WCM Educational Recap #16: Life & Work Principles

Welcome to the Western Capital Markets blog! This week, we hosted a panel of our Senior Executives on key lessons they learned while at school, on the job, and reflecting on life.

Panelists

  • Emily Li — HBA2, Head of Educations / Morgan Stanley, Toronto
  • Emma Hristov — HBA2, Co-President / Canaccord Genuity, Toronto
  • Jerry Wu — HBA2, Co-President / Scotiabank, Toronto
  • Drew Mehta — HBA3, Head of Events / Point72, London
  • Drew Barot — Computer Science, Head of Finance / Balyasny Asset Management

What drew you to finance and made you want to pursue it?

Drew Mehta: I applied to a lot of programs, especially science, but I realized I really liked doing math. So I decided I’d stick with that, then go to Ivey. I figured I’d work things out when I got to Ivey. In my second year, I was able to get into the CIBC process. I didn’t know how to go through an interview and got torn apart in the Superday. So I talked to someone in finance, joined WIC and WCM, and that’s when things started making sense to me.

Jerry: In high school, everyone was more engineering-focused. I wasn’t really interested in that and wanted to go into the business path. My mentors told me about the 2+2 program which was really interesting to me. I had no idea what IB or finance was — just going to different clubs and learning about the process developed my interest.

Emma: I started in science, switched to math, and thought that once I got to Ivey, I’d figure it out. When I went on the WCM trip to New York, in person, I was able to meet people in the industry which was very exciting. Mainly, I love the aspect of doing something different every day, always learning something new.

Emily: I didn’t know what finance was when I entered university. It was through mentors in PBSN and WCM that I learned what it was. My first and second-year jobs were all through mentors I knew, and that helped me get my foot in the door, after accumulating some experience.

What helped you the most throughout your recruiting journey?

Drew Mehta: It was night-and-day interviewing after I started working in equity research. In 2nd year, it was hard to get a meaningful job; my real estate job wasn’t finance-related at all. Being able to speak about what I was interested in and what I’m doing in the job was so much easier once I started working. That made me think about how I can draw from other experiences, and I felt so much more confident and knowledgeable.

In general, with recruiting, upper years are here to help and are happy to do so. I did tons of mock interviews.

How does recruiting for the UK differ?

Drew Mehta: UK recruits a lot later than US or Canada, so that’s why I felt really good that things would work out. Point72 started in New York, so they interviewed pretty similarly to New York firms. But for investment banking in the UK, the process is different — they have an intense online questionnaire assignment that takes a couple of hours.

Can you speak about your recruiting experience, the challenges you faced?

Emma: I had quite a lengthy recruiting timeline. At one point, it becomes a bit of the process. If I were to do it again, I would look into putting my hand into every opportunity, and even if you do a first-round interview and you realize I hate this firm that’s still a good learning experience, but I do think there should be a short list of firms you really really care about.

In the end, it was making connections, and seeing people push for you that made the difference. I wouldn’t just go through the regular processes, try to be creative and make random connections. Usually, you end up right where you’re supposed to be — it’s a two-way process, where you’re interviewing the firm as well.

Did you notice a significant learning curve on the job?

Drew Barot: In the first two summers, I worked more in trading-type roles. Then in my third year, I was at a hedge fund, which had a pretty steep learning curve. My advice is, if you mess up in your first week, they don’t really care. Just don’t make the same mistake too many times — continually try to improve and keep learning.

How did you decide to pursue a generalist vs. specific group?

Emily: Morgan Stanley Toronto only offered a generalist program so I happened to end up in it, but I didn’t have any preferences and was open to anything. The benefit of a generalist program is that it’s pretty interesting as you get to work on deals over a variety of industries — infrastructure, insurance, mining, technology. Also, you can work on DMC, EMC, M&A, IPOs — a broad range of everything.

Going into your internship, is there anything you wish you knew beforehand?

Jerry: A little bit more preparation would’ve been nice — I thought reading the guides, interview preparation, and technicals would be enough, but it really isn’t. Even though we had 2 weeks of training, it still felt like I had no idea what I was doing. A lot of the skills you learn on the job are stuff you wouldn’t be able to learn on your own — be more clear on Excel, Powerpoint, know the shortcuts, and how to be fast.

Your decision to recruit for an alternative firm instead of going back to equity research?

Drew Mehta: I knew going into my summer that it wasn’t a place I’d be getting a return offer from, so I was recruiting for both IB and public markets this summer. I knew down the line that public markets in general were something that was really interesting to me, so I wanted to get to that sooner rather than later. I didn’t find the preparation for hedge funds was significantly difficult/different compared to investment banking. At the end of the day, a summer internship is not the most high-risk thing in the world. So it’s a great opportunity to try it out.

Could you speak about your favorite club experience?

Drew Barot: In my first year, we went on the New York trip, and we went to the social mixer and I got to meet a lot of alumni. We came across this alum who graduated 15–20 years ago, and he pulled a few of us outside and took us to One Oak, which was the coolest experience.

Drew Mehta: I joined WCM to go on the NY trip. At the time I was still getting introduced to finance. Going through that, that was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of working outside of Toronto. That trip had a huge impact.

Jerry: My favorite was the US conference the last two years — being virtual, we could bring in a bunch of different people from a variety of firms. Hearing about their experience was the highlight.

Emma: Beginning of this year, we had an executive social — it was so nice to be part of the Western finance community again. Just reflecting on everyone’s summers and hearing everyone’s stories, people got especially close. Secondly, my favorite moments are when we get thank you messages from people who say WCM has had a profound impact on them.

Emily: Since the first year, I liked WCM a lot — WCM is so welcoming and community-based, with so many events and educationals and mentorship. WCM opened my eyes to opportunities.

One of the bigger regrets you had in university?

Emily: I didn’t start prepping until the second semester of second year, then I felt like I was super behind, so I was always super stressed trying to recruit. Looking back, I could’ve been more chill and taken it easier.

Emma: Looking at my friends. some of them started in their first year, and every year in these clubs, I’ve met so many people, so I wish I got more involved in my first year — I was more in the science realm. You walk away from university with the people you know.

Jerry: In my first or second year, I wish I wasn’t so lazy. Everyone was so supportive and it helped me learn a lot. Going to those meetings made me more interested in finance sooner.

Drew Mehta: I wish I took more courses that I was interested in during my first and second years. Looking back, a first-year philosophy course was probably one of my favorite courses to take. As a person, it makes you more well-rounded, and is just more interesting,

Drew Barot: In my first year, I took on 4–5 executive positions, and I didn’t go out that much. Just find a balance — enjoy university.

If you experienced any burnout, how did you recover from it?

Emily: For me, in my second year, I remember I was interviewing with RBC, I thought it went really well. I waited the whole day and nothing happened, and I got really sad and felt really burnt out. But then, the next day, I got an interview with a different firm, so I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal — being open to opportunities is important.

Emma: I thought I killed it at a super day, but when I didn’t get the job, I felt really stressed out. What I realized is that there’s no reason to stress out about things that are obviously going to work out in the end. Once you’re on the job, you can experience burnout as well — no one wants to see their summer analyst combust. I got really sick at one point, and my analyst was okay with it — make sure to ask for help when you need it.

Jerry: I had a unique process — I had my first interview with Scotiabank in the last week of July and didn’t get my offer until September. Every single week, the same guy called me on a Friday and asked me to interview again. I felt so discouraged — I went through other processes as well, but then this guy called me after the sixth week, and I had a great summer. Wherever you land, it’s where you’re supposed to go.

Drew Mehta: After COVID happened, it was a new experience. May 2020 was when I started interviewing for jobs for last summer, and it took me till mid-Jan 2021 to land a job, then a few days after that, I had to coffee chat for recruiting for next year. I was recruiting constantly at the same time. I did all that, finished HBA1 and my exams, and the next day started work for this summer. Understanding where you are in terms of your ability to work, being able to take a step back is important. I wanted to be at home and do nothing for a while. Knowing how to take care of yourself is important, so give yourself breaks.

Drew Barot: Everyone struggles with burnout — no one talks about it. I was really upset for a bit after not getting the job I really wanted. Feel free to talk to people, make friends in finance, don’t internalize everything. Do whatever you need to do.

What are you gonna miss most about Ivey and school?

Emma: There’s a group of people you’ll always keep close with, but not running into people in the hallway, people you’re not necessarily close enough with to hang out with, is what I’ll miss most.

Emily: Since our third year was online, it sucks they didn’t get that HBA1 experience in person. So I’ll miss being at university and being able to go out whenever you want with your friends.

Drew Mehta: Getting to see my friends every day. I feel so lucky to be in the building every day, walking by people I know and eating lunch with my friends.

Jerry: Just being able to walk in the building and see so many people that you know.

Do you have any parting life advice?

Drew Barot: First, take the road that’s not as traveled. It’s easy to get caught up in WIC/WCM email listings, but always be bold and look for other opportunities. At work, don’t be shy — take initiative and do stuff. Just step up and take leadership — and once you do something well, people trust you — that’s how you advance in your career.

Drew Mehta: Bank on yourself and do what’s best for you — take risks even if you think it’s scary sometimes.

Jerry: If people invite you to go, just go. It doesn’t matter what — the gym, going out studying. Be active. That’s the best part. You don’t know what kind of memories you’re gonna make.

Emily: When I went through recruiting, I would compare myself to people and feel very stressed. You shouldn’t do that in university — you should try to expand your bubble of friends to people who are not interested in finance.

Emma: We’re obviously in a finance bubble with WIC and WCM, and in Bay Street/Wall Street, we’ll get lunch with the same people. But one important thing is being able to talk to a lot of people with different backgrounds — don’t discredit other people who aren’t going into finance. People are smart even if they’re not into finance.

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WCM’s mission is to educate, develop and provide real-world opportunities for members of the Western community to explore their interest in finance.

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Western Capital Markets

Western Capital Markets

WCM’s mission is to educate, develop and provide real-world opportunities for members of the Western community to explore their interest in finance.

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