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        Alumni, College, FMA

        All-star alumni panel inspires students at FMA financial leadership summit

        October 5, 2023 By Troy Turner

        All News


        FMA summit 3 panel speakers sitting before audience

        (Left to right) Auburn alumni David Walker, Chris Maurice and Jimmy Rane were the featured speakers at the Financial Leadership Summit sponsored by the Harbert College of Business Financial Management Association.

        Three prominent company CEOs—all Auburn graduates—were the featured speakers at the sixth annual Financial Leadership Summit, a two-day event held on Auburn’s campus and sponsored by Harbert’s Financial Management Association. FMA, part of the Harbert Investment Center, is a student-led organization that aims to help launch its students and graduates into their finance careers.

        One alumnus had smartly used his friendship with the late Pat Dye, one of Auburn’s all-time winningest coaches, to launch a creative marketing campaign.

        Another began his global business in his Auburn dorm room.

        The other was mentored in his early career by a man who grew a diverse and highly successful portfolio of company services by starting out on the streets as a magazine salesman.

        Yet, all three seemed to be in unison with their message to the students: Hard work, confidence, finding and listening to good advice, and never giving up will be important factors in achieving success in business.

        Jimmy Rane, often billed in lighthearted commercials as the “Yella Fella” based on the yellow tag attached to his products, is the founder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc., the leading producer of pressure-treated lumber in the United States. The company makes deck, fence and other treated lumber products. He also serves on the Auburn University Board of Trustees.

        Chris Maurice, co-founder and chief executive officer of Yellow Card, is a 27-year-old American tech entrepreneur who has spent five years living and working in Africa, making significant contributions to the continent’s financial services industry. He was featured on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the “Finance” and “Big Money Startups” categories.

        David Walker is the CEO of EBSCO Industries, a leading provider of discovery services, databases and other information resources and services for libraries worldwide. It also is a real estate developer, a producer of promotional products, and an insurance agency, having grown into a diverse organization with many businesses.

        The road to success

        Maurice graduated from Auburn with a degree in finance in 2019. He started Yellow Card from his dorm room in 2016, before moving the company to Lagos, Nigeria, and launching the mobile app in 2019.

        Today, Yellow Card is the largest crypto company on the African continent, as well as the first and only licensed pan-African exchange. With Maurice as CEO, Yellow Card has facilitated more than $1.75 billion in transactions, grown to more than 200 employees across 25 countries, and launched full on-and-off ramps for local fiat currencies in 17 African markets, according to his company bio.

        Maurice, who grew up in New Orleans, told the attentive students, “The only job I really had before this was selling Pokémon cards on the internet,” he joked. “I don’t think I knew where Nigeria was at the time.”

        However, as he heard more about the idea of making money by handling money while exploring various currency exchanges, he began more intensive research and developed personal connections in Nigeria, a market he determined right for his entrepreneurial ideas.

        Then it was a matter of traveling to Africa and seeing things for himself. “I had been on a plane four times in my life before going to Nigeria,” Maurice said.

        Rane used humor in introducing himself as well. “I’m Jimmy Rane. I’m an author,” he said, pausing before adding, “I write checks.”

        Rane recalled a long family history that included tragedy, family disagreements and difficult financial times, but which all led and inspired him on his way to becoming one of Alabama’s all-time most successful business owners.

        He eventually navigated his way through law school while at the same time trying to oversee family financial affairs and a budding lumber preservation business.

        “You learn not to give up,” he told the students. “You’re gonna learn from your failures, not your success.   The measure of a good man or a good woman is what are you going to do when you get knocked down? Are you going to get back up?”

        Rane also explained the importance of good branding, recalling how his treated lumber business produced a top-quality product, but that most building suppliers only cared about price. After teaming up with good friend Pat Dye and investing in a lively advertising campaign, his products became much more well known and thus desired by builders and home consumers.

        Walker stressed the benefits of a business offering a diverse portfolio of services or sales opportunities, reflecting on the mentorship lessons he learned about the importance of core salesmanship skills.

        He also tied that to the challenges the Harbert students face now while trying to earn their degree at Auburn, imploring them to learn all they can and apply themselves to the opportunities available while gaining their education. “Learning to work hard at this level will pay dividends for you in the future,” Walker said.

        Another piece of advice he offered: Make quality investments in people.

        “You can’t undervalue the investment in personnel,” he said. “I’ve yet to hear of someone getting fired for hiring too many great people. Overinvest in talent. You won’t regret having the best team.”

        A showcase of practical advice

        Tracy Richard, director of Harbert’s Integrated Financial Leadership Program, feels the summit was a success because of the valuable opportunity it provided students to hear and learn.

        “This year’s summit once again was a testament to the incredible stewardship that Harbert College of Business receives from its supporters and alumni. With more than 300 in attendance, the event showcased practical advice from three business leaders with very different backgrounds and life experiences,” she said. “I can’t thank Jimmy Rane, David Walker and Chris Maurice enough for their impactful participation.

        “FMA is an integrated and purposeful program that focuses on the critical success areas for an elite finance program: Industry Exposure, Technical/Academic, Alumni Engagement, Professional Preparation, and Branding,” Richard said. “Each year we recruit approximately 25-40 students who are seeking careers in high finance and put them through a comprehensive experiential training program that is results-driven.”


        The Harbert College of Business which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.