When it was time for Neil John Barnes ’17 to choose a college, he knew he wanted an
experience that would be dramatically different from his youth in Antigua.
“I looked at several New Jersey colleges but fell in love with the Montclair campus,” he
says. “The grounds are beautiful and well-spaced, with new athletic facilities. I also
appreciated the large number of majors available. I was able to find the exact program
of study that I wanted. I was hooked!”
For Barnes, that meant a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with a
concentration in Business and Finance.
“I have always liked finance,” he explains. “And I have always been drawn to Wall Street
and what is going on in the stock market. I wanted to work on the data that is used to
make trading decisions.”
Barnes is putting his Montclair education to work in his role as Vice President, Business
Data Analyst (Systems Trading) at Citi. “Most trading today is systemic, and every
systems-level investing decision involves hundreds – even thousands – of data points,”
he says. “In addition to reviewing corporate annual reports and trading activity, we
consider what drives investors to make buy or sell decisions.”
“This is where the human factor – behavioral economics – comes in,” Barnes continues.
“We can infer buying and selling interests from market activity. We look at how often an
equity is traded, of course, but will also pick up when a company is trending on social
media. It is very nuanced.”
Despite the emphasis on data, the market can still surprise. Barnes points to the recent
run-ups of GameStop, AMC, and Bed Bath & Beyond stocks. “From a systemic
perspective, it didn’t make sense that these stocks would rise the way they did,” he says. “It is our job to analyze the factors creating these phenomena, and to work what we find into future trading models.”
Since graduating from Montclair, Barnes has boosted his resume with 26 licenses and
certifications in areas ranging from Algorithmic Trading Accountancy to Linux Shell
Scripting. He is also completing a Master of Science in Financial Engineering at
Stevens Institute of Technology.
While still a student at Montclair, Barnes landed a full-time spot at Fidelity Investments
as an operations analyst. Once graduated, he took on a role as a Financial Data Analyst
at Bank of America, then as a Business Data Analyst with Prudential and as Business
Data Analyst (Compliance/Risk) at UBS. He joined Citi in early 2020 to work on
regulatory reports before rising to his current role.
Barnes credits his time at Montclair with setting him up to rise quickly in his profession.
“Courses in my major and concentration prepared me for work in my discipline,” he
notes, adding that many of those courses were taught by professionals in his field who
could share first-hand experiences and insight. “I also took a lot of one-credit courses
that helped me get ready for the work world, covering topics like interview practice and
resume writing. On-campus activities such as career seminars, resume review, and
guest lectures helped as well.”
The sense of community at Montclair was an added bonus for Barnes. “I was living far
from home and commuting to campus,” Barnes says, recalling particular fondness for
the welcome-back activities in the fall. “It was really nice. They would have food trucks,
motivational speakers, and lots of fun activities. There was even a special welcome for
Barnes was an active student volunteer with the Office of University Development. In
fact, he quickly earned recognition as one of the University’s top phonathon callers.
“That was a lot of fun,” he says. “I learned a lot about building a culture of philanthropy
and teamwork, and developed a whole new circle of friends.”
Although Barnes has been busy with his full-time career and graduate study, he misses
his alma mater and hopes to get back to campus soon. “I hope to connect students to
opportunities,” he says. “There are so many paths into the work world. I would love to
mentor students and offer some perspective as they plot out their careers.”
“As a graduate of the University, I can show students the potential of a Montclair
degree,” he adds. “I can show them that success is as much about what you study and
how you apply yourself, as it is about what college you attend. Utilize every resource
provided to you, create new paths, and keep going. Persistence wins out in the end.”