Doors open wide to graduates of Commerce's management program

by Susan Stern
Staff writer

At 33, UBC Commerce graduate Jacki Hoffman-Zehner is one of the youngest people to make managing director at one of the most prestigious investment banks in New York, Goldman-Sachs.

Then there's Paul Lee. At 34, he's the Burnaby-based senior vice-president and chief operating officer for Worldwide Studios, Electronic Arts. For the past two years, the company, headquartered in California, has led Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in computer game sales.

The doors to major investment firms and corporations at home and abroad have opened to gifted graduates like Hoffman-Zehner, Lee and some 84 others who have participated in the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration's Portfolio Management Foundation (PMF) program.

"They know how to use their intelligence," says Prof. Robert Heinkel, supervisor of the program. "Our students simply tend to have the right stuff."

Out of 80 applicants from the Commerce faculty, only six to nine students are selected each year for the two-year extra-curricular program. Selection is based on intellectual ability, interpersonal and leadership skills as well as career motivation in capital markets.

"When we started in 1986, there was nothing like this program in Canada," says Heinkel.

Today programs with similar objectives exist at McGill University and the University of Calgary.

The program aims to shape those who are accepted in both the ethics and workings of capital markets.

"The idea is to teach them appropriate behaviour and how to work within organizational relationships to prevent big mistakes in the future," says Heinkel.

After they have finished their second year of Commerce, students in the program spend the summer as interns at the best brokerage houses in Toronto. They spend their second summer working at investment management companies in Vancouver.

The internships drop them right into the action. They work on company trading floors, do market research, write reports for analysts and attend workshops with top market experts hand-picked by UBC Commerce professors. All the while they network with the best in the capital market business.

Most of the students are just 19 or 20 when they are handed a ticket to Toronto for their first internship.

"We throw them into the pool and expect them to swim," Heinkel says. "When they come back in August the difference is astounding."

It can be an intimidating transition, says Keith Eadie, now in the program's second year.

"One summer I worked at a golf course and the next summer I found myself meeting high-ranking people in the heart of the financial industry," he says.

When the students return to UBC in the fall, they assist senior students in the operation of the Foundation program's now $2.2- million investment portfolio. They take over management of the PMF portfolio the following year.

The students decide what securities to buy and sell. Performance measurement firms in Toronto and Vancouver review their overall results.

Since 1986, their management has helped take the portfolio from its starting point of $300,000. Donations have boosted it a further $1 million. The earnings fund the program's activities, including an annual report, student airfares to Toronto, computers and other office overhead expenses.

Of the program's 86 graduates, 35 work in Vancouver firms, 17 are in Toronto, one in Montreal, 11 in New York, 10 in London and others are established in solid careers in Hong Kong, Sydney and Israel.