With his diploma fresh in hand, a move to the Big Apple is on the spreadsheet for Bradley Coppella, a St. Marys native who has graduated in the top of his class at the Pennsylvania State University's Smeal College of Business. This fall, he will begin employment with KPMG LLP's Transaction Services Advisory group in New York City.
"I like the job I have chosen because, first of all, it is in New York City, which is the mergers and acquisitions capital of the world. The biggest, most important deals flow through the financial services and consulting firms in Manhattan," Bradley said.
Bradley began his career in higher education at Penn State's main campus in 2007 and earned degrees in Finance and Spanish and a minor in International Business. As the Student Marshal in Finance at the Smeal College of Business, he has been recognized as the top graduating Finance major in his class of 336, with a career cumulative GPA of 3.96. A dean's list honoree every semester at Penn State, he said he has always been interested in numbers and finance and is very much looking forward to working with KPMG LLP. While there, he will assess the status of various companies and provide information on them to potential investors. As a matter of course, he will be dealing with high-level, extremely confidential materials and information that can involve billions of dollars.
"Essentially, Private Equity ("PE") firms hire KPMG on a consultancy basis to evaluate entities that they may acquire. These entities are often private entities or specific entities consolidated within a much larger organization, making them less transparent. KPMG's role is then to evaluate various aspects of those companies and try to determine their intrinsic, or theoretical, value," Bradley explained.
"Part of this consists of looking at their revenues (often EBITDA - Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, and Depreciation & Amortization), determining what portion of those are 'quality' and thus able to continue into the future, and then providing that total number to the client. They then will value the company based on a multiple of that number. This is standard practice in the Mergers & Acquisitions field."
"My job initially will largely consist of pulling together various parts of these companies' financial statements to extract the meaningful pieces of information we are looking for. This can be trying to reconcile revenue streams to the specific departments they are coming from, determining the overall profitability of particular segments of a business, looking for one-time revenue items that are not likely to be repeated, et cetera. Clients also tend to make several ad hoc requests."
He re-emphasized that throughout this process, confidentiality is the bottom line.
"The nature of the mergers and acquisitions industry is such that we are not allowed to discuss the specifics of most deals we work on. The recent 'insider trading' scandals largely stem from information on M&A deals that were improperly leaked and then used in illegal profit-making activities," Bradley said.
His previous experience includes an internship in the summer of 2009 in the Credit Division at PNC Bank headquarters in Pittsburgh. In the two summers prior, he worked with local company Morgan AM&T in various intern capacities. He will begin full-time work with KPMG's Transaction Services-Financial Due Diligence group in September. He had previously worked there with the same group as an intern last summer.
"I like the thrill of helping a client make such important decisions, as the purchase of an entire company is no trivial matter. KPMG is garnering significant respect among private equity firms, and is often receiving deal flow from some of the world's most prestigious firms," Bradley said. "It is exciting to work on very large, top-secret deals, and eventually see them make the headlines of the Wall Street Journal."
Bradley was the valedictorian of Elk County Catholic High School's class of 2007. He played soccer all four years, and was also an alter server and lector at Sacred Heart Parish. He is the son of Dr. Steven Coppella and Ms. Connie Struble Coppella. Upon his graduation from Penn State, Bradley becomes part of a family tradition, as both his parents received their undergraduate degrees from the university. He has three siblings: Derek, a sophomore accounting major at Penn State's Behrend Campus; Joel, a sophomore at St. Marys Area High School; and Allison, a third grader at St. Marys Catholic Elementary School. His paternal grandparents are Gary and the late Gretchen Straub Smith, and the late John Coppella; maternal grandparents are David and Marylee Struble, and the late Norma Stauffer Struble.
During Bradley's schooling in St. Marys, one particular educational mentor stands out.
"(Spanish teacher) Nancy Evans was an inspirational factor in my decision to continue my studies in Spanish," Bradley said. He was also lucky to find a mentor when he moved on to higher education.
"I've found a wonderful mentor at Penn State, and his name is Charles 'Charlie' H. Smith. I first had him for my Accounting 211 (Introductory Accounting) course during my second semester. I then took his Accounting 471 (Intermediate Financial Accounting) course the following semester," Bradley said. "Charlie has a wealth of life experiences that are really quite inspiring. To state it briefly, he grew up in the slums of South Africa, studied accounting, which was one of only three majors offered at the local university, found his way to America, and has been here ever since. He has helped me to channel my interests towards a career combining both accounting and finance, both being subjects that I find very interesting. He has also put me in touch with several people who have helped me along the way."
Throughout his higher education, Bradley has received the President's Freshman and Sparks Awards, which recognize freshmen and sophomores, respectively, who have maintained a career cumulative GPA of 4.0. The prestigious award is given to only about 100 students campus-wide. He also received the Evan Pugh Scholar - Junior Award, which recognizes juniors in the top 0.5 percent of their class on a university-wide basis. In addition, he received the Certificate of Excellence from the Department of Spanish, Italian, & Portuguese, which is given to the graduating students with the highest GPAs in the Spanish major. In pursuit of his degree in Spanish, he has twice studied abroad at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain.
Even in his younger days, Bradley hoped to one day live in an urban setting.
"From a rather young age, I was very restless while living in St. Marys. Starting around the time I was in middle school, I had dreamed about one day moving to a big city. In high school, I would make frequent weekend trips to cities such as Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and New York City," Bradley said.
Now he is a certified world traveler, having been to nearly every country in both eastern and western Europe as well as many locations on other continents.
"Travel has become my main hobby. My father has traveled for his job ever since I can remember, and I was always fascinated to hear about the places he had been. My first significant venture out of the country was a trip with him to London, Windsor, and Swansea (Wales) when I was 16. It was a phenomenal experience, and made me want to see even more of the world," Bradley said.
Bradley said he is very excited about the chance to live and work in New York City, and by fall, his schedule will be very fast-paced. But after four years of hard work at university and before he makes the big move, he plans to take a break first: he will spend the summer traveling through South America.
"Because I realize that once I start my career my free time will be rather limited, I am taking one last extended trip this summer immediately following graduation. I have a ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina and a return ticket from Bogota, Colombia. Along the way I also plan to visit Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. My father is flying to Peru for a week in June to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with me in Cuzco."
He explained how extensive travel has broadened his knowledge of himself and of the world.
"Travel for me is such an exhilarating experience, and one that can take several forms: traveling to a place like London is quite familiar, and the people speak the same language. It's fun in the sense that you see how similar, yet different, another place can be, and in the end it's a pretty easy travel experience," Bradley said.
"Going somewhere like Bosnia and Herzegovina or Bulgaria, where the people speak hardly a word of English, is exciting from the perspective that it is entering a completely unfamiliar world that you have to navigate through with little help. I can't read Cyrillic, so it's literally 'all Greek' to me. I would go to countries like this armed with only my Lonely Planet guidebook and Google Maps. These were really phenomenal experiences."
He noted that his proficiency in Spanish will serve him well on this latest trip.
"I am nearly fluent in Spanish and will therefore actually be able to fully communicate with the people in the countries that I will be visiting. I'm most excited to dispel the myths that most of these countries are still dangerous - Colombia especially has made significant strides in the past 15 years, and is today a wholly different place than it was back then. I love learning about new cultures and seeing how the human race is so different yet similar at the same time," Bradley said.
He also hopes to broaden his knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures, especially because it's likely with his educational background, he will be doing business with a number of companies in South America.
"My hope is to come back with an appreciation for the heritage and cultures of the people living on that continent. I've realized that the 'American' point of view is far from the only one that exists, and it has really benefitted me to learn about the other perspectives that exist in the world. Traveling is something I feel is best done solo. This allows me to fully immerse myself in the culture of the place I am visiting, and leave behind the American influences that surround me. Especially in these South American countries, I will try to speak as little English as possible while I am there. I want to learn about the 'essence' of South American ways of life," Bradley said.
Even though he was bitten by the travel bug at an early age, however, he still feels "there's no place like home."
"I have actually come to be quite nostalgic about my St. Marys roots," Bradley said. "There certainly is something unique about small-town life. I love going to local restaurants such as Rose's Hilltop Diner, where food is homemade and people go out of their way to learn your name and ask who your family members are. I've realized that the fact that over half of my aunts and uncles lived within three blocks is not something that you see very often outside of a small town. So at this point, I enjoy coming back to St. Marys, if only to temporarily experience those characteristics that are unique to rural areas."