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Department: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

Imparato Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

Lauren Imparato ’02

Trader, Morgan Stanley

From Florence to the trading floor

I can’t lie; there are some mornings when the alarm is blaring at 5.30 a.m., after hosting a client dinner until midnight the night before, when I really ask myself, “How in the world have I ended up here!?” Nevertheless, by 6.30 a.m. when I have stepped onto the trading floor, Financial Times in hand, the “how,” and more so the “why” behind it, are clear to me once again.

Two weeks after walking through FitzRandolph Gate, a diploma in Romance languages and literatures in hand, I started at Morgan Stanley as an analyst in the Fixed Income Division. After a short stint in research (something I like to call a crash course in accounting), I landed a role on the G10 & Emerging Markets Sales Team. And when that alarm goes off at 5.30 a.m., it is so I can sell these fixed-income products to an array of hedge funds and other investors.

But what I am sure you are wondering is how my studies of Italian and Spanish literature, and a thesis on the wine industries of Spain and Italy, could have anything at all to do with bonds, interest rates, and currencies? How could studying Dante and Pirandello in Florence at all help me strip an interest rate curve? How could hours of debate about the true origins of Quixotism help me sell a profitable trade to a client?

Language of the markets

Very simply, it taught me how to think. In studying literatures and languages in a historical, linguistic, and cultural context I learned how to think with a bird’s-eye view, or what in my role today I call a “macro” view. In trying to understand the “why” of an author’s words, I learned how to look at problems from another angle, often times one very abstract, which today has enabled me to find unique solutions for clients. In delving into literature’s greatest works back-to-back, I learned how to synthesize information, anything from historical context to personal affairs of an author, to the finite details of the story line in play, or even the precise words used to tell the story. Today I am forced to do much of the same, now synthesizing a plethora of political and economic headlines in tandem with trading levels instead. And from there, I learned how to disseminate ideas. I learned how to communicate. I learned how to address a particular audience (after all, presenting a paper
to a professor is no different than presenting a trade idea to a client!). In a nutshell, I learned to sell—globally and across cultures.

Majoring in Romance languages and literatures is the best decision I ever made. It made me me, and set me apart from the crowd of engineers and economists who are more unfamiliar with cultural nuances and comparative thinking. It set me apart as the woman with ideas.