February 12, 2020
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Former Philadelphia Union player and Southeastern, Pa., native Zach Pfeffer embraces new role as investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs

PHILADELPHIA—Imagine that you’re 15. You’ve just signed a contract as the first homegrown player with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS). You’re the fourth-youngest player to ever sign an MLS contract. To top it off, you received a lucrative signing bonus as part of the deal.

Zach Pfeffer headshot

So what do you do with your newfound wealth and fame? For Zach Pfeffer, the answer was easy: invest it.

“My initial finance spark was really a result of being a young kid making a professional salary,” says Pfeffer, who retired from professional soccer in 2016 after playing five seasons in the MLS along with one season in Germany with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. “My parents were really good at telling me how my money would grow if I invested it, and that just stuck with me.”

While soccer is Pfeffer’s first love, finance could be considered his second. Once his professional playing career came to a close, the Dresher, Pa., native enrolled in the Fox School of Business at Temple University where he majored in Finance. 

“For years, soccer had just been a relentless pursuit,” Pfeffer says. “At the time, I tried to analyze where I was in life and felt it was an appropriate time to say, look, not only did I accomplish the goal of playing a professional sport, but I had a nice career, too. I had a strong interest to go down the finance and business path, and I had accumulated two years of college credits (through studying online). It just seemed like the right time to go back to school.”

The decision paid off. Pfeffer graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 2019 and is already working in New York City as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs.

For years, Pfeffer’s office was literally a field, and the only office supply he ever needed was a ball. That’s a stark comparison from the office he now occupies inside the 749-foot-tall, 44-story building on 200 West Street, the global headquarters for Goldman Sachs. 

However, Pfeffer says he’s been able to use several of the skills gained from his professional soccer career.

“The experience of working within a team and working in a collaborative environment is very transferable to the business world at large,” Pfeffer says. “In sports, you have to remind yourself to never get too high or too low, and you’re always under a lot of pressure. That experience has been really helpful.”

Pfeffer’s time at Fox has also greatly prepared him for his career at Goldman Sachs. After enrolling at the university, he immediately sought out leadership roles. He also completed internships with Morgan Stanley and Falcon Capital Partners.

“I just dove in headfirst. I honestly could not get enough of it,” he says.

Zach Pfeffer playing soccer

Before long, Pfeffer joined the Temple University Investment Association (TUIA) and became involved with The William C. Dunkelberg Owl Fund, a $695,000 long-only equity student-managed investment fund that operates as the parent entity of TUIA. It remains the highlight of his time at the Fox School.

“I tell every single person that The Owl Fund was the crown jewel of my experience at Temple,” Pfeffer says. “I spent two semesters working with the Owl Fund and then during my final year, I was able to lead the Owl Fund as the chief investment officer. It really equipped me with a tremendous skillset to go out into the business and finance world and excel from the getgo.”

Jonathan Scott, professor of finance and chair of the department, and Cindy Axelrod, associate professor of finance and director of financial planning and the Owl Fund, worked closely with Pfeffer during his time as a student.

“Zach’s competitive drive elevated the performance of the Owl Fund, and he made everyone around him up their game,” Scott says. “While we have had many outstanding students in the Owl Fund over the past 12 years, Zach certainly stands near the top.”

Axelrod agrees.

“Zach immediately came into Fox with that spark that you look for in students,” Axelrod says. “We knew very quickly that he was going places and that he had a bright future ahead of him. As a professional soccer player, he consistently stepped up his level of play, and I think that analogy will be appropriate for his banking career, too.”

Since graduating from the Fox School, Pfeffer has fully embraced his new career at Goldman Sachs. He plans to continue to hone his craft and hopefully rise up in the company. 

While soccer is no longer Pfeffer’s profession, don’t expect him to fully hang up his cleats anytime soon.

“It’s the game I played since I was three years old, and I owe so much of my success to soccer,” he says. “There are actually a fair amount of retired MLS players who live in New York City, so every few weeks, we still try to get together for a pickup game.” 

About the Fox School of Business

The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research.  

The Fox School’s research institutes and centers and 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market. 

The school’s knowledge-creating research faculty affords it the flexibility and responsiveness to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields of study. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that advance actionable insights to solve real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the changing nature of work.