Arta Team Spotlight
Q&A with Andrea Simsik, Partnerships at Arta
Arta Team Spotlight
December 08, 2022
Andrea started her career at Goldman Sachs in New York City, the coveted path for new grads that want to make their mark in the financial industry. From fixed income to alternative investments, she acquired deep expertise from working at one of the most prestigious firms during one of the absolutely most difficult markets in history. Today Andrea manages relationships with private equity firms and other investment managers for Arta Finance. She’s on a mission to help people get the access they need to reach their financial goals.
Tell us about your early career days in the finance world.
I grew up in New Jersey and went to Cornell for undergraduate studies. I studied Applied Economics and Management because I knew I wanted to go into ‘business’, but I wasn’t sure exactly what yet. I tried a handful of different business internships over my first few years in college but didn’t find the right fit.
At that point, a friend recommended I consider investment management because it’s “relationship-oriented with a focus on numbers,” which sounded promising. I liked the idea of focusing on people and helping them achieve their financial goals. I was fortunate to land an internship at Goldman Sachs and absolutely loved it. Although I wasn't honed in finance before then, that summer opened my eyes to investment management's high-energy, high-expectation environment. It was a company filled with incredible people. I knew right then that’s where I wanted to be. I spent the first five years of my career at Goldman Sachs.
What did you love about it?
For a young professional, it was a fantastic training ground that set a foundation for the rest of my career. New York is the world's financial capital and thus is both awe-inspiring and demanding. It attracts brilliant and capable people. But what I loved most of all was the strong sense of camaraderie across the industry, particularly with my coworkers in the investment management division. When I began preparing for my interviews, several people told me that no one uses the word “I” at Goldman – it’s always “we” because the culture is 100% team-oriented. People are often surprised to hear it, but I found it true throughout my time there.
As you see in the movies, the work environment can be highly intense, and standards are sky-high. But this meant an incredible learning opportunity where great care is taken in teaching new hires. All work is checked and double-checked by peers and managers. Our work reflected our business, and we took pride in both. I knew this mentality would be valuable for the rest of my career.
Linked to both the “intense training” element and the culture, the amount of “one-off” and dedicated mentorship I received was incredible. Even though I was “at the bottom of the totem pole” when I first started, I had a handful of key mentors who invested in me and gave me a ton of ownership and responsibility early on. In turn, I tried to do the same for others that started after me. No matter the hierarchy, it was a meritocracy, and I’m so grateful for the people who mentored me along the way.
You were there during the 2008 recession. What was that like?
I learned so much during that time! When I was an intern in 2007, the market was strong, and times were good at the big banks. I was in the fixed-income sector, which was doing great. Even when the markets started turning south with sub-prime mortgages, we were relieved we had invested in only the most high-quality bonds.
However, when I started full-time work after graduating, it was 2008. That was the very beginning of the recession. Shortly after my start date, Lehman Brothers fell. Our leadership was visibly stressed, barely sleeping at times. Gone was the industry's heyday – layoffs and extreme cost-cutting were the norms at every bank – those that could stay afloat.
Although all the company events were canceled, our co-heads were kind enough to treat the entire division to a holiday dinner out of their own pockets to celebrate making it through a stressful year. So, even during the most challenging times, I was still so grateful for the experience.
How did you manage clients through that time?
Very carefully. Clients don't care about portfolio details or performance specifics when the market is good and people are making money. But that wasn’t happening. So for the next two years, all we did was fire-fight. Clients asked, “why are my portfolios down 50% or 60% when they’re full of high-quality AAA investments?” Even the “safest investments” were down; others were down a terrifying amount, like non-agency mortgages, emerging market debt, and high-yield corporate credit. Nearly all investors and everyone across “the Street” were experiencing the same gut-wrenching circumstance when looking at their portfolios.
I learned how to address and manage unsatisfied clients and unhappy consumers.
Working in a poorly performing market helps you understand the big picture and the minute details.
To explain it to salespeople and clients, you must understand the portfolio positions and what happened in the markets. Then, you must translate everything into something they'll understand and accept. Even harder, you also need to provide comfort and confidence that the market will improve and they will make it out alright.
Did you stay in that role long enough to see the market rebound? What was that like?
Yes, the markets eventually did better. Unfortunately, 2008 and 2009 were terrible – it was a long few years. Then it picked up, and we all breathed a sigh of relief – fears of not having enough to send kids to college or cover retirement years eased as depleted accounts slowly rose again. We moved out of firefighting mode, and I launched new strategies and funds as the rebound brought new opportunities.
I eventually moved to a new role in alternative investments. I was responsible for selecting the best options from other asset managers' strategies to put onto Goldman’s platform. So, I had the good fortune to work with the best of the best! I covered large managers like BlackRock, Franklin Templeton, and T. Rowe Price, as well as small, niche managers with incredible performance and unique strategies. At Goldman, we were fortunate to have access to any and everybody. I met with highly respected, sometimes famous, portfolio managers. Some were on CNBC, others had 30-40 years of experience, and a few were legends, like Bill Gross at PIMCO. It was a fantastic, exciting, and invaluable experience.
After your time at Goldman, you went to The Wharton School in Philadelphia. After earning your M.B.A., did you go back to finance or try something else?
After graduation, I worked for McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm, in their San Francisco office. As was the consulting promise, I worked in many different industries across many companies. I worked on everything from a pro-bono strategy for a children’s museum, to indoor skydiving profitability, to aerospace defense operations, to a solar company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring. The experience helped develop my “consultant toolkit,” including how to approach a problem, think in a structured manner, and execute amidst ambiguity. I also learned a lot about leading teams and a lot about myself.
It was a full experience. That said, after a decade in professional services, I was ready to help build things for people with a more long-term view and in a more hands-on way. I also had my first child and wanted to ensure that business travel away from home wouldn’t be the norm.
That makes sense. And by this point, you had laid down that incredible foundation of experience.
Exactly. I was looking for a way to apply my financial services experience while leveraging my consultant skill set. I was fortunate to land a role with Google as Head of Strategy and Operations within Google Pay marketing. To me, that was a perfect role. I’d be able to learn across a few different functions, and it was a financial services role with ambitions beyond payments. So there was a lot of room for growth. Caesar Sengupta, now Arta’s CEO, oversaw it all and had big visions. It was an exciting time.
And somehow, the Arta team convinced you to take your next role with Arta Finance! So, what are you doing in your current position as an Artasan?
Yes! I now use all three of my ‘careers’ in this role – finance, consulting, and tech. At first, I worked on our market data partnerships and building the vision for our Line of Credit product.
Currently, I am helping lead our Alternative Investments business. I focus on questions like “Are these the right asset classes to offer our members? How can we get our members access to the “best in class” funds? How can we make the investing experience easy yet engaging? How do we best educate members on the benefits and risks of adding something like Private Equity to their portfolios?”
I’ve worked with various asset classes and investors since my early career days, so it’s great to apply that knowledge innovatively to help a broader range of people.
Alternative investments can be such a powerful financial tool, yet not enough people have access to them.
Now that I have two kids, creating that access and upward mobility for others hits even closer to home.
I’m hoping that in my work here at Arta, I can help others get the understanding and access they need to reach their financial goals and make it happen too.