Kelly McPhilliamy

What does it mean to receive the 2019 Belk College Distinguished Alumni Service Award?

It’s quite an honor to be recognized with the Alumni Service Award, and I’m grateful to the Belk College for this recognition!  Belk College provided the educational foundation that ultimately led me to a rewarding career on Wall Street. One of my proudest accomplishments is working with MetLife, Julie Harris, Dean Ott and many others to found the Women in Business (WIB) program.  With one of the largest population of female business students in the state of North Carolina, WIB has the potential to make a huge impact on these women’s careers.

2019 Belk College Distinguished Alumni Service Award recipient, Kelly McPhilliamy ‘89 say, “I really enjoy opportunities to get to know students and share my career path with them. It’s been rewarding to be on the Belk College Board of Advisors and to be a founding member of the Women in Business program, which was made possible by time and funding from corporate donors and alumni.”

When did you graduate and what was your major?
I graduated in 1989 with a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance.

What kinds of opportunities did you have at UNC Charlotte, such as membership in student groups, sports played, internships, study-abroad?
I was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at UNC Charlotte and served as social chairman during my senior year, which was a lot of fun.  I also played some intramural sports like softball. I worked part-time throughout college to help pay for my living expenses, so I spent a good bit of my free time selling fragrances at Belk during the peak holiday period, working in the finance office at UNC Charlotte and serving as a hostess at the Sandwich Construction Company up the road.

One interesting independent study project I did was a promotional video for UNC Charlotte.  For a short time, I thought I might want to pursue being a newscaster, so this was some early training.  Hopefully, the video is buried somewhere in my attic or the school’s records!

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
I was focused on going to college outside of my home state of Delaware, and UNC Charlotte was an attractive option for its size, study programs and value.

What was the best part of your Belk College experience?
Aside from the lifelong friendships I made at UNC Charlotte, I enjoyed the classes in the Belk College where I was introduced to accounting, finance, operations, marketing and communications.  I remember one marketing class that required us to spend the day with a business salesperson. My father arranged for me to join his southeast regional salesperson for customer rounds in the chemicals field.  The biggest learning for me was the importance of relationship skills and technical expertise to be successful, both of which matter for me today.

What was your first job after graduation?
I joined Wachovia Bank as a trainee in their corporate banking training program in Winston-Salem.  We were a group of 25 that learned all the basics of corporate lending and bank services before we were placed in various parts of the corporate bank.  I joined the regional corporate banking team in Winston-Salem for a few years before being transferred to the large corporate group in Atlanta, then Chicago where I worked with Fortune 500 companies.

The most interesting part of my first job after college was how I found my way to Wachovia.  At that time, Wachovia interviewed for their operations training program at UNC Charlotte, but not for their corporate banking training program.  I spent all three summers during college as a bank teller at Bank of Delaware, so I knew I wanted to move into corporate banking after school. During my interview for the operations program, I shared my career interests with the interviewer.  To their credit, they introduced me to the corporate side of the bank, and I landed the job.  

What is your current role?
I am a managing director at Harris Williams, which is a global investment bank that specializes in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).  I am part of the Consumer Group and lead the Health & Beauty practice, so I help companies in the sector create value by selling their businesses or making acquisitions.

What did you learn in the Belk College that has best prepared you for your career?
What helped me the most was the fact that my academic experience in the Belk College was well rounded across all the major business disciplines.  The education I received in accounting and finance was as important as the study of marketing and operations, as was fine tuning my communication skills.  These fundamentals helped me in my first job and provided a valuable foundation for pursuing my MBA at Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University.

What advice do you have for current Belk College students?
Sometimes it’s hard to visualize potential career opportunities after college if you don’t know people working in those fields.  My interest in finance and summer work experience led me toward a career in banking, yet my parents worked in chemicals and real estate.  Take advantage of the professors, speakers and alumni at UNC Charlotte to learn about different career paths. I think you will find there is no straight line to success, and people want to help you along the way. You just need to ask.

What is the importance of giving back to you in terms of time, talent or treasures?
Giving back is important to me in all of these areas.  I really enjoy opportunities to get to know students and share my career path with them.  It’s been rewarding to be on the Belk College Board of Advisors and to be a founding member of the Women in Business (WIB) program, which was made possible by time and funding from corporate donors and alumni.  WIB is particularly close to my heart, as I have spent the better part of 20 years in a male-dominated field of investment banking, and this program does a great job equipping female students with the tools to be successful in any workplace.

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