Recap: 2021 Desautels Capital Management Virtual Experience

At the end of October, students in McGill Desautels’ Master of Management in Finance (MMF) took part in the Desautels Capital Management Virtual Experience. While this experience usually takes place in the form of a trip to New York City to pitch industry executives and visit firms like Goldman Sachs, KKR and BNP Paribas, COVID-19 and the travel guidelines in place at the time made it so that the trip could not take place in person this time around.

That being said, this year’s virtual experience was just as informative and valuable in the eyes of the students who participated.

We were able to meet a lot of different people from prestigious firms, network with them and get their insights on important topics,” said Joseph Allam, equity analyst at DCM and one of the students to present a stock pitch at the event. “It was the closest that it could have been to a real, physical trip in-person.”

The day kicked off with a virtual student stock pitch, where two teams of students presented to McGill Finance alumni, many of whom are based in NYC. Prior to the virtual pitch, the teams had the opportunity to give a longer, more detailed pitch to their fellow classmates, preparing them to pitch the alumni at the DCM virtual experience.

“[Pitching at the virtual experience] was a little bit different than our previous pitch, just because there were the alumni and the investors on the call,” explained Angus Porter, an equity analyst at DCM and current student in the MMF. “But having done it in person the week before and having done the amount of research that we had done, I felt really prepared.”

Being able to present their work and their ideas to alumni and have that opportunity to receive feedback from real-world experts is so valuable, said Porter.

“[After the pitch] we had a question-and-answer session and during that session, we were asked questions that were really interesting,” said Abdur Rehman Arshad, head of quantitative strategy at DCM and one of the three students in this group to present. “One suggestion we received was to combine different valuation models. Another question was whether we approached the company’s management for their take, or their opinion on our investment thesis - this was something new for me. It hadn’t hit me when preparing for the presentation that we could write an email to their management and that they might reply to a master's student at McGill.”

Now that the pitch has been delivered and the three students have had the chance to receive feedback from the alumni in attendance, it’s up to them to go on and apply that feedback to their investment strategy.

“When supervising DCM students, we tend to be more hands on with pitch preparation while more hands off with how students adjust their perspective and decisions following pitch feedback. In some sense, the first part is a bit like blowing a wind on their sail,” said Professor Jiro Kondo, co-chief investment officer of DCM. “Once students are sailing, we let them steer and don't micromanage that post process. We believe they do it well.”

Following that portion, the meeting split off into breakout rooms where the students had the chance to network with the alumni in attendance, an integral part of the experience said Rehman Arshad.

“It feels good to know that we have a strong alumni network that’s spread out all over the world,” he said. “They were so welcoming during this event and willing to offer us advice and support. In fact, one of them openly said ‘It's my responsibility to be available for you guys.’ It was really great.”

Despite the fact that they weren’t able to physically tour the offices at Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas and KKR, the virtual tours were the next best thing, offering the ability to connect with the alumni, put their names out there, and get a sense for the culture and day-to-day at each firm.

Our events with alumni and firms increase student awareness of the importance of networking and learning about different career opportunities in the market,” said Kondo. “When we realized there couldn't be a physical trip, we knew we shouldn’t lose all those benefits, so we looked for feasible alternatives. At the end of the day, our mission is to offer as much value to our students as possible and I think our virtual solutions have worked pretty well. It ensured that students did have an opportunity to meet and engage with alumni. In fact, some parts of the virtual experience were better. For instance, we didn't have to restrict ourselves to alumni from one city. More of our fabulous alumni could be involved and I think everyone benefited from this. We’re excited to keep this solution in our portfolio going forward – even when we’re able to go back to doing physical city visits.”

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