While the world of finance is changing rapidly and a growing number of women join the industry, representation in financial services senior leadership roles remains low. In a progressive society like Canada, many initiatives are put in place to ensure that women get the same opportunities as men and continue to grow their representation. The Heather L. Main Memorial scholarship, which honors the memory of a pioneering woman in the Canadian capital markets is one of such opportunities. We have asked two recent scholarship recipients from the McGill MBA to tell us more about the Heather L. Main Memorial scholarship application and to describe their respective journey.
2016-17 recipient: Jessica Truong (MBA’18)
Tell us more about your background.
My name is Jessica Truong and I am from Montreal. I studied engineering at McGill during the undergrad and worked at CAE for 5 years first as a deployment specialist and later as an integration specialist, before deciding to come back to McGill for my MBA. Last summer, I was awarded the Heather L. Main Memorial scholarship for women in Capital Markets and had the opportunity to do an internship at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in Toronto.
Tell us more about the application process for the HLM scholarship.
The HLM application itself was very straightforward. I received an email from the MBA administrative team with the application form, where there were several questions about my interest in finance, my leadership in the community and my career aspirations. After filling those up, I was notified that I made it to the second round. I was then invited to a day of interviews with 5 major banks. It was a very demanding process but a good opportunity to learn more about the banks and their respective cultures. Being awarded the scholarship was an honour and having the chance to do an internship was definitely a defining opportunity.
Coming from a non-finance background, did you feel getting access to this Capital Markets opportunity was more challenging?
Admittedly, not having any previous finance experience added a challenge to the process. The only finance-related education that I had was the core of the MBA program, so I knew I had to work hard to successfully get the scholarship. Prior to the interview, I reached out to my own personal network and tried to get more information about capital markets. I spent the few days preceding the interview reading and learning about different trends in banking, sales and trading, corporate finance, etc. Essentially, I tried to learn as much as I could about this new industry in such a short time. During the interview, there were both fit/ behavioural questions and finance-related questions. Some questions took me by surprise, but I was very honest about what I knew or didn’t know. Ultimately, I think that this approach was the right one, since at the end of the day I was notified that I had received the scholarship and that I would start a summer internship at CIBC. Later I would be informed that I was assigned to the sales and trade department.
What was your first impression of the Sales and Trade desk?
It was scary at first and surprising in many ways. I had pictured a trading floor to be very much like the way it is depicted in the movies (laughs)! However, with today’s technology, the sales and trading desk is much quieter and while there is a lot of action happening on the floor, the environment remains very professional. As someone with a limited finance background, it was a humbling experience to be surrounded with leaders who have so much industry knowledge and for whom sales and trading comes as a second nature. I knew I had to step up my game by learning as much as I could as quickly as I could, and ensure I would catch up and stay on top of things.
What was the highlight of your experience there?
Trading and the team. Actually, I made a one-billion-dollar trade during that summer! Every person on my desk team had the chance to make this trade first, but they let me do it because they knew it would be a memorable experience. It was a great environment to work in, and the team was very open to answering questions and helping me learn, even though my background was not in finance. Thanks to them, I saw a huge learning curve in my finance-related knowledge. I realized that as professionals, we should try to learn at every single opportunity and not hesitate to ask questions and get constructive feedback in order to continue growing.
It sounds like a great experience, do you see a career in Capital Markets in your future?
I loved the team at CIBC and the sales and trading experience. Unfortunately, at the end of the internship, I decided to pursue other opportunities. I learned a lot and enjoyed the analytical part of the role, but I believe the best traders live and breathe the market and the industry. Seeing that I was not as naturally driven to trading as my colleagues were, I realized that it was not the right fit for me. After the Sales and Trading experience, I also did an internship as a Separation and Integration Analyst (M&A Advisory) at Deloitte in Toronto and eventually came back to Montreal. Finally, I have accepted an offer from Axium Infrastructure as an Asset Management Associate, where I will be working post-graduation.
Any advice for future MBA’s going into capital markets without a finance background?
Definitely get into the Finance Club at McGill, as it provides a lot of preparatory work that gives good exposure to Finance and that allows candidates to know more about the industry’s environment and expectations. Also, don’t forget to network and meet a lot of industry professionals to assess the fit. And if you are a woman particularly interested in Capital Markets, then of course do your research and apply to the Heather L. Main Memorial Scholarship!
2017-18 Recipient: Mehreen Haider (MBA’19)
Tell us more about your background:
My name is Mehreen Haider, I am from Pakistan and my entire career was in Capital Markets. I began my career in sales and trading and I loved every part of it. Even though I was part of a rotational program, I decided I would stay in sales and trade because I loved the energy of the trade floor and the fast-paced environment. Eventually I moved to Dubai because I wanted exposure to a larger market and had a great number of opportunities there advising airlines, different funds and so on. I had the time of my life! The thing was, I knew I also wanted to experience a developed market like Canada, and earn an MBA, which is what led me to McGill. This year, I was awarded the Heather L. Main Memorial scholarship for Women in Capital Markets and am currently doing a summer internship as an Investment Banking Associate at Scotia Bank in Toronto.
Why did you choose McGill?
I already knew I wanted to go to McGill. It is renowned worldwide, it has the largest number of Nobel Prize winners across Canada and many of my friends and family members went to McGill for their undergrad, so there was no doubt in my mind as to the quality of this institution. Of course, I knew it would be a risk and a challenge, but I knew I needed to take a leap in order to further my career, and so here I am!
When did you first find out about the HLM scholarship?
As I was looking for information about women in capital markets, I did some research on Google and found out that there were a lot of opportunities. That’s how I came across the website for women in capital markets. I went through it and found out about the scholarship and the past winners. I could see there was growing support to ensure that women would get trained and access the same opportunities as men do. Women are very dedicated to their careers and organizations in Canada have a willingness to invest in them to ensure that even if they have families, they can continue growing professionally. Later when I joined McGill, I saw videos posted by previous McGill recipients of the HLM scholarships, Catherine DuPont and Ekaterina Zinovyeva and waited for the opportunity to apply.
How was the application process for the scholarship?
During the application process, I had to submit my CV and write a few essays about my story and why I believed I deserved the scholarship. Everyone has a great story to tell, so it is a competitive process. Once I made it to the next round, we had a “superday”, which is basically back-to-back interviews with the five banks, preceded by an informal networking session. That part of the process is all about connecting with the team and determining the best fit, so it is important to enjoy networking to ace it. In addition, one of the goals of the interview session is to find out how passionate you truly are and how aware you are of what is happening in the market. I also participated right away in case competitions, for instance, my team and I were finalists in the National Investment Banking Case Competition, which was a great way to live the life (and hours) of an investment banker. At the end of the day, the banks rank the candidates and vice-versa in order of preference and you are matched based on that mutual interest, along with the type of role you are interested in and your ability to demonstrate your fit within that specific role.
What is a key aspect that you feel is needed for future applicants to secure the HLM scholarships?
Definitely, the right candidate needs to have a commitment for capital markets. You don’t need prior capital market experience, but you need to read up on the markets and show that you have a keen interest for it. Jessica was a perfect example of that! Ultimately, it comes down to fit: if you are passionate about capital markets and have a thirst to learn and to grow within that environment, then you have what it takes to get this scholarship and internship.
So… what is next ?
The real work begins now: The way I see it, the internship is basically a 4-month long interview (laughs)! I want to give it my all and bring my excitement daily to work. Although I worked mainly in sales and trade, I had a bit of exposure to investment banking and I am keen to leverage that side of my experience. I have to make sure to prepare accordingly for the internship and demonstrate my potential and abilities. From our short interactions, I know that I am joining a great team and I look forward to showing what I am capable of!
About the scholarship recipients:
Jessica Truong (MBA’18)
Originally from Montreal, Jessica did a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University, after which she worked at CAE as a deployment and integration specialist. In 2016, she decided to join the Desautels MBA program during which she did two internships: a Sales & Trading internship at CIBC during the summer and an integration (M&A advisory) analyst internship at Deloitte in the Fall. Post-graduation, she will be joining Axium Infrastructure as an Asset Management Associate.
Originally from Pakistan, Mehreen has a career in capital markets working at the Standard Chartered Bank and the Dubai Islamic Bank, where she was the Assistant Vice President, Global Markets. She worked in Karachi, Dubai and came to Montreal to her MBA at McGill University. She is currently doing a summer internship at Scotia Bank in Toronto as an Investment Banking Associate.
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