Naji Algaal

Naji Algaal

Hometown: Oakland, CA
College/University Attending: Emory University
Year In School When Selected: 3rd Year
Program of Study: Double Major: Finance | Philosophy, Politics, Law


Although born in Yemen, my journey begins in the vibrant streets of Oakland, CA, where my financial odyssey began humbly with my mother's EBT card. Unaware of its significance as a child, I associated it with shopping trips on the 1st and 15th of the month. However, attending an affluent high school inevitably unveiled the card’s truth, initially sparking embarrassment but soon after fueled a profound curiosity and a thirst for financial literacy. I'm a fourth-year student, straddling the worlds of Finance at Emory's Goizueta Business School and Philosophy, Politics, & Law in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences. My freshman year at Emory exposed me to captivating case studies in a Business Economics course, igniting my passion for finance beyond the classroom and into the finance community at Emory. During a transformative summer, I interned as an investment banking summer analyst at Goldman Sachs in the technology, media, and telecommunications group. There, I delved into rigorous financial analysis, collaborating in high-performing teams, and challenged myself beyond what I believed was possible. This theme of overcoming challenges is what I hope people ascribe to me, given my love for intellectual curiosity and my determination to overcome barriers no matter the obstacle. My journey, filled with curiosity and determination, continues to unfold, hoping for an exciting future of both challenges and growth.

Summary of your New Ideas proposal:

My New Ideas proposal delves into the issue of quiet-quitting, defined as "doing the minimum requirements of one's job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary," particularly within the Financial Services sector. As weekly work hours increase, quiet-quitting becomes more prevalent among Generation Z (Gen Z) employees, especially within the financial services industry. Quiet-quitting is a direct result of an imbalanced work-life ratio, inducing stress, deteriorating mental health, and ultimately failing to create a culture of belonging for Gen Z employees.

The root of these problems often traces back to college, where students grapple with tremendous stress. To address these challenges, I propose an AI Chatbot as a viable solution for Gen Z employees in financial services. An AI Chatbot is a digitally programmed software that acts as a support system, providing the necessary resources for employees to succeed in their roles. This specialized AI Chatbot for financial services encompasses five key components: goal setting, software integration, mental health resources, mitigation of gender and racial bias, and bridging the gap between employees and upper management. The Chatbot's objective nature fosters accountability among upper management, promoting respectful treatment of employees' time and mental health. It also enhances employee creativity, reduces stress and anxiety, bolsters productivity, and proves cost-effective for employers.

The AI Chatbot plays a pivotal role in measuring three critical stages of Gen Z employee retention: onboarding, training, and feedback for improvement. By providing 24/7 responses, FAQs, and guided support, the Chatbot significantly improves the onboarding process, increasing employee retention by over 82% (Kolmar, 2022). It acts as a virtual assistant for employee training, offering quick tools and resources for growth. Furthermore, the Chatbot features a "mirroring personality" trait, allowing employees to adapt and enhance the software. Throughout the year, it analyzes employee performance and provides feedback for improvement. Moreover, the Chatbot plays a role in normalizing discussions around mental health in society, which proves fruitful given the political polarization that has hindered progress in addressing mental health issues. AI Chatbots normalize conversations about mental health, reducing social stigmas, and thus, contributing to more civil discourse by making mental health care more accessible.

Ultimately, the AI Chatbot offers a multifaceted solution to the challenges faced by Gen Z employees in the financial services sector. By addressing issues related to mental health, respect, and creating a culture of belonging, it fosters employee well-being, productivity, and engagement. Furthermore, it has the potential to contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate work environment while reducing polarization and stigma associated with mental health. In doing so, AI Chatbots empower individuals, especially those underserved, to enhance their well-being and sense of belonging in their educational and professional journeys.

What does the New Ideas Competition mean to you?

Participating in Duke’s New Ideas competition is a profound honor and a testament to Fuqua's dedication to foster innovation and civil discourse beyond the financial services industry and into the political and technological spheres. This competition signifies the recognition of undergraduate students’ entrepreneurial spirits, valuing the significance of our ideas in shaping the future of politics, business, innovation, and health.

For me, having the opportunity to present my proposal to esteemed professionals and influential business leaders at Fuqua was an inspiring experience that gave me the opportunity to be heard, challenged, and encouraged by receiving invaluable feedback that reinforced my commitment to driving positive change through AI-based mental health innovation within finance.

Advice for new applicants:

One piece of advice to those considering applying is to challenge yourself by reducing your proposed idea to its core to better understand why you are proposing said idea. Use this understanding to help position your proposal, accounting for consistency.

Another piece of advice, assuming your proposal has multiple “sides” given the underlying political inquiry of the competition in terms of political/civil discourse, is to highlight the opposing view, if any, to your proposal. Noting the opposing view for the purpose of disproving said view given evidence and analysis, strengthens your argument while demonstrating that proper research was conducted.

Which leads me to my last piece of advice: research, research, and research once more. The beauty of this competition is its emphasis on intellectual curiosity. You may find that the more research you conduct, the more questions you have, the stronger your understanding and explanation of your proposal will be.