Rafael Kuhn works as a Director in Capital Markets at Deutsche Bank, focusing on Aviation as well as co-leading the bank’s debt placement team in the Americas. He also supports Deutsche Bank with diversity recruitment. Vault spoke with Rafael about his background, how he got his job at Deutsche Bank, the firm’s workplace culture, and the recommendations he has for students and young professionals pursuing a career in finance.
VAULT: Where did you grow up and go to school? And how did you find your way to Deutsche Bank?
KUHN: I grew up in New York City and went to the Bronx High School of Science. I then went to University of Chicago, where I studied economics and theater. I started at Deutsche Bank in 2007 as an intern in Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and returned in 2008 after graduating as a full-time analyst in the group. As a second-year M&A Analyst, I got involved with dbPride and started to work on recruiting because I wanted to help ensure students considering jobs after graduation knew that the world of financial services—and more specifically Deutsche Bank—was an inclusive environment for LGBT professionals.
After three years with M&A, it was time for me to try something new. I found a position within Capital Markets as an Associate focused on investment grade debt private placements. After two years focused on that product, I transitioned within the group to focus on Aviation capital markets coverage. In that group I was promoted to VP and then, more recently, Director. Over time I took back responsibility for the debt private placement product in addition to my responsibilities on the aviation side. Outside of my “day job” I’m on the dbPride Steering Committee and responsible for leading our LGBT diversity recruiting strategy.
VAULT: Why did you choose Deutsche Bank over other employers?
KUHN: I really enjoyed my experience as an intern at Deutsche Bank. When I finished my internship, I decided I wanted to do something in corporate advisory because I thought it would be educational—I didn’t want to go to business school. I knew I wanted to do something where I could learn and get practical experience in the real world and build a career, and I knew I could do that at Deutsche Bank.
VAULT: Can you talk a little about Deutsche Bank’s career development opportunities? How has the firm fostered your career growth?
KUHN: I personally don’t think it’s the firm’s responsibility to look after you; to really succeed you need to be proactive in seeking out opportunities. It is the firm’s responsibility to provide you with a platform and the resources you need to grow and achieve your full potential. The culture at Deutsche Bank allows for that. For example, having a more diverse front office was something I really wanted to support. As a second-year Analyst, I took it upon myself to change the way we managed LGBT recruiting and with the support of the dbPride network, I felt my voice was heard and my actions helped create change.
At Deutsche Bank, it’s about taking the initiative yourself, developing a strong internal professional network, and utilizing it to achieve your goals. I have a manager that I enjoy working with and I think our relationship is strong. I’m surrounded by people I can ask for advice or bounce ideas off of. Both in your personal and professional life, you always have to advocate for yourself, and here you’ll be rewarded and recognized for the value you bring.
VAULT: Can you talk a little about Deutsche Bank’s diversity practices and its culture with respect to how it promotes diversity? Have you been involved in and affected by the firm’s diversity initiatives?
KUHN: It can be hard to attract students to a big bank because there’s an assumption that Wall Street and banks aren’t inclusive places to work, and that’s not the case. You can be comfortable with who you are at Deutsche Bank. There’s a strong commitment from the top to ensure that people are empowered to bring their whole selves to work. John Cryan, our CEO, has participated in dbPride initiatives, and the heads of our business divisions have devoted their resources to supporting dbPride projects.
A great example of this is an LGBT competition called Powering Progress, which Deutsche Bank launched earlier this year. Powering Progress challenged university students to pitch innovations for some of our non-profit partners, and the winners will see their project ideas funded by the Deutsche Bank Foundation. We came up with the challenge to raise awareness of Deutsche Bank as an employer of choice for LGBT students, and also to communicate that as professionals at Deutsche Bank, we can use our position as a global firm to make a difference in the LGBT community.
VAULT: Where do you see yourself in five years?
KUHN: I’ve never been the type to be prescriptive about what’s going to happen five years down the road. If you’d asked me when I was an Associate if I imagined myself making it to Managing Director (MD), I would’ve said that was years away. Since then I’ve made it to Director, so MD isn’t that far of a stretch. At the moment, I’m focused on staying engaged with the work I’m doing, bringing value to the firm, learning as I go along, and developing relationships both with colleagues and clients.
VAULT: What advice do you have for college students and young professionals thinking about pursuing careers in finance?
KUHN: Network. The advice I always give to people starting in the industry is grow your network and meet people outside of your immediate group. This means reaching out to people in your alumni networks, and not being closed off to divisions you don’t know much about; if you work in M&A, learn about what’s happening in markets or asset management, and keep an ear out for mobility opportunities. I was always an airplane geek, and now I finance the aircrafts that I fly on, but when I was an undergrad I didn’t even know my current job existed.
Somehow, by networking and staying open to opportunities as they arose, I ended up in a place that’s been really great for my professional and personal interests. I created a track for myself and learned about what all the different areas of global banking do. Remember, you’re not going to be an MD, or even VP, right out of college. You have to take it one step at a time, and learn as you go.
To learn more about the opportunities available with Deutsche Bank, visit db.com/careers.
This post was sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
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