It’s hard for Devon Ostermiller to pinpoint the exact moment that started him on the path to JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank in New York City, but it might have been an opportunity provided by Wayne State University professor Kristin Taylor.
“She brought me in and allowed me to do research with her for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program,” Ostermiller said. “That really allowed me to beef up my statistical analysis abilities while working with new and interesting tools.”
That collaboration placed Ostermiller on the road to success — a road that included a ton of hard work. Ostermiller was very involved on campus during his undergrad years at Wayne State and also was a member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha.
He later worked for Ally Bank and then Rocket Mortgage, which led to the connections with JPMorgan Chase.
“I was accepted into Ally Bank’s accelerated rotational program,” Ostermiller said. “That allowed me to go through three different rotations over three different years, which geared me toward honing my finance skills — the hard skills, like understanding business processes, balance sheet management and certain revenue generating strategies. After the program, I got into their Structured Products Group, specifically automotive asset-backed securities. Once I was there, I met the JPMorgan team while out with a deal. I made some good connections. When an opportunity opened at JPMorgan, my contacts reached out. They knew I had the experience and a solid pedigree. It ended up being a pretty easy fit.”
Ostermiller said most of the people he works with have very impressive backgrounds, but he was able to distinguish himself through what he learned at Wayne State.
“I think the networking and having so many extracurricular experiences helped me touch base with people from a bunch of different backgrounds, and that was incredibly important,” Ostermiller said. “The people I work with are very intelligent with impressive backgrounds. I can rely on my laurels that Wayne State provided. I'm able to do just as much as them, if not more, because although they may have had top academic careers, they didn't have the social skills, team leadership or community service opportunities to help elevate their qualitative, soft skills, like Wayne State provided for me.”
Ostermiller lives and works in Manhattan and enjoys the high stakes and high rewards of his job.
“I think the nature of my work is definitely the most exciting part,” Ostermiller said. “It's deal focused. I work within the investment bank, primarily working on underwriting mortgage-backed securities and other structured products. And really what I get to do is talk to other companies throughout the nation and even internationally to help them better understand how to enter the capital markets through mortgage securitization. I've been able to come into this role and make an immediate impact on JPMorgan's securitization issuance, which is really exciting. The visibility and exposure that I have to our senior leadership is fantastic and a testament to JPMorgan’s culture. There isn’t just one specific task or thing I enjoy the most; it's the general nature of the organization and the job that I enjoy so much.”
Ostermiller admitted the work can be challenging, but closing deals makes it all worthwhile.
“The work and time that it takes can be arduous,” Ostermiller said. “It takes a lot of time to get this stuff together. Making sure that not only your own work is top notch, but also pushing everybody to ensure the team’s work is up to snuff is both rewarding and challenging. Meeting timelines — whether it be internal projects or pressure put on us by our clients — can be a lot. But having the tenacity to push through and grind it out is a fantastic mentality. The work is challenging, but when the deal is closed, the feeling of accomplishment is incredible.”
Ostermiller didn’t get a degree in finance; instead, he earned a bachelor’s in public affairs from Wayne State. He felt the education he received at Wayne State helped prepare him for his career.
“I think a lot of my coursework, even though it was in public affairs, was still heavily weighted towards statistics and public policy, which has turned out to be very interchangeable to my work in finance,” Ostermiller said. “The coursework alone really helped me to prepare so I could jump in headfirst and not lag behind my new peers in work. I actually think public affairs helped me more than it would have if I studied finance. In my very first interview with Ally, the interviewer didn't know what a degree in public affairs was, so it was my pitch to her about what it was, how it was relevant to the finance world and how it had prepared me for work in banking that allowed me to get to the next step.”
Ostermiller also credits his networking skills for helping him continue to climb in his career.
“I would say building that network and being bold enough to make connections online — whether it be through LinkedIn or email — is incredibly important. Having the confidence and mentality to feel comfortable enough to cold email or cold call will get you incredibly far,” Ostermiller said. “And you're never going to get anything that you don't ask for. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. It's just having the boldness to do something that may not seem natural, and just going for it.”
Ostermiller hopes to help other Wayne State students and graduates make connections on Wall Street.
“I post frequently about JPMorgan internships, and I've had quite a few Wayne State students reach out," Ostermiller said. “I've been able to point them in the right direction or send a referral. If there are any students that are interested in high finance and working for a firm like JPMorgan, I’m always happy to have a phone call or an email chat. It takes connections to get here. My family owns a shoe store in Frankenmuth, Michigan, so it's not like I knew anybody from the start; this has all been on my own accord. But if I could be that person, that initial connection that starts the pipeline of Wayne State students to New York and to finance is something I'd be really proud of.”