by Patty Mah, Associate Director Admissions and Communications
The School of Accounting and Finance will welcome back Anish Chopra (MAcc ’94), the 2012 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award, to campus in June. He will present four prizes, totaling $4,000, that he personally sponsored for the 2015 Investment Research Challenge (IRC).
This is the third year that the distinguished alumnus, who has established a MAcc Scholarship at UW and served as an Honouree in the Student Fellowship Program, will sponsor the IRC prizes.
Anish is the Managing Director and Head of the Innovative Solutions Group, TD Asset Management Inc. (TDAM), where he has worked since 1998. He is the lead manager of the Target Return strategies for TD Mutual Funds and TD Wealth Private Investment Counsel and a member of the TD Wealth Asset Allocation Committee.
Seventeen teams comprising 66 students will take part in this year’s event, which is also supported by the SAF-CPA Centre of Capital Markets Education. They have to analyze a publicly-traded stock and defend their buy/hold/sell recommendations to judging panels. In the first round, teams present their analysis and recommendations to a faculty-alumni panel.
Four teams will advance to the final round, where each will appear before industry experts.
At the 2014 IRC, judges reported that all the finalists produced outstanding, well-argued presentations, making it hard to decide the winners. Nevertheless, they awarded first, second, third and fourth places to 3B teams, and fifth to a 2B team.
All but three of the winning team members were on the SAF Student Investment Fund team, an ongoing enterprise for which Anish was board chair from 2012-14.
What motivates this grad’s robust commitment to student competitions and other SAF activities? “I want to give back to the School, where I learned a lot,” Anish replies, “and I want to give students an opportunity to use the skills that they’ve started to develop.”
Investing is a life-long apprenticeship, he explains. The competitions and the investment fund enable students to gain a better understanding, early on, not only of finance but of their career options. And junior students can learn much from observing and working with their senior counterparts.
“Some may enjoy the experience, others may say it’s not for them, and that’s great,” he suggests. “And of course,” he adds, “the financial incentive doesn’t hurt!”
Anish contends that the student-run investment fund offers a further stimulus to professional growth and insight, since students are engaged with it over several terms, enhancing their own development. For the fund’s health they are obliged to convey what they’ve learned to the next generation of fund managers.
Since the competitions are quite new, there’s not much he can offer yet in the way of an overview, but he’s already “very impressed with the quality and calibre of those who get to the final round.” He’s especially pleased with their grasp of complex issues and their ability to communicate effectively within strict time constraints.
The contests are showing signs of evolving. Anish and SAF Professor Ranjini Jha are considering an additional competition that may present new scenarios in the areas of business planning and wealth management.
Student Days at Waterloo
Casting a glance back to his time at Waterloo, Anish describes his accounting professors as “very supportive and very approachable.” An alumni gold medalist in 1994, he adds that the students too were “a good group of people.”
”UW had a lot of opportunities if you wanted to take advantage of them,” he adds. And that’s exactly what he did. He worked on the then-new “Accounting Student Education Fund” (ASEC), which over the years would provide significant support for the School of Accountancy.
Taking a wider perspective, he volunteered with the UW Federation of Students, serving as Speaker as well as being editor of the Federation handbook. To top it off, he was a student member of the UW senate as well.
Chosen Career Still Appeals
Anish’s career path has hewed closely to the line he set out when a student. “I wanted to become a portfolio manager,” he says, and that is indeed what he became. “I’ve generally always been a money manager.” After graduation, he proceeded systematically through public accounting to investment banking and on to portfolio management.
It’s obvious that he was a go-getter at all those stages. “But luck always helps!” he says, reminding the interviewer of that old saw, “I believe in luck -- the harder I work, the more of it I have!”
Twenty years on, Anish still finds excitement in his chosen path. He arrives at his TD office every day eager to enter an investment world constantly going full throttle. In the foreground, products and personnel are always changing.
”We constantly have new areas, new people, and new ideas,” he explains. Compared with the mid-1990s, colleagues and recent grads now have broader work experience and business exposure, and possess more diverse backgrounds. And the background to the industry – the global economic picture – is equally in flux.
Flexibility and Open-mindedness
Alumni are routinely asked if they’d recommend their career path to current students. Unsurprisingly, Anish reports, “I get asked that a lot.” His answer is carefully nuanced. As one who has witnessed many developments and shifts in his field over two decades, he wants students to realize that they must be prepared to handle new situations and meet unexpected challenges.
So his simple but thoughtful words of wisdom are these: “Be flexible, and be open-minded.” Students should seize all the opportunities available in their academic programs at Waterloo, not limiting their future options. And they shouldn’t be rigid about where they want to work, since every role or position can contribute to their ultimate goal.
Problem Solving, Assisting Others
Anish has a word of wisdom for fellow alumni as well. He’d like to see more grads lend their support to the School’s activities and initiatives. “It’s a two-way street,” he says. “In addition to giving back and helping out students, you also learn about larger issues in the process.” But he won’t prescribe exactly what alumni should commit to. “It would just be great,” he suggests, “if they could get involved in a capacity of their own choosing.”
Another query that alumni often get is, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career might you want to pursue? That turns out to be a hard one for someone as comfortable in his present role. Anish thinks for a moment, and comes up with “medical doctor” as his likeliest might-have-been.
What’s most appealing about that profession, he says, is the scope it offers for problem solving and for assisting people with their daily lives. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see a close connection between that fantasy and what he’s actually doing today.
Outside the Office
The inaugural recipient of an “Under 40” award of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators, Anish received that organization’s Communicator Award in 2011 and 2013. He is the incoming board chair of the CFA Society Toronto, an 8,300 member organization and was also a member of the Canadian Accounting Standards Board. He has served with numerous not-for-profit organizations including the Ontario Judicial Council and the Canadian Cancer Society – Central Toronto Unit.
He is particularly proud of the fundraising achievements of this unit of the Cancer Society. “How do you diversify your funding sources? That was our challenge,” he explains, adding that meeting it was a “good overall experience.” Among other things, he insisted that volunteers, including door to door canvassers, must have fun and get genuine satisfaction from their efforts.
L to R: William Hewitt (judge), Steve Balaban (judge) Anish Chopra, Frank Hayes (SAF Faculty),
Winning team: Rebecca Yao, Wendy Cai, Arthur Chan, Alice Cheng, and Kaylee Verougstraete (Judge)
Steve Balaban, Chief Investment Officer, Mink Capital (Private Equity) and Director Wealth Management Canada, UW alumnus, 2006
William Hewitt, Director -University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation and Advisory Board member of the University of Western Ontario and Shiplake Investments Inc.
Kaylee Verougstraete, Associate, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, UW alumnus, 2011
Frank Hayes – SAF Faculty and President, Stanley Software Finance