The six best places to network on Wall Street
These are the best places to network with New York City’s bankers, asset managers, hedge funders, private equity mavens and other finance professionals who could help to further your career. And remember, with as many or more banks and buy-side firms based in Midtown Manhattan as the financial district, Wall Street is a state of mind.
1. Bars, gastro pubs and restaurants
Downtown close to Wall Street, there are various hot spots, such as Stone Street, a historic cobblestone corridor of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating such as Beckett’s, Murphy’s, Vintry Wine and Whiskey and The Growler, and the World Financial Center – P.J. Clarke’s on the Hudson, O'Hara's and Black Hound Bar & Lounge are all located in that general vicinity.
Cliff Street also has financial-district favorites among bankers looking for a bar bite and a beer or cocktail, including the Irish pub Ryan Maguire’s, the dive bar Iron Horse NYC and the newish Hole in the Wall, which has a creative food menu.
The Dead Rabbit on Water Street is considered the gold standard for cocktails near the southern tip of Manhattan.
Fraunces Tavern has been around for almost 300 years – George Washington and his troops used to be regulars. Also on Pearl Street, The Full Shilling is a popular Irish pub just a stone’s throw from the New York Stock Exchange, Ulysses has a live music stage and sidewalk patio seating, while Mad Dog and Beans is your go-to Mexican cantina.
Many watering holes around Grand Central Station are popular for finance pros who live in Westchester or Connecticut, from chic lounges like Lea Wine Bar, Silverleaf Tavern and Aretsky’s Patroon to old-school Irish pubs such as Muldoon’s, Mulligan’s and Peter Dillon’s. The recently renovated Campbell Apartment, a tony cocktail lounge tucked away inside the station, is a must-visit.
Many J.P. Morgan executives hang out at the nearby Roosevelt Hotel's Vander Bar, according to Rachel Mayer, a former emerging markets trader at the bank and the co-founder/CEO of Trigger Finance.
“The Beer Bar [near Grand Central] is a great place in the summer to catch private equity, hedge funders and bankers grabbing a drink outside before their ride home on Metro North,” said Kathleen Lauster, managing director at Silver Leaf Partners, an institutional brokerage.
“Bryant Park Grill is also a great summer place where there is a good deal of mingling with nearby bankers,” she said.
The Midtown West neighborhood near Times Square has Hunt & Fish Club, Pennsylvania 6 and a few others along that block frequented by financial services professionals.
“Each one has someone in the industry as a financial backer – in the restaurant world, a partial owner – so, usually you are a friend of one of the owners, and that becomes the go-to place for the evening,” said a hedge fund portfolio manager and member of the Hedge Fund Association (HFA) who asked to remain anonymous.. “That’s usually why I end up there, as it’s otherwise kind of out of my way – the food is fantastic at both, so I don’t complain.”
Around 20 years ago, The Royalton near Bryant Park was the place industry movers and shakers always met up for a drink; the finance crowd there these days tends to be more venerable and senior-ranking.
Club Macanudo on E. 63rd St. is a public cigar bar and restaurant with a private-club feel.
“There are lots of Wall Streeters smoking cigars,” Lauster said. “Be prepared for a dry-cleaning bill afterwards!”
What not to say: “The bars in Boston are so much better than the ones in New York.”
2. Industry conferences
Two major industry conferences held in New York are the Robin Hood Investor’s Conference and Ira Sohn’s Sohn Investment Conference.
“They’re expensive,” the hedge fund PM said. “Ira Sohn does, however, have a student stock pitch competition to get a free ticket.”
Other notable conferences include the Technology, Compliance & Risk Management Forum; the Trust & Investment Conference; the Financial Services Forum; the Angel Investor-VC Summit; Finovate; the Big Data & Analytics for Banking Summit; the Women in Banking Conference; and Thompson Hine’s Women in Hedge Funds.
Financial Research Associates hosts events, many in New York, for a range of financial services sectors, primarily asset management and wealth management.
“Most asset management conferences that are exclusively for institutional investors are by invite only – research-oriented functions – hosted by the investment banks,” the hedge fund PM said. “They are industry conferences where CEOs, CFOs, portfolio managers and analysts do presentations and have one-on-one meetings to speak to institutional investors.”
You typically must be a commission-paying client or an institutional investor to get an invitation, and there is very tight security.
Bloomberg hosts some events, including an annual hedge fund conference. Those tend to be very broad-based with regards to attendees. Bloomberg clients get invites and the company extends courtesy invitations to people working in the industry and sometimes even students.
There are several industry associations that host conferences or networking events in the city, including the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), the Market Technicians Association (MTA), 100 Women in Hedge Funds, the Hedge Fund Association (HFA), the Managed Funds Association (MFA) and Young Jewish Professionals (YJP).
“The Association for Corporate Growth hosts events with a lot of middle-market bankers and lawyers very focused on networking,” Lauster said. “NYSSA, the local CFA Institute affiliate, offers interesting events open to the public.”
The Fixed Income Analysts Society Inc. (FIASI) events feature quality programming in a small-group environment, she said.
The major business schools all host annual conferences that are typically free for their alumni, and Columbia’s and Harvard’s are open to the public, although there is usually a cost of entry.
“Columbia and Harvard in particular have excellent, affordable events and conferences which are open to non-alums,” Lauster said.
While the Milken Institute Global Conference takes place in California, many New Yorkers and financial services pros from all over the world fly to the Golden State to attend it.
Same goes for the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference, which is held in Las Vegas.
What not to say: “This panel is boring. When does the cocktail hour start?”
3. Coffee shops and tea cafes near financial services firms’ offices or train stations
Financial services professionals who commute from Manhattan to New Jersey pass through Penn Station or Port Authority twice a day, while those who live in Westchester or Connecticut frequent establishments in and around Grand Central Station. Many big banks and hedge funds have an office near one of those three transportation hubs.
Anastasia Alt, the founder of Dream Space, a career education, support and advisory service via text messaging and video, and a former associate at both J.P. Morgan and McKinsey & Co., says that she typically takes Midtown meetings at 2 Beans.
“I love that they offer two levels of seating, as well as both wine and extensive tea coffee location in one quiet location,” Alt says. “They also offer free WiFi, which makes answering emails in between meetings easy, and they serve matcha [green tea], which is difficult to find in Midtown.
“Its Grand Central location makes it a great choice for just about any commuter or employee at a major firm,” she says.
What not to say: “Is there a Starbucks near here? I have no idea what matcha is, and I could really go for a Frappuccino.”
4. Private clubs
“I go to events at private clubs that friends who are members invite me to,” the hedge fund PM said.
The Core Club and the University Club of New York are examples of members-only locales with an application process for those who want to join. Members are allowed to invite friends.
“The Core Club is pricey and difficult to get in, but if you can find someone to sponsor you as a guest, it is the ‘Soho House’ for bankers and an incredible networking opportunity,” Lauster said.
“The Yale Club [on Vanderbilt Avenue] in my opinion is the best of the clubs in its genre,” she said. “There’s lots of deal-making and networking at the second-floor bar.”
What not to say: “I’m totally fine in these shorts and flip-flops [or jeans and sneakers].”
5. Weekly and monthly happy hours
Alternative Assets hosts the Third Thursday Hedge Fund Social happy hour event each month.
In addition, Thirsty Thursday is a social group that meets up each week in a new bar in Manhattan.
It originally started in Zurich around 2008 and is still running there.
“It has proven to be a successful hit, so we started it here in NYC in 2010,” said Tyrene MacLennan, the president of Clarita Group Consulting who previously worked at UBS, Jeffries, BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse. “It helps people who are new to New York City to network and form strong friendships.”
An email list and Facebook page announce that week’s location. It is targeted at financial services professionals who are traveling to New York for work for a few days.
“Also, it’s a great event to bring friends and family visiting from out of town to mingle with some New Yorkers,” MacLennan said.
In the past, Thirsty Thursday has coordinated some of its events with InterNations and the Consulate General of Sweden in New York.
“A majority of participants are in finance, but there is a good mix of doctors, lawyers, United Nations staff, advertising and marketing professionals,” MacLennan said. “There are many European expats [working in financial services who attend] but we have American attendees, too.”
What not to say: “This place sucks – the place around the corner is way better – who’s coming with me?”
6. Events hosted by vendors
Service providers host a ton of events, ranging from happy hours and wine tastings to golf outings and poker nights.
“I can’t keep up with RSVPing back there are so many,” the hedge fund PM said. “It’s not appropriate to attend if you are not in the industry, a client, a prospective client or a friend of the firm.”
But, if you are, let friends know about some events and, if they did not get an invite, see if any are come-one-come-all or whether the vendor will allow a plus-one.
“I would not advise crashing events – poor form – it’s not a good way for people to think about you, but it is a great way to be ‘that guy,’” the PM said. “Folks generally know one another at those events, so it’s best to have a buddy of yours take you and make those introductions if you were not invited yourself.”
In addition, law firms, ratings agencies and banks will all sponsor conferences and networking events.
What not to say: “I’m really impressed by the products and services of [a direct competitor of the vendor sponsoring the event].”
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