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Lead with Purpose

Honors Alumnus Victor Lashley on Giving Back and Going Far
Lead with Purpose

Victor Lashley

When Ogden Honors alumnus Victor Lashley discusses his outlook on life, he emphasizes how autonomy — that critical factor of self-determination — has shaped his world and his response to it. As V.P. of Global Trade Sales at J.P. Morgan, Lashley’s independence and drive have propelled him from south Louisiana to the heart of corporate finance.

A native of Franklin, Louisiana where he attended school with the same 600 people from preschool to 12th grade, Lashley’s quiet beginnings shaped him into the type of leader who can connect across a diverse array of individuals and groups. Despite his unassuming surroundings, Lashley managed to transcend the limitations of what could have been a small town existence. At a young age he was identified as “gifted and talented,” and he remembers how much of an impact being recognized as exceptional had on his confidence as a student. Lashley also owes much of his expansive worldview to his father, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago. A welder by trade who did not have the opportunity to complete high school, his father emphasized that Lashley’s job as a child was to focus his efforts on getting an education.

“The mantras in my head as a kid were, ‘We think you're capable,’ and ‘We think that if you work hard, then getting an education is achievable.’ That helped,” Lashley said. “Having a father who was not from America kind of opened my mind to recognize that there's more in the world than what I may see in my particular small town.”

A typical "gifted student," Lashley was involved in both his school and community, and participated in a variety of enrichment programs. He chose LSU for its wealth of opportunities and the Honors College for its “school within a school” approach that reminded him of his small high school. 

“I actually liked the concept that I'd be held to higher academic standards,” Lashley said, laughing. “It also felt like that would incentivize me to maintain my scholarships — that there were some built- in parameters to make sure I stayed on track.”

At LSU, Lashley was a member of the E.J. Ourso College of Business where he majored in marketing. According to Lashley, he arrived at a business degree path when he realized he didn’t want to be an undecided major.

“I chose business because I felt like it offered me a lot of different career paths and I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “In theory, you could take a business degree just about anywhere.”

Lashley also joined the Louisiana Service and Leadership Program (LASAL) and earned a minor in leadership development. A signature Honors program, LASAL prepares students for leadership roles in Louisiana, particularly in the fields of public service, social justice and environmental sustainability. According to Lashley, his experience with LASAL informed his eventual move to global finance at J.P. Morgan post-graduation.

“While I was in LASAL, there was a change from outside and a change from within,” he explained. “I recognized the abundant resources in the financial industry, and I think that the right person from inside the industry could potentially redirect and partner those resources to initiatives outside of global finance.”

Lashley’s tenure at the Honors College is marked by his energy and focus on connecting his Honors education with his exposure to the business community. He noted that the enriching coursework at the Honors College allowed him to widen his perspective beyond what he was learning in the business school, providing him with a space where he could find applications for his corporate education. That challenge to utilize the application of knowledge in order to effect change led Lashley to his current career.

“I kind of tiptoed into business and finance and started working for JP Morgan,” he said. “I had to reflect on what the industry was, what the footprint of the company was, what resources does the company have. I’ve tried to find a way to address the public cause with private resources from within the private sector.”

While at LSU, he kept busy with a variety of leadership activities on and off campus. Through LASAL he was introduced to the Equity and Inclusion campaign, which pursues advocacy work for different pillars of life in Louisiana, such as affordable housing and coastal preparedness. He also volunteered with the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership  (HOBY), a youth organization that aims to inspire lifetime leaders in service and innovation. Additionally, Lashley was involved with the Volunteers in Public Schools Reading Friend program and served as an LSU Liaison tour guide.

Eventually, Lashley’s interests led him beyond Louisiana. For two different summers Lashley interned at global finance corporation J.P. Morgan. Initially introduced to the company as a scholarship recipient from high school, he applied and received a paid internship as a sophomore in college.  

“I was able to go for the experience of working in finance on Wall Street for the summer,” Lashley explained. “It was while I was there for the first internship that I was introduced to a different program, and that summer program was a feeder into a full time program post-graduation where you get to rotate throughout the firm for two years.”

Lashley returned his second summer and was offered a full-time position at J.P. Morgan upon graduation in 2012, where he adopted a new role every six months. His beginnings at the company led him to positions in prime brokerage operations, pension fund sales, global trade sales, treasury services, corporate banking in Canada and finally trade finance. When he completed his two years, he placed permanently in global trade sales.

“Getting the opportunity at J.P. Morgan was strengthened by having internship opportunities in the Honors College,” Lashley said. “I learned to basically monetize unpaid experiences — turning your experience into something that's applicable when you're applying. I turned my involvement into experience.”

During his senior year, Lashley spent a winter break abroad through the International Business Seminar program. Through the Ourso College of Business he spent two weeks in Europe, traveling through Brussels, Paris and London where he had the opportunity to meet with different international companies. He explained that, beyond observing the business climate in each specific market, traveling abroad provided him with invaluable social capital.

“Until you go abroad, you are at a disadvantage in terms of social capital, because whenever you leave Louisiana or leave the college environment, you're going to meet people who've had different experiences,” Lashley said. “It reminds you that you are a global citizen and that the way things are done here is not the only way that things can be done. I think that a different perspective can drive innovation and improvement.”

Lashley also completed a senior thesis by graduation, titled “Marketing Mainstream Financial Services to Baton Rouge’s Unbanked Population: Assessments and Recommendations for the Bank on Baton Rouge Initiative.” In his study, he talked about the intersection of his business studies and his LASAL research by exploring why people in poverty, specifically in Baton Rouge choose alternative financial services versus a traditional bank.

“It was challenging,” Lashley remembered. “It's completely self-disciplined, but by the same token it's also very introspective because if you're going to commit to putting out a thesis and the amount of effort and energy it takes, you want it to be something that you're passionate about and something that you hope will be useful beyond graduation.”

As it turns out, Lashley’s work was utilized by a later LASAL scholar, Kalena Thomhave, for her own thesis project and implementation. Thomhave utilized Victor’s thesis work in her post-graduate position working with VISTA at MidCity Redevelopment Alliance. MCRA has a program called Bank on Baton Rouge for the financially unbanked population. Now, living in New York City and working with J.P. Morgan, Lashley still finds the time to partner with Banking on Our Future (BOOF) as part of Operation Hope, an organization that teaches financial literacy to underserved populations. His words of advice to Honors students reflect his relentless lifestyle of leading and giving back, and doing so with purpose.

“If you're unsure what your path is, start having experiences,” he said. “Start volunteering, start getting involved, and start looking for internships, whether or not you're doing it to pursue a career in that field. I know sometimes that sounds easier said than done, but with the resources and the personalized attention you have at the Honors College, it's actually not that hard.”

 

Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis.