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At universities and colleges across Canada, business and commerce programs are booming with intelligent, young women eager to tackle the economic industry. Many are likely considering careers as accountants or analysts in the Big 4 accounting and professional services firms, but another world of opportunity awaits them in the capital markets.

Jennifer Reynolds is president of Women in Capital Markets, an organization dedicated to the advancement and development of women working in the capital markets industry. “The capital markets are where companies in Canada—well, not just Canadian companies but companies from elsewhere as well—raise capital, and that can be through debt or that can be through equity,” she explains. Reynolds adds that the capital markets also serve as a place for companies to seek advice on potential transactions, strategic advice, and implementing business plans.

CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management LLC Elle Kaplan made the decision to start her own company in capital management after a decade of working on Wall Street. “I wanted to build a place that was completely independent, client-centric, and values-driven: the anti-Wall Street, Wall Street firm,” she says. “When three clients, (all independent of each other), asked me to go out on my own and manage their money as a private wealth manager, I knew it was time to build that ideal firm.”

Typically considered a male-dominated industry, the capital markets offer many opportunities for women that, as Reynolds says, range from the trading floor to investment banking.

Gisella Agusta, human resources director with ITG Canada, explains that the field provides opportunities for a range of interests. “Computer science skills are needed for databases and algorithmic trading; accounting, finance, and economics skills are needed in research, trading, and portfolio management; and legal skills are required in the compliance area,” she explains.

Kaplan says that "women make excellent, savvy investors and can add unique value as advisors," also stating that females often have strong communication skills, and a better understanding of the concerns that female investors bring to their financial lives.

There are post-secondary clubs specifically set up to get students involved in the capital markets, like at the University of Western Ontario and Ryerson University. Agusta suggests that those interested in pursuing a capital market career follow business news and keep up-to-date on the business sector. She also recommends that young women join women’s groups, like Women in Capital Markets, to acquire additional insight into the industry and career strategies.

Reynolds encourages young women to network while still in school and to discover what best suits their interests. "I think too often people in business, for instance, [say] ‘I guess I’ll apply to go into audit' or something like that, just because it’s well known," she says. Like any industry, a little bit of exploration and risk-taking can often lead to higher work satisfaction—if one is willing to invest the time.

Kaplan, for one, has found the capital markets rewarding because they combine her own interests with the ability to make an impact on the lives of others. "Every day, I get to pursue my passion for investing while helping people in a vital way. These are not just numbers. These are people's lives, their dreams, their financial security," she says.

"The key thing is to get women aware of these opportunities," says Reynolds. "There’s a great demand, there’s all kinds of programs going on at the bank to try to recruit women and also to advance women, so it’s a great time for young women to be coming into this industry."

Photo: dolgachov/iStock