Seydina M. Fall ’17

MBA for Executives (Asset Management); Principal and Founder, smf+co, Inc.

I was running my own small real estate company, but I wanted to move into the asset management part of the sector. At Yale SOM, I wanted to not only refresh my financial skills, but also become more aware of the compliance issues and develop a brand that people can trust. Yale was the best training ground for me to transition from being a solo practitioner to someone who’s managing other people’s money. I’ve developed the skills that are necessary, and I’ve adopted a philosophy that’s based on being a good fiduciary.

The Leadership Development Program was very humbling. A lot of the work is done within groups, so you get to see how your skills and leadership style compare to your peers’. There are some growing pains, but you have your professional coach and your peer coach to talk things through with. They helped me identify my weaknesses and my strengths, and how to work on them. As a result, I’ve gotten a lot better at conflict management and negotiation. My business is based on negotiations, and my de facto mode has always been to be competitive. I’ve learned that that’s one choice that you can make, but you can also choose to collaborate. You have to consider what your end goal is first, and that determines your negotiation mode. I’ve learned to think about conflict strategically.

Behavioral finance has exposed me to a new way of thinking. I’m a Chartered Financial Analyst, and we learn how to do finance in a very orthodox way. Behavioral finance is completely different. It’s as rigorous as what we call “traditional finance,” but it’s allowed me to look at problems in a different way, by taking into account the human element, the psychological influences that shape investor behavior. It’s increased the tools at my disposal when I’m valuing an investment, and it’s really had an impact on how I evaluate deals. I may have missed out on some opportunities in the past, or maybe been too aggressive on certain others, because I didn’t have these tools.

Interviewed on December 6, 2016