Most days, Debra Kelsall can be found hard at work at the Bronfman Building. As a second year student in the Honours Investment Management Program, Kelsall’s interest in her program has expanded beyond the classroom, as seen through her involvement in groups such as the Desautels Women in Business Club and the McGill Christian Fellowship.
The Honours Investment Management Program is highly competitive and is designed to prepare students to work in financial asset management.
“The curriculum in this honours program is practically oriented so that students gain a lot of hands-on and real-world experience with an end result that, more often then not, leads to a career in investment banking,” Kelsall explains.
As part of their training, students are divided into different sectors, such as the consumer or energy sectors. Kelsall is a member of metals and mining. Her team recently presented an industry review on copper, iron, and gold to inform their peers on the latest developments within the sector. Another monthly demonstration in their program is a stock pitch, which involves an analysis of a specific company to determine its current worth.
As one of only three women accepted into the competitive program, Kelsall understands the challenges facing young females who are trying to become involved in the business world. As a member of the Desautels Women in Business club, she helps organize events to encourage women to pursue their interests in the finance industry with the aim of improving the representation of women.
“I have been to a lot of conferences and you always notice that, as a woman, you are always the minority, “Kelsall says. She added that she hopes the group’s activities inspire more female students to consider a career in the upper echelons of business.
Another way Kelsall seeks to push boundaries traditionally associated with business is her resolution to reconcile her Christian upbringing with her career choice. According to Kelsall, the motivating factor behind decision-making in investment banking is commerce, rather than one’s moral compass. She has found a way to explore these personal conflicts by holding weekly meetings called “Business and the Bible” as a member of the McGill Christian Fellowship.
“I wanted to see how the Bible can be relevant in the world of business,” she says. “Banks are always in the news for the wrong reasons and I want to look at how I can work at an investment firm, remain ethical, and still have an influence on the others around me and contribute to the firm in a positive way.”
The group discusses issues such as defining success in the world of finance, and how that compares to God’s definition of success as described in the Bible.
Regardless of what she is engaged in, Kelsall says she is resolute in staying true to herself.
“It is important for me to be the same person regardless of what context I am placed in, whether it be in school or at church or at an investment firm,” she says.
What advice would you have for a student who is considering investment banking as a career ?
Start networking early. The McGill Investment Club has a lot of events so take every opportunity to participate and learn.
Where is your favourite place to hang out ?
The mountain. I really like to go for runs up there. It is so beautiful.
What is the one weird thing about you that no one knows ?
I like baking, but I don’t think that’s weird… I can’t whistle!
What is the one item you cannot live without?
My laptop. I like to read up on the finance industry in between classes.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be involved in a non-profit organization.