can be a whirlwind.

“I love my experience [at JMU]. It’s one of the best decisions I made in my life,” Martin said. “I remember where I was when I got the acceptance letter. I remember the emotions I felt when I graduated.”

Congratulations on your successes, Christopher,
and good luck soon-to-be JMU graduates!


Morgan Vega Gomez, Recruiting Assistant
Employer Relations and Recruiting Services, Career & Academic Planning


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s