In the fourth and final installment of our wide-ranging conversation with Rotman Master of Finance class of 2014 alumna, Wen Lei, CFA, Manager, Asset and Liability Management at Manulife Financial, shares her thoughts about the friendships she formed, the calibre of her classmates and her final thoughts on the MFin program. Remember to check out part I, II and III of our conversations.
Congratulations on graduating this June! Now that you’re no longer in the classroom together, do you still keep in touch with your fellow MFin alumni?
Definitely. We still hang out. Recently, one of us sent an invitation to everyone for a poker night. So everyone’s still in contact.
We went through the fire together so to speak, so there’s a kind of camaraderie there. The Rotman MFin classes are small as well so you’re able to talk to most of the people. It’s easier to make friends.
In my class, it’s funny, most of the people sat in the same spot through the whole program. So on my left was Andre. On my right was Jim. We had a pretty good dynamic.
I have to say that I learned a lot from both of them. Especially Andre. He really pushed me.
How did he push you?
He knew that I like to talk but that I’m not good at presentations or speaking in front of the class. We were in a career workshop with Heather-Anne Irwin. We had to do a one minute elevator speech, introduce yourself kind of thing. She asked for volunteers to come up and give a speech to the class. And Andre said, “Wen wants to go!” I didn’t want to go!
I did alright. Afterwards I thought, if it wasn’t because he pushed me so hard, I wouldn’t have done it.
That’s really great to hear. We always talk about how we have this powerful network. It’s great that it’s more than formal ‘networking for work’ – it’s also about gaining friendships. You really do help each other out.
Yes. Like Jim, he’s in a very senior position in a bank. Last year I set myself a goal to do something out of my comfort zone. So I booked informal meetings with some of the portfolio managers or senior VPs in Manulife. I would ask Jim for advice about what kind of questions I should ask, what I should talk about. He’s in that position. So I assumed he knew how I could make the most of my time with them. He helped me out, he talked to me about it. The outcome was pretty good.
I have another example of the class helping each other out. In our class, we had a lot of babies. That is, at least five of the guys became new dads during the MFin program! After they had children, we understood that they may not have as much time as before to do assignments, so the other group members will take more on. We actually did it without talking about it.
Clearly, the relationships you’ve built in the MFin program really means a lot to you. Is there anything else that stood out to you about the program?
People do ask me about the MFin program, and I always tell them that there are three major benefits you can get from the MFin.
One, you get the best professors in finance in Canada. They’re not just the best, they’re approachable. If you have questions, they never delay replying to your emails. You can always reach them. A few of my teachers are women who are also in the industry. They really inspired me.
My classmates were also very inspiring. I truly appreciated the calibre of the class. My peers come from all areas in the finance field. In our class we had traders, sales, risk management and accounting. I‘m more like asset management and accounting. For people who are relatively new to the field and are reevaluating what to do with their career, you can get a lot of advice. You can talk to a lot of people and see what each job is like. Plus, not only do you meet people, you make friends. And those are life time friends actually.
The third benefit that I tell people is that you definitely learn a lot from the program. It’s much deeper than the CFA. I actually applied a lot of the theories from the risk management and portfolio management courses in my work right away. For example, I was able to apply the maple bond concepts that we learned in our applied fixed income class immediately. At the time, I was working with Canadian portfolio management. We were considering issuing long term treasury because there was a lot of demand for it. I talked to Fotini (Tolias) about it and she actually helped me with the proposal I made. Now, sometimes my manager at work will come to me with questions.
The curriculum really is practical and so on point. Portfolio management was an awesome class. One of my class group mates is a trader at BMO and we talked about trading ideas. I started a trading account, and started managing my parents’ pension fund. I started last June; year-to-date, I have a return of 25%. My group’s balanced fund was the top performer and we received an award for that.
Thank you so much for all your insight into your time here at Rotman!
You’re very welcome.
If you’re interested to learn more about the Rotman Master of Finance program, visit our website at www.rotman.utoronto.ca/mfin.