Dec. 9, 2020Print | PDF
Commercial banking is an excellent career path for Master of Finance graduates who enjoy building and maintaining service-oriented relationships.
Current and future students of the MFin program at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University met two recent graduates who have found successful careers in this important line of banking.
Eric Bergeron (MFin ’16) and Emily Zhang (MFin ’18) were featured guests at the latest MFin Alumni Speaker Series on Dec. 2 and spoke about how the Lazaridis MFin program prepared them for their respective careers as commercial bankers.
“Outside of auditing and accounting, there are very few careers you can start right out of school that give you a complete view of a company."
“I think commercial banking is a good career path for anyone coming out of the Master of Finance program, especially if you’re someone who loves to learn on a daily basis,” says Bergeron. “If you’re inquisitive and enjoy getting to know business owners and CEOs and how their companies work, this is the career for you.”
MFin Program Director, Tony Tang, also encourages his students to look into commercial banking as a career option. “Many of our students are naturally interested in finance and investment banking, but the MFin prepares you to understand a business at a very deep level and these skills are a perfect fit for the kind of sophisticated deals commercial bankers design and execute.”
Zhang pursued the full-time, co-op MFin program in Waterloo and says the transition from student to full-time employee at TD Bank was very smooth.
“After six months of associate training, I became an Account Manager – Level I in 2019. Shortly after that, someone in my unit moved up, and I got promoted to my current role – Commercial Account Manager - Level II at TD Bank.
Zhang’s responsibilities now include meeting an annual goal to grow the customer base and increase the deposit and borrowing volume at the bank. “All of the Canadian big six banks have a commercial banking and an investment banking division. On the commercial side, we provide customized solutions to small and medium businesses,” explains Zhang. “My role is focused mainly on financing with operating lines, commercial mortgages, international trade finance, as well as providing cash management, and foreign exchange services.”
She also works on annual reviews with clients, ensuring they can have continual access to credit every 12 months through vigorous monitoring and controls. In addition to the behind-the-scenes analysis and deal execution, Zhang attends meetings with, prospects and clients to discuss their business needs and works to find the best possible solution to a particular company’s growth challenge.
“Commercial banking is a very interesting and challenging job,” says Zhang. “If you’re interested in it as a career, there are a number of skills you need to develop in yourself, including becoming very self-motivated to meet your annual targets, being sales focused to attract new clients, and the ability to start and maintain relationships with clients from a wide variety of industries, and or course, being extremely organized because there really is no daily routine in this career.”
Zhang also explained the career paths open to those who begin in account management, but wish to move on to something different. She says there are several directions you can go based on the experience you gain in account management such as credit analyst if you enjoy working in mid-market credit, or even with up-market or national accounts. If you enjoy the risk analysis, you can go into risk management and adjudicate the credit deals. If you prefer macro policy and product design, you can join the head office and help determine the general direction of the bank. But if your interests lie in the sales aspect of account management, you may choose to follow Eric Bergeron’s example and become a Relationship Manager, Commercial Banking at TD Bank.
“Outside of auditing and accounting, there are very few careers you can start right out of school that give you a complete view of a company,” says Bergeron. “My goal after graduation was to get as much exposure as possible to how companies operate. My career path was very similar to Emily’s, but my role as relationship manager requires me to be exclusively in front of clients while working with my analyst to put deals together.”
Bergeron finds value in the constant exposure to the business segments in which his clients operate, including automotive, machinery, transportation, logistics, renewables, and hospitals, among others.
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t learn something new. While we’re not in capital markets, our clients are still using those products so having a working knowledge of complex financial mechanisms has been tremendously useful,” says Bergeron.
He goes on to explain how the Lazaridis MFin set him up for success in commercial banking. “Your clients will ask you questions about public markets and you need to be able to understand that world to be able to explain it to them. The MFin is very useful for this kind of work because it gives you the ability to get to know a company on a very deep level and forces you to think critically on very tight deadlines – both the hard and soft skills you develop in the MFin become useful every day in commercial banking.”
Looking back at his career development, Bergeron is still surprised to find himself on the sales side of commercial banking. “My background was very quantitative and I only wanted to become an analyst, but the bank encourages you to develop other skills so I focused more on sales and client management.”
“The role of a mentor in either school or work is very important,” explains Tang. “Often, they can see things in you that you don’t necessarily see in yourself and can help develop you into something more than you thought possible. The Lazaridis MFin program gives you the knowledge and skills to succeed, but the openness to recognize and take advantage of new opportunities is up to you.”
The Lazaridis Master of Finance (MFin) program offers programming in Waterloo and downtown Toronto in a variety of formats including full-time, part-time, co-op, and a double degree option with an MBA. Our Alumni Speaker Series runs several times every term and anyone is welcome to attend.