Analysis, fintech, investment or commercial banking, ESG, real estate, corporate, wealth management, sales trading, risk or investment management…The possible career outcomes for graduates of the McGill Master of Management in Finance (MMF) are as diverse as its cohorts. Read ahead as we catch up with graduates in this series about coming out on the other side of the specialized program in finance.
Mitchell McEwen (MMF’20)
Manager, Sustainable Finance, TD Bank Group
Manager of Sustainable Finance at TD Bank Group, Mitchell McEwen (MMF'20) first joined the Bank as an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) intern in May 2020. His passion for ESG can be attributed to his curiosity about the intersection between finance and sustainability, something he explored in depth during his studies at the McGill Master of Management in Finance (MMF) program. Wanting to further explore what role financial institutions would play in driving a just transition to a low-carbon economy, he was drawn to the MMF by the Desautels SRI Equity Fund, a new fund dedicated to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) under Desautels Capital Management (DCM).
“What really piqued my interest and what I loved about the program was that it was more than theory-based; I really wanted that hands-on experience,” says Mitchell.
An edge in an emerging area
While ESG is not a new discipline, it has become a new normal, as the urgency around climate crisis and social issues continues to grow.
During his time managing companies within the DCM portfolio, Mitchell took on the role of Chief Sustainability Officer, even co-launching The Sustainable Investor, a newsletter providing insights on specific topics related to sustainable investing with the hope of fostering discussions around sustainable finance.
“All of it was an amazing opportunity to think of how we view ESG. I worked with many analysts and set the foundational elements to educate colleagues on what ESG is and why it is important for a sustainable and inclusive future. And ultimately, how does ESG considerations intersect with finance from a materiality point of view,” says Mitchell.
Benefitting from layers of expertise
“What I love about finance is that it is interdisciplinary and applies to a wide range of industries,” he says. While not necessarily part of the MMF’s condensed core curriculum, Mitchell witnessed that intersection through the knowledge his professors brought from other fields in finance. “Professors were extremely knowledgeable and brought their subject matter expertise to the table,” he states. “They were definitely engaged in the topic of ESG and sustainable finance, and were able to indulge me when I had a lot of questions!”
He also credits the Career Management team at Desautels for its amazing support in terms of getting students in front of different companies and positioning graduates in a what he believes is an unparalleled way.
Another asset to the MMF experience was the opportunity students are given to talk to, not only program alumni, but also to Desautels Global Experts, top level executives and practitioners in the industry.
“The Desautels Global Experts provided great feedback, insights and expertise in finance within a real-world context to really prepare us for what would come next when trying to secure a job, whether in finance or any other industry.”
A rich network
Mitchell also highlights the numerous opportunities offered to him through the MMF program to build connections and grow his network. “I had the opportunity to meet many successful McGill alumni in Montreal, Toronto and New York. I still stay connected with many of them today.”
During the MMF, Mitchell and fellow students were also able to collaborate with external institutions. The group won the Quebec regional CFA Research Challenge, making it the first team to win for the MMF. Although the pandemic impeded planned travel to New York, they were able to represent Quebec at the Americas Regional by videoconference that April. “We owed a great deal of gratitude to our advisors, including MMF Associate Professor and Chief Investment Officer of DCM Vadim di Pietro.”
As a constantly evolving space, solutions on how to preserve and save the environment are not always clear. “You have to be comfortable with ambiguity and with making decisions without perfect information in ESG. The program taught me to make the most of that uncertainty and work through it to come up with innovative solutions.”
The MMF also built upon Mitchell's approach to structuring problems. “There is no clear-cut way to perform an evaluation on a company. There are key outputs that you need, but you also need to structure complex problems and distill them in a way that's logical.”
Critical lessons on presentation and communication skills were addressed. Mitchell credits the DCM with helping him develop the ability to present in front of hundreds of people and answer tough questions from investors. “McGill really taught me to think on my feet and communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing."
Now, working with business partners across TD — from asset management, securities, insurance, retail banking, and corporate functions — he is grateful for the diverse set of skills he was able to develop while at McGill across a wide range of disciplines. “The MMF really set me up quite well with the foundational skills needed to be successful, and the program really honed in on developing those skills.”
Although originally inclined towards sustainability, Mitchell did consider going into pure play finance. As he dove more deeply into the topic and recognized its importance, he felt a larger call to action. “I made the program my own and took it upon myself to build upon what was laid out in front of me to integrate a sustainability angle. The MMF offers that flexibility and support from the professors. There is a broader applicability to the program, and you do not have to follow a traditional career path in finance.”
He believes the MMF is for those looking to challenge the status quo in finance by thinking critically about how unprecedented and challenging issues are tackled. “Whether it was the theoretical or the practical experience, I am a big fan of the program because it helped me enter this exciting and emerging space.”