—You like money? Then New Jersey has the job for you. One of the Garden State's most valuable and growing industries is financial services. Not quite sure what this means? Just think money and all the various careers that deal with it—from accountants and consultants, who help people and companies handle their finances; to insurance firms, which sell policies to companies and people; to tellers at your local bank, who cash your checks, quote rates on bank CDs and deposit your savings. New Jersey is home to some of the nation's largest financial-services firms, including Prudential Financial in Newark, Chubb in Warren, Commerce Bank in Cherry Hill and Merrill Lynch in Hopewell and Plainsboro, to name only a few. Jersey City has earned the nickname "Wall Street West" because so many Manhattan investment firms and stock market-related companies have moved operations across the Hudson River to the Jersey side.
If you're intrigued, but not sure if this dynamic industry is the right fit for you, then give it a test drive. Lots of the state's financial-services employers offer internships and job shadowing to give young people a taste of the day-to-day reality of jobs in this field. For instance, Merrill Lynch in Hopewell runs a special internship program for 50 students from Trenton Central High School and neighboring Ewing High School. One day a week during the school year, high school students leave their classrooms to visit with Merrill Lynch employees, take classes and soak up life in a big corporation. They even prepare business plans that they present to a panel of venture capitalists (translate: men and women who invest money in promising businesses).
"The Merrill Lynch - Trenton Central High School Career Academy has motivated students to seek opportunities they may not have thought of and inspired students to want to continue their education," explains Damon Clemow, a formal vice president at the Hopewell Merrill Lynch campus who helped launch the high school career academy in 2004. "One young lady was so motivated by a speaker that she contacted that speaker after her visit at Merrill Lynch and she followed through with a plan. That summer she attended Drexel University School of Design, between her junior and senior years in high school, because that is the career she wants to go into."
Financial careers require different amounts of education, depending on the job you pursue. For instance, financial analysts and planners require more advanced college degrees, while bank tellers typically demand only a high school diploma, possibly an associate's degree. To read about Shaun Clark, a Gloucester County Institute of Technology grad who took a job as a bank teller when he was 17, visit the Real People column on www.njnextstop.org.
If you're concerned that taking a job as a bank teller can't ever lead to bigger and better things, then consider the story of Paul Pantozzi. Pantozzi was born in Jersey City and took his first job with The Provident Bank more than 40 years ago as a bank teller. Today he is chairman and CEO of The Provident Bank in Jersey City, in charge of the company, which has grown from a local Jersey City bank into a New Jersey institution with 76 branches that reach as far as central Jersey and the shore area.
Pantozzi's rise is a testament to hard work, dedication and a strong work ethic—and a connection to tradition. He worked his way through numerous positions, becoming president in 1989 and CEO in 1993. "I take immense pride in being a Jersey City native," says Pantozzi, who is a graduate of Rutgers University and the Graduate School of Savings Banking at Brown University. "Jersey City has provided generation after generation of Americans with a great start in life-myself included. It has opened its arms to immigrants from all over the world. Jersey City and Provident are both very different from what they were when I started as a teller more than 40 years ago. Surely the city and the bank will undergo many changes in the years ahead, too. But in the end, we'll both be using the most up-to-date practices to do what we've always done: offer hope and opportunity to both long-time residents and recent arrivals from far away places."