Mentorships play a decisive role in many business-related professions but perhaps none more so than the white-knuckle world of finance.
This emboldened the founder of the Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program (KWPMP) when he funded the innovative platform for finance students at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) in 2000.
Kenneth Woods, MBA 75, LLD 17, was blessed to have a good mentor himself. The late Calvin C. Potter, BComm 48, was a much admired professor who chaired the finance department at Concordia. As a teacher and source of encouragement, Potter had a formative impact, so much so that KWPMP grads are referred to as Calvin C. Potter Fellows in tribute.
Woods made sure to build student-expert exchanges into his namesake program’s DNA. Together with inaugural program director Abraham Brodt, he assembled a client committee made up of industry professionals to vet student stock analyses, a network of employers to hire students as summer interns and, critically, a group of mentors to periodically meet with students throughout the semester.
‘A formidable advantage’
The experiential approach pioneered by Woods has proved remarkably effective over the last two decades.
“The power of the program is that there are graduates all over the world at some of the biggest firms,” says Sandy Poiré, BComm 11, of CN Investment Division. “That’s pretty incredible.”
Grads like Poiré, a JMSB valedictorian, are quick to credit the KWPMP mentorship and client committee system.
“Women continue to be under-represented in capital markets, so the access to women mentors was invaluable,” says Andreea M. Constantin, BComm 02, a vice-president at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “The KWPMP gave me a formidable advantage.”
Industry experts who help support the program, whether as employers, mentors or client committee members, say they get as much out of the experience as the students.
“The program was destined, I think, to be very, very successful,” says long-time client committee member David Abramson, one of the founders of Alpine Macro, a global investment research firm. “When the students make a mistake, they’re held accountable by the professionals and rapidly course-correct.”
Andrea Bobkowicz took a hands-on approach after she agreed to become a KWPMP mentor in late 2019. Before COVID-19 lockdown measures were enforced, Bobkowicz had a cohort of students accompany her on business lunches attended by senior portfolio managers and investment analysts from across Canada.
“The students really took to it and enjoyed that different kind of exposure and perspective that a classroom can’t provide,” says the National Bank Financial investment advisor. “The fact is that Ken Woods wanted the students to manage real money. Well, let’s make the mentorships real and get them out into the real world.”
‘Calvin C. Potter Fellows are taking over’
The Woods client committee, which meets quarterly, is intended as a safe space for student research associates and fund managers to test their rudimentary know-how of the markets. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s easy to explain to a room full of industry professionals why you’re bullish on Microsoft.