AltaCorp Capital is one of Bay Street’s best kept secrets. AltaCorp (the capital markets side of the business) is backed by ATB Financial, western Canada’s largest financial institution, with over $75 billion of transaction experience. AltaCorp Capital is widely regarded as the authority in Healthcare & Life Sciences, Oil & Gas, Energy, and Diversified Industries.
1. Please describe how you launched your career path.
Initially, I wanted to pursue academia but I quickly realized that the lifestyle of a professor did not align with what my career interests were. During my PhD, I actively explored opportunities to dovetail my scientific background with business experience. During my studies, I also served in a range of leadership positions within the University of Toronto, including the Institute of Medical Science Association (President), Graduate Management Consulting Association (Co-founder and VP), as well as worked in business development for medical device and pharmaceutical royalty companies. Since these very early days of my career, I’ve gone on to be a part of great teams and companies within the pharmaceuticals/biotechnology and investment banking industries, spanning international business development, sales, marketing, medical affairs and equity research.
2. What does your job entail?
The key is to understand how commercialization, business development, R&D and the regulatory framework operate within the healthcare, life sciences, and wellness industries. Much of this comes from real-world industry experience, which textbooks can’t teach. I spend much of my time communicating with companies, institutional accounts, media and internal business stakeholders. One of the most important aspects of my job involves knowing the right questions to ask in order to analyze companies and to advance our franchise’s industry-leading research. If you are looking for a fast-paced work environment that will always keep you busy and interested, this field may be a good fit for you; while it does come with very long hours, I personally find my job very rewarding.
3. What skills are necessary to be successful as a Managing Director and Equity Research Analyst?
Research skills and communication are the top two skills necessary to be successful in this role. There is always communication involved, whether it is via in-person meetings, emails or phone calls; I deal with a lot of external and internal stakeholders as well as the media. Given the fast-paced nature of the work, people who are highly adaptable are likely to excel in this field. Being in the Healthcare and Life Sciences franchise, having a PhD helps but the science I learned historically may be outdated now. The true value of a PhD mostly comes from the fact that you develop critical thinking skills and then apply them to make decisions and judgement calls, which are essential for my job.
4. What are things that a graduate student should be doing now if they want to be market-ready?
Put yourself out there and make meaningful engagements. This means that when you attend a networking event, you keep in touch with them afterward. Have your business card ready and invite people out for a cup of coffee so you can have a more personable interaction. Talking to people in different fields can provide you with industry insight and help shape your career path. And never let anyone tell you no. Perseverance is a necessity not just for the first job one lands, but for one’s entire career.
5. What advice would you give to current graduate students who are trying to find the career right for them and/or job searching?
Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to approach people first or to reach out by cold-calling. Try things out and see what doors open up; for instance, the fact that I received CIHR Science-to-Business Fellowship pushed me to pursue an MBA degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, while working full-time. Be confident. Even if you don’t think you meet 100% of a job posting’s criteria, show them what you can offer and be open to learning things on the job. At the end of the day, we live in a hyper-competitive career market. The key question that any job seeker should ask themselves is, “how am I different vs the other candidate/s I’m competing with and will that translate to a successful message during the interview process?”
6. What are the types of entry-level positions that students should aim for to get experience necessary for your kind of career/company?
In equity research, most candidates typically start as an associate. Financial modelling skills and an understanding of the capital markets are important skills when joining an investment bank, especially in equity research. Having prior work experience in industry would also be considered an asset. Many people in this industry have an MBA, CFA, and/or accounting designations.