Alex Urdea plays for Streetwise Partners

Portfolios with Purpose’s Social Media Team recently had the chance to talk to Alex Urdea, 2015 Novice Class participant and Managing Director at Solus Alternative Asset Management LP.

PwP: Please describe how you became involved with Streetwise Partners. How long have you been involved?

Alex: I’ve been involved with Streetwise for close to 10 years. Having served as a mentor (one-on-one), an officer (group leader, coaching new mentors and mentees alike), and on the fundraising efforts via the Junior Board, I was able to learn a lot about myself and focus on areas that needed improvement. I was able to personally grow with the organization because staffers allow volunteers to take the next step in their own development by offering leadership opportunities, organizational challenges, and support along the way to achieving individual goals. Meeting many motivated, successful and like-minded volunteers along the way is what kept me engaged. We would learn so much from each other throughout the program, leveraging each one’s strengths and rounding-out our own personal skillsets.

PwP: What do you feel are the most impactful programs supported by the organization?

Alex: The 13 week Career Ventures program, which has been constantly refined for over 15 years, is incredibly impactful to the community. Even though government assistance in the form of financial aid is helpful to lower income individuals, without the concrete skills taught by a program like the one offered by Streetwise, it would be difficult for some to make a jump from a dead-end job into a fast paced, long-term career—its truly employees the ‘teach a man to fish’ philosophy. This program teaches candidates computer skills, how to network and leverage your personal connections, resume and cover letter writing techniques, and most importantly, how to sell yourself. Through a thoughtful curriculum, motivational guest speakers, a mock-interview day, and plenty of opportunities to network and develop one’s elevator pitch, the program offers an engaging and powerful environment to really motivate candidates to succeed.

PwP: What career path did you follow to get into the investments industry?

Alex: My own career path has been relatively simple on the face of it. After graduating with a degree in Financial Engineering I was certain this was the industry in which I wanted to establish my career; unlike many classmates who saw it as a good jumping off point to put some money in the bank in order to pursue other dreams. I couldn’t imagine a role for me where being at the center of information flow was not part of my day-to-day—it’s what truly motivates me to wake up in the morning and get to the office early. After starting on the sell-side at Deutsche Bank in a quantitative role, I quickly moved over to the buy-side to join Stanfield Capital Partners in 2004.  Shortly thereafter our opportunistic credit/distressed hedge fund was spun off into Solus Alternative Asset Management and I knew I wanted to be along for the ride. While we have fewer than 40 employees at the firm, we find ourselves motivated to stay efficient and continue sourcing new opportunities for outsized returns for our investors—even today when others are discontent with the challenging investment environment.

PwP: How did you hear about Portfolios with Purpose?

Alex: That’s funny, because this is where it all comes back to Streetwise Partners. A good friend of mine and fellow volunteer in the Career Ventures program called me up out of the blue and told me about the PwP mission statement and introduced me to fellow volunteer Brett Waikart.  From the moment we first talked about PwP’s goals, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to be a part of this fast growing organization that acts to bridge the financing gap to some nonprofits that would otherwise not be able to cast such a wide net for attracting contributions. The leverage that PwP allows for is incredible, all while keeping it fun and lighthearted. Plus, it’s always great to put your portfolio up against some of Wall Street’s greatest minds and see if you can afford yourself some bragging rights.

PwP: What attracted you to participate in the 2015 Competition?

Alex: The PWP Competition was most appealing to me because while it’s easy to just write a check for your favorite organization, that’s just not engaging enough for me.  PWP offers much more of a commitment—it’s like you’re going to battle for your charity and really highlights that those playing here are willing to put their money where their mouth is for that cause.  Also, it’s incredible what the multiplier effect on your buy-in can do for an organization.  In some cases, the winnings from this competition could form a very substantial portion of a target non-profit’s operating budget. It hopefully also proves that with some skill and a good amount of luck, you can make a real impact on a cause that is near and dear to you. 

About StreetWise Partners

Skills for Work, Confidence for Life

Ever since its founding by PwC employees in 1997, StreetWise Partners has profoundly transformed the lives of over 2,600 disadvantaged, low-income individuals living in New York City and Washington, D.C. Rather than simply fundraising for individuals in need, StreetWise Partners takes a hands-on approach and adopts a “teach a man to fish” philosophy through its extensive mentoring programs. In a country where more than 11 million people are unemployed or underemployed, StreetWise Partners' volunteers work to level the playing field by helping others get on a path to economic self-sufficiency.

Career Ventures Program

StreetWise Partners' diverse network of professional volunteers lead a 13-week Career Ventures program in which trainees partake in interactive, skills- and confidence-building workshops and mentoring sessions. These sessions are dedicated to career development, resume writing, speed networking, and effective interviewing skills through mock interviews with volunteers who act as CEOs, Line Managers, and HR Managers. Mentors work closely with their trainees and provide significant feedback over the 13-week program to facilitate the job search process and help trainees create a high-quality professional portfolio. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the program also helps trainees with computer training, goal setting, public speaking, and general business etiquette.

Last year, average weekly trainee income increased by 54% just during the 13 week program.  Today, 65% of StreetWise Partners alumni are employed, and more than 70% of employed alumni obtained their position or received a promotion during or after their graduation from the Career Ventures program. Successful graduates of the program commonly pay it forward by sharing their newfound knowledge with friends and family members, cascading the learned skills within their local communities which creates an altruistic domino effect.

Career Ventures is not only beneficial to the recipients of the training—volunteers feel extremely accomplished in leveraging their developed skills while empowering others. This mentorship helps improve their networking, leadership, and communication skills. StreetWise Partners always welcomes new mentors, corporate sponsors, and community partners.

Saundra Marcel