Specialist: Management with Finance Co-op
What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
Growing up in a household with bankers on one side and accountants on another, business was a pretty easy choice to make. However, once I got here, I realized that I enjoyed finance slightly more because of the immense array of potential fields you can work in. Within banking, you have several facets like investment and corporate banking, equity research, trading, asset management etc. But even outside of banking, finance can involve corporate finance and financial analysis roles at companies in the industry. Ultimately, finance is a lucrative, challenging and meritocratic career that rewards effort and intelligence and provides you with an unparalleled skillset in quantitative arenas and decision making. With UTSC, you have the further advantage of being in a co-op program which allows you to test the waters with several different types of finance co-ops before you enter a full time role.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
The Management program starts similarly for all fields regardless of whether you want to specialize in finance or marketing or accounting or any other major. In the first two years, you will be given a deep dive into a breadth of courses spanning all areas of modern business including accounting, marketing, HR and more quantitative courses like calculus and statistics. Once you get through the first two years, you can choose to specialize in finance and that's where your specialized finance courses start to take shape. In your last two years, to leave UTSC with a finance degree, you will have to take two mandatory finance courses (Investments and Derivatives), but then are offered a choice between several other upper year finance courses. These include Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity, Risk Management, Investors' Psychology etc. Arguably, the highlight of this program is the co-op aspect. Once you have taken the relevant courses, you can pursue co-ops in finance fields that interest you. Past co-ops have worked at large banks, pension funds, hedge funds, and other institutional houses as well as Fortune 500 firms (think Unilever, P&G, Johnson & Johnson etc.) Overall, while the program certainly is academically rigorous, if you have an aptitude for finance, you will walk out of UTSC with sound fundamental knowledge of finance concepts and a resume glittering with top names of the industry.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1) The three main qualities that finance professionals look for in young graduates are the three Hs (humble, hungry and hardworking). In all your interviews, your main aim should be to show these qualities. Project an eagerness to learn (hunger), act with humility at all times i.e. always remember there is someone smarter than you (humble) and do not get fazed by the prospect of long hours or intensive work environments (hardworking).
2) Get involved in relevant activities: The university has one of the biggest Finance Labs in all of North America with software that you would see at top investment banks and funds. Leverage that and use it to your advantage to get a head start over your peers in other universities. There is also a newly initiated Student Managed Fund, which provides students with capital to invest as part of a team in the equity markets. The training that you receive in that is as comparable as it gets to the real world in a university setting. Being involved in the right places can provide your career with the impetus it needs.
3) Work to develop your skillset outside of class: While the classroom will teach you most of the fundamental concepts you need to succeed, it is up to you to teach yourself the job-specific skills that employers are looking for. For example, if you want to pursue investment banking, the classroom will teach you how to theoretically make a valuation model. However, without practice, you will never be able to apply it yourself. Absorb the classroom knowledge, but take the initiative to do your own work or participate in case competitions which provide an outlet for what you learned.
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
Future plans involve possibly an MBA, but a CFA in the near term. However, on the career side, after pursuing co-ops in asset management and risk management, I would ideally like to pursue a corporate strategy/development role or a role in the capital markets to further refine my skillset constructed over the last 4 years.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
First year: It was a challenging year as I juggled the transition from high school with some rigorous coursework in economics, accounting and calculus. However, getting through that initial hurdle will provide you with a can-do attitude, a peerless work ethic and several friendships that will likely last all four years of university.
Second year: While course load and difficulty stays the same, you become smarter and more adapted to the UTSC style and therefore, your study habits become more efficient. At the end of second year, I started seeking for my first ever co-op and was lucky to land a role in investment management with a Calgary based investment firm.
Third year: Honestly, it passed by in a blur as I became more and more involved on campus. However, this was when I started taking upper year finance courses and a lot of the concepts that I had previously learned about in co-op and while watching the news became a lot clearer. Third year is the year you really start to understand why things happen when they happen.
Fourth year: Rounding off my co-ops with the asset management arm of a large Canadian bank was a highlight as this was possibly my first co-op where I could add value to the business in equal measure as I extracted it. Your courses, while still challenging provide you with the skillsets you need to succeed and your past experience really comes into play here. The world around you suddenly starts to make more sense and you will learn to critically analyze every decision by politicians and company managements. It is the culmination of your journey at UTSC and the bridge between the theoretical knowledge you gained in the first three years and the practical applications that your co-ops provided you.