Monday, November 13, 2017

Keynote speech for York University Finance Club

It isn't that I've stopped writing. I've just been writing different things. However, I have neglected my blog so I wanted to submit this.

I was recently asked to speak at an event for the York University Finance Club. A co-worker recommended me and HR called me and we set this up. I was very honoured to be able to give back to my school in a meaningful way.

I've attached the body of the speech below. I hope you find it useful, particularly the last part because it speaks to my lessons learned over the past few decades! Always open to listening to your thoughts.

Good evening everyone. Thank you for having me here. I am very honoured to be speaking here tonight  as both the Schulich School of Business and Scotiabank have a very special place in my life.  They have both synonymously been a significant part of my career journey.  So to be able to give back on one night to both is a privilege and well…efficient!

I graduated with a double major in finance and marketing but really my interest was in finance. I applied through the Schulich Career Centre and landed a couple of offers. The one I took was with Scotiabank in their Commercial Banking Development Program. I gave it a solid year before I started to think this wasn’t for me. Then another 6months went by and I was sure it wasn’t. About 2 years in I decided I wanted to move into another part of the Finance Field. I just wasn’t sure what. So I did my GMAT and went back to Schulich for the Accelerated M.B.A. Program. 

I took my M.B.A. year to learn about as many fields in finance as I possibly could. I spoke with different people in different professions and read and researched as much as I could. Then I targeted the avenues I wanted to focus on. Knowing which fields I wanted to enter was a function of the content and a function of my values.

I knew I wanted 2 things:

1) To surround myself with really smart people with whom I could learn from.  I was thirsty for knowledge and wanted an environment where that was celebrated; a place where curiosity and questions are wanted, needed even. 

2) I wanted to be working somewhere I couldn’t get bored. I wanted the work to be dynamic, the people to be dynamic, the opportunities to be dynamic.

Everything else I figured would fall into place. 

Enter Capital Markets. Enter Sales and Trading with Scotiabank.

I was in the 2005-2006 Capital Ideas Class at Scotia and haven’t looked back since.  My career has been predominantly on the Trading side.  I started trading Euro and Sterling Swaps as a market maker and was successful at it. That led me to be seconded to a team where I represented Capital Markets in starting up the Emerging Markets platform at BNS. After that, I was asked to join the Canada Swap Trading Desk as one of two market makers.  I traded Interest Rate Derivatives for Canada and the U.S. all through the financial crisis. In fact, my first day as Canada Swap Trader was the Monday after Bear Stearns blew up. It was intense and exhilarating.

As an eternal optimist always looking for the silver lining, I can tell you that as the financial markets collapsed my personal life flourished.  In that same length of time (2007-2013) I got married and had both of my children. My daughter, Ellil who just turned 8 and my son Rohit who will be 5 in December.  

Towards the end of 2013 as the markets calmed down somewhat and the worst of it was over, I was given the opportunity to resurrect the Fixed Income Options Business for Canada. There was a bit of trepidation and uncertainty given I would have to start a business from scratch but going back to my 2 things I wanted (thirst for knowledge and not get bored), there was no way I was going to not give it my best.  Within 6 months I took the business from nothing into positive PL territory and was offered the chance to take over the US Options business as well.  We’ve built out the business over the past almost 4 years and the profitability in the business has grown quite significantly in this time. 

Scotiabank has 89,000 employees worldwide.  There is plenty of opportunity to spread your wings. I have been fortunate to have been lined up with people who have provided me with that opportunity.  And if there was a skill set or something specific I wanted to learn that my current role didn’t provide, I seek it out elsewhere.
That’s how I got involved with Women in Capital Markets, which is a non-profit organization that provides support for women in our industry.  I ran their professional development program and currently sit on the steering committee for the Gender Diversity and Inclusion bringing men and women into the conversation at an effort to increase the talent pool within Capital Markets.

I also sit on a couple of different boards and am involved in aspects of board governance that only sitting on boards can teach.  Again, a room with smart, talented people (who do outrageously different things) but come together to make things better for the community and its people. 

With all this being said, there is plenty of room for my writing, for date nights with my husband, shuttling the kids to soccer and skating and piano, family nights in with pizza and a movie, bigger family celebrations for Diwali and Christmas, hosting dinner parties, girls weekends away in NYC, and afternoon tea and spa time with Mom.

I will leave you with 5 lessons that I’ve learned over the years.  If there is anything you take from my talk today I hope it is at least one of these 5 takeaways. I’ve already started drilling it into my kids, fingers crossed that over time some of it will stick. 

1)      Fall down 7 times, get up 8 (only diff b/w success and failure is the willingness to get back up    just one more time)
2)      Your only competition is yourself (everything else is noise)
3)      Think 6 steps ahead (especially in a world of social media)
4)      Make decisions that are consistent with your values à Know your values.
5)      Forgive yourself. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to evolve. Evolve with purpose.
You are all at the start of a very exciting adventure.  The opportunities afforded to you are endless. Living in this country.  Attending a prestigious University, and having access to unbounded information and knowledge at the tip of your fingers.  

Leverage your privilege.  

Work hard. Play hard. Laugh out Loud.

Don’t Instagram your life. Live it.