Hudson Valley alumnus urges students to seize opportunities

Jefri Nazri

Staff Writer

Hudson Valley alumnus Todd Silaika, a Wealth Management Advisor at Merrill Lynch, visited Hudson Valley last Wednesday to give a talk titled “Seizing Opportunities.” Silaika shared his experiences overcoming challenges and making the most of opportunities as part of the Voices Library Lecture Series.

40 students and members of the Hudson Valley community attended the lecture, including many members of the Investment Club.

Brody O’Connor, a business administration major and member of Hudson Valley’s Investment Club, introduced the guest speaker. “Mr. Silaika graduated from the University at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a dual concentration in finance and management information systems. He is a certified financial planner. He manages a 10-person team, and is also listed in the top 1,000 advisors in the United States,” said O’Connor.

Silaika talked about his experiences while attending college. He said that he joined Hudson Valley’s Entrepreneurs Club as a student. “It was a great opportunity, and I had the chance to go see the stock exchange in New York City,” he said.

After finishing his studies at Hudson Valley, Silaika transferred to SUNY Albany, where he was accepted into the business program. Throughout college he worked at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, a job that he had started in high school.

Mr. Silaika told the audience about a local charity event that he held over the weekend at the Desmond Hotel that raised over $160,000.

Silaika said that time and opportunity play a big role in life. “One of the things that we talk about when we’re discussing overcoming adversity is a phrase that we use a lot in our company and in our office with my team, and it’s, ‘If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,’” he said.

He told the story of how he managed to get a job with The Ayco Company, a financial counseling and wealth management company. “There I was settings the tables and making sure everything was ready for the event, and I approached the president of the firm, and asked him to allow me to come in for an interview. He was shocked, and said why would he hire me, and I told him that I had a degree in finance, but I have no experience, but what I do have is a desire to do well. The president of Ayco told me, ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years, I run a successful company. I have never been approached, especially at a Christmas party for a business planning event, by an employee from the venue.’”

Mr. Silaika got the job after coming in for an interview for the company. “It wasn’t that my dad knew somebody who was in the financial field, or a silver spoon kind of scenario. It was just asking,” he said.

The talk ended with an open discussion with questions from the audience. A student asked Silaika about what he does to build a relationship with his clients. “The core of any financial advisor’s success is the relationship with the client. Don’t build with commodity or product,” he said.

Another audience member asked, “Is passion important?” to which Silaika answered, “Absolutely, I’m passionate about what I do every day. If I was a doctor, I’d be passionate about my patients. When you sit down with a new client, having dinner, you get into their nitty-gritty, their child’s problems, or can they afford that car. If you don’t have passion, it shows.”

John Dobrowolsky, a business administration major, said “I thought the talk was important and pretty interesting, especially how he started his career.”

Bryce Kirk, business administration major, said, “I thought it was incredibly informative and inspiring. It really helped me make up my mind on what I want to do with my college education and future endeavors. I thinks it going to help guide me going forward. The quote ‘If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no’ was very moving to me because I can relate that to so many situations in my life, and I will think about that in the decisions I make going forward.”

The Investment Club is open to all students. The club meets Wednesdays at 3 p.m. in BTC 323. Contact Joseph Stenard, MRV 109, at (518) 629-7539 or


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