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By Joshua Russell | Feb. 18, 2020Print | PDF
I had the opportunity to sit down with current Lazaridis Master of Finance (MFin) student and CFA Level II candidate, Shibo Gu who recently completed his four-month co-op term. We discussed everything from completing his bachelor’s degree in China to wanting to stay in Canada to pursue a career in financial investments. The following is an edited transcript of the interview he gave.
I was born and raised in China and received my Bachelor of Economics degree from Nankai University in 2018. The biggest reason for coming to Canada is the accommodating immigration policy and friendly post-graduate working opportunities for international students. I personally prefer the lifestyle here in Canada over the one in China. My interests mainly lie in music and sports. I started playing the violin at 4 years old and was the first violinist in the Nankai Symphony Orchestra. I watch all kinds of sports and am a big fan of the Toronto Raptors and Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga). After living in Canada for some time now, I pay more attention the American Football (NFL).
Majoring in economics, I found a passion in investments and in finance economics which lead me to search for an MFin program. What drew me to the Lazaridis MFin was definitely the co-op option. It is a twenty-month program with two full months of co-op terms where you can gain hands on experiences. It opens the door to a lot of opportunities in the Toronto and Canadian finance industry that would be otherwise hard to gain access to; It is an extremely valuable option to a master’s program. In addition to the program structure, the fairness of tuition prices was definitely a selling feature for me. I applied to other MFin programs in Canada, but found that they were not cost effective and did not offer such a robust co-op option like the Lazaridis program did.
Completing my bachelor’s degree in China, I wanted to work abroad and maybe settle down in Canada, and to pursue a degree here is the most effective way to enter the work force. It is very difficult to apply for a position without any experience in Canada, but through the MFin program, you can gain 8 months of working experience and it can help you become accustomed to the different working environment. The hard skills and general rules of the finance industry do not change much from country to country; evaluations, financial modelling, financial analysis, but the soft skills are always harder to navigate between cultures and working environments. The co-op terms not only helped me develop the necessary hard skills needed in the finance industry, but I was able to gain exposure to how Canadian companies function.
I had internship experience in China at venture capital and private equities firms, so I was determined to work in the investment area and continue with this path after graduation. Projects within the curriculum like the Student Investment Fund was a great hands-on experience that not only prepared me for my co-op positions, but reinforced my desire to pursue a career in this industry. Through the project, I acted as an analyst, then a portfolio manager to generate new ideas, pitch stocks and make presentations that prep me for any position outside of a controlled environment.
The Co-op Centre was a major resource to helping me find a position that best suited my goals and needs. They assisted with resume and cover letter revisions and conducted multiple mock interviews. I expressed interest in certain positions at specific companies to the Co-op Coordinator, and they were able to introduce me to other student who had similar experience in those positions. They also organized coffee chats with Lazaridis alumni who worked at the companies I had my eyes on.
I was working as an equity analyst at CI Investments and was tasked with covering the investment trusts of nearly all Toronto stock exchange companies. My main responsibility was to evaluate these companies from top down; their financials, their fundamentals and their key advantages in order to make a final decision on whether the company would be a good investment idea and provide proof as to why. With this opportunity, I got a lot of direct exposure. I could talk directly with management, was exposed to a lot of analysts and industry insiders and took part in various presentations that familiarized me with industry trends and Canadian market dynamics. It was a high paced working environment with a lot of pressure and a steep learning curve, but I found major improvements in my work in such a short period of time and utilized the four months at the company to its fullest.
I would say it reinforced where I wanted to be after graduation. My second co-op term is exactly what I want to do after graduation. It helped me know how the finance industry in Canada functions and how business professionals operate here. The last co-op term didn’t shift my goals, but rather made me more determined.
After graduation, I would like to be in a finance role doing asset research or management. The Lazaridis MFin program provided me with the soft and hard skills as I said before. The curriculum is very applicable; I passed my level I CFA in 2018 while I was in my Masters. My first study term could be directly applied to the level I exam and the following one helped me study for my level II, which I will be writing this summer. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with completing my Masters and preparing for the exams, but rather I felt confident in both. Doing both saved me a lot of time, and I was better off than I would be doing them separately. The resources outside of the classroom have prepared me for graduation as well; PRISM Resources club on campus, the Bloomberg Lab and software courses such as Bloomberg and advance Excel functions. It is important to find passion and confidence through your work, and I can confidently say that the Lazaridis MFin program has help me find both.
My personal suggestion for future MFin students is to 'Never give up'. There will be many difficulties and obstacles in finding co-op positions and full-time jobs, but just know that the Lazaridis School and the MFin program will do everything in their power to help you. Keep positive and never give up, and I believe everyone can achieve their goals and aspirations with the proper attitude and support system like the Lazaridis MFin.
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