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Arizona State University alumna Najla Arekat had dreamed about attending law school since childhood, but her natural talent for finance and desire to enter the workforce after graduation steered her down a completely different path.
“Things changed and I ended up in finance,” said Arekat, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. “I think I made the right decision going down this path … it turned into a lifelong career.”
In her degree program, Arekat learned how politics and the economy go hand in hand. She discovered how to tailor her diplomatic, analytical and communication skills to become a successful financial advisor.
“In order for me to deal with people’s money, they have to be able to trust me,” said Arekat. “And a lot of what you learn in political science is a big part of it.”
After graduation, Arekat started working for Charles Schwab at an international trading desk. She assisted clients in the Middle East because she was fluent in Arabic and French. She received her Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission licenses and continued on her path in the finance industry.
Over the span of 18 years, Arekat has worked for several top-tier investment banking and wealth management firms including Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan. She has managed multi-billion dollar funds for institutions, family offices and high-net worth individuals in the U.S. and Middle East. She also founded and served as CEO of ADL Capital, a registered investment advisory firm.
“There are so many pieces to running an investment firm,” she said. “We spent a lot of time creating product lines and really understanding what the client needed.”
Arekat sold ADL Capital and became a wealth advisor and vice president of BBVA Compass. She also became one of just 235 people in the country who have the NFLPA Registered Player Financial Advisor designation, which helps ensure NFL players are being treated fairly by financial advisors.
“I’ve always been very driven and motivated,” said Arekat. “The reason I’m where I am today is because of all the chances I took.”
Recently, Arekat was named a 2016 CLAS Leader in honor of her professional success in the finance industry. She was invited back to campus during homecoming to share her thoughts on the value of a liberal arts and sciences degree and induct the 2016 CLAS Student Leaders.
“I think it’s a great privilege,” she said. “I think it’s really important to have a mentor as a student … I know I would have gained quite a bit out of it if I had a mentor in college myself.”
Arekat said she wants to encourage students to keep an open mind and don’t get stuck on one path. If she hadn’t been so set on going to law school, she would have taken more finance classes or considered a double major – both of which would have helped her out quite a bit in the finance industry, she said.
“You never know what exactly you are going to be doing or if it’s the right fit,” she said. “So I think it’s really important to have somebody to talk with to see what you are really interested in pursuing.”