Bringing Wall Street Knowledge to Uganda
Jeremy Solomon BS'03
Business Development Manager, Micro Africa
“Business Economics and Public Policy offers a well-rounded business education that combines economic theory with real-world applications in business and politics."
Jeremy Solomon began his career on Wall Street, but his interest in international economic development took him across the globe to Uganda, where he has spent a year developing a regional expansion strategy for a local microfinance bank. Working alongside senior management, he faced the inevitable frustration of adapting to an unfamiliar culture. “Life in Uganda is unpredictable,” he says. “After spending the past year here, almost nothing surprises me.” But overcoming challenges has paid off: Through his work with Micro Africa, a microfinance bank with operations in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Southern Sudan, he has seen the bank move closer to its dream of becoming an East African bank serving the marginalized population.
The bank provides loans and savings services to the East African population, helping fund local entrepreneurs and directly stimulating the local economy. Through its basic banking services, Micro Africa improves the financial literacy of the general population while providing jobs and advanced skills to more than 1,000 people. Although Solomon says Uganda’s high level of corruption makes it difficult for small businesses to thrive, the country has ample opportunity for growth. “It has amazing potential business opportunities, and each new business has a noticeable impact on the local economy,” Solomon says.
Solomon’s undergraduate education at Kelley inspired him to explore international development. BEPP Professor Andreas Hauskrecht, who facilitated open discussions about international economics, reinforced Solomon’s interest in the topic. Solomon’s interest grew after meeting international business leaders on campus through the Kelley Scholar program. In addition to the professional contacts, Solomon appreciated the camaraderie among fellow scholars. “The scholarship made my Kelley education more intimate and helped me build long-lasting relationships with fellow Kelley Scholars and faculty,” he says. Solomon took advantage of the program’s study abroad opportunities in Buenos Aires and Madrid, which complemented his minor concentrations in Spanish and Latin American studies.
As an undergraduate, Solomon got an inside look at Wall Street through the Investment Banking Workshop, where he made valuable connections with business professionals. An introduction from the workshop to a Lehman Brothers representative led him to a spot in the company’s investment banking program, launching Solomon’s career on Wall Street. Following completion of the two-year analyst program at Lehman, Solomon shifted his focus to corporate strategy, joining the Corporate Development Group at Deutsche Bank (DB) in New York. While at DB, Solomon volunteered for the Microfinance Group, part of Deutsche Bank’s philanthropic arm that provides loans and other financial products to microfinance institutions around the world. When an opportunity arose to work in the field for Micro Africa, Solomon jumped at the chance to develop microfinance institutions in East Africa. “Microfinance is a novel, capitalistic approach to sustainable development. Distributing funding directly to the underserved population allows individuals the opportunity to grow out of poverty through their own efforts,” he says.
Solomon leveraged skills developed at Kelley on a daily basis, helping him make key strategic, operational and financial decisions at Micro Africa. The BEPP curriculum exposed him to a wide variety of business areas, and he entered the business world with practical skills that have benefited his career. “BEPP offers a well-rounded business education that combines economic theory with real-world applications in business and politics,” he says. His work in Uganda involves drafting business plans through field research, improving management operations, and interacting with investors to raise capital. Solomon recently completed his project in Uganda and has returned to the United States to begin his MBA at Harvard Business School. “My MBA will help me understand how to better assist a wide variety of businesses that can’t be reached or simply can’t benefit from microfinance,” he says. “I hope to discuss development concepts with fellow students and professors to help prepare me for private sector development opportunities after graduation.”
What I miss about Bloomington: “Especially after living in Uganda for the past year, I truly miss the charm of a crisp fall day in Bloomington. Whether it’s walking to class, heading out to Kirkwood, or going for a run around Griffey Lake, there’s something magical about Bloomington when the leaves begin to change and school is back in session.”
Favorite restaurant in Bloomington: “Without question, my favorite restaurant is Janko’s Little Zagreb. The steak rivals anything I’ve eaten in New York, and the atmosphere is classic Bloomington. Where else can you enjoy a great meal on a picnic table?”