When finance chief Robert Rostan senses burnout is around the corner, he has a built-in escape hatch: the classroom.
Rostan is CFO of Training the Street, a company that provides financial education for employees of banks, primarily, but also law, accounting, private equity, and asset management firms. It offers programs on how to read financial statements, corporate valuation, Excel, financial modeling, and financial markets.
Training the Street currently employs 28 experienced financial professionals as instructors — and Rostan is one of them. He teaches about 60 to 70 days per year.
“I get to wear two hats,” he says. “Usually when I’m getting tired of my CFO hat, it’s time to put on my teacher hat.”
In fact, the opportunity to avoid burnout, he says, is part of what motivates finance professionals to join the firm. “These are people who like the financial industry but don’t particularly like some of its harder aspects,” says Rostan. “It can be a pretty grueling industry with lots of aggressive Type A people, long hours, late deadlines, heavy client expectations, and spur-of-the-moment travel.”
For Training the Street instructors, the work day is typically 9 to 5, all travel is scheduled weeks or months in advance, and there is no office — when not in a classroom, they work from home.
Rostan has been with the 20-year-old company for 12 years, and he’s not the only one. Instructors are presented with a Rolex watch after 10 years, “and our owner has handed out 11 of them,” he says.
After being hired the instructors go through an apprenticeship program to learn how to teach. “They are not put out into the field until they are ready,” Rostan says. “For some people that takes six months, for others it’s two or three years.” In the meantime they help with client management and tasks like grading papers and answering students’ “101-type” questions.
Training the Street customizes its programs based on clients’ needs. Class sizes range from one student to several hundred. Programs anywhere from a day to several weeks. Where one client may hire people with liberal arts degrees who might have taken a single accounting class in college, another may hire only the top 10% of graduates from the best business schools in the country.
The company has grown from about $3 million in annual revenue when Rostan joined to just under $20 million. However, it has a global presence, offering programs in Europe, India, and the Pacific Rim. Most classes held in Europe are staffed locally, as that’s a European preference, he says, while clients in Japan, for instance, are more accepting of an instructor coming in from New York.
The bulk of the clients are banks, which want newly hired employees out of college or an MBA program “to be desk-ready on Day 1 after training,” Rostan notes. Half of the revenue is generated from June through August.
But the business is in transition, with demand for remote and asynchronous education on the rise. “It’s coming fast and furious — the whole business is changing beneath us,” the CFO says.