John Molson School of Business welcomes prominent business figures to ConU

The Finance and Investments Students’ Association (FISA) at Concordia University held their first semi-annual business conference Friday at the Sofitel Hotel.

According to organizers, the conference was a big success as FISA was able to bring in real business figures for the university’s student body.

“We’re hoping to bring in people from the real world and show students how things really work,” said Matthew Epp, President of FISA.

Epp was pleased to have four speakers at the conference, including Derek Lithwick from RBC Capital Markets, Richard Dufresne from Merrill Lynch Canada, Michael Russell from Mercer Oliver Wyman and Kevin Yendzio from the Montreal Exchange

The conference kicked off with an introduction by Dr. Sandra Betton of the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) finance department.

“The purpose of higher education is to make you aware of what was, what is and what will be.” Dr. Betton told the audience of over 200.

Yendzio was the evening’s first speaker, telling the audience that the Montreal Exchange was not to be confused with the Stock Exchange. He went on to give a brief historical background about the Montreal Exchange and said that it is the only foreign entity that does business with American Exchanges. He then spoke of the transition from a physical exchange to a virtual exchange, and how the Internet manages everything today.

“As long as your broker is connected with the exchange, you can have instant access,” he said.

Yendzio also underlined the achievements of the exchange, citing a 62 per cent rise in contracts over the last five years and 47 per cent increase in revenue.

“I’m not gonna spend too much time gloating over how much money we’re making,” he jokingly added.

The evening’s second speaker was Michael Russell, an executive MBA graduate from Concordia. Russell is involved with enterprise risk consulting with Mercer Oliver Wyman, a firm that specializes in risk consulting for corporations.

“The environment of today is not the environment of six months in the future,” Russell said.

Russell spoke of recent laws passed in Canada and the U.S. that require greater transparency from corporations to expose what kind of risks they take. These laws are designed to avoid a repeat of events such as the Enron scandal. He added that the Liberal sponsorship scandal is an example of why people demand greater transparency nowadays.

Lithwick, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, was next to take the podium. Lithwick recounted his experiences as an analyst and gave valuable advice on how to prepare for applying to an analyst’s position. He advised students not only to do well in school, but also to get involved in activities, committees and clubs and to work at 110 per cent.

Lithwick referred to the movie “The Godfather” where Tom Hagen is the adviser to the family. According to Lithwick, being an analyst is very much like being Tom Hagen, only an analyst is an adviser to the firm. He then quickly discounted the notion that firms are engaged in evil deeds, which attracted laughter from the audience.

The final speaker was Richard Dufresne, an investment banker from Merrill Lynch Canada. Dufresne said that Merrill Lynch employed a total of four people in Montreal to work on the Molson-Coors deal. He spoke of Merrill Lynch as a global firm and its great presence in Canada despite their low employment numbers in Montreal. Merril Lynch has offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

After the speakers were done, a question and answer period followed. Questions varied from “What is a typical work day like?” to “What kind of degree is best suited to break through in business?” Answers were mixed, but all speakers agreed that there is no typical workday and a Bcomm or MBA degree would carry enough weight.

Daniel Robillard, a student in JMSB, enjoyed the informational value of the conference and hopes to take the advice he received to the next level.

“It enlarges one’s perspective as to what’s going on out there,” Robillard said.

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