Alumni Insights: Ismail Mian

Leveraging Experience - An Interview with Alumnus; Ismail Mian
INTERVIEW: Ismail Mian, PJT Partners

Waterloo Business Review had the opportunity to sit down with alumnus Ismail Mian over the summer to speak to him about his work experiences, as well as his time at the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF), to gain insight into careers in capital markets. Ismail graduated from the Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) program in 2018 and now works in New York City as an Investment Banking Analyst at PJT Partners within Strategic Advisory group. He previously completed several internships and co-op terms across investment banking and public accounting prior to graduating from the University of Waterloo.

Ismail was born in Pakistan and attended several international schools before starting high school in Canada. Growing up, his family moved around a lot due to the busy nature of his father’s career in a senior leadership role as a Chartered Accountant (CA). Early on, Ismail gained exposure to the world of accounting and was inspired to study something in business. He had the intention to pursue a CPA designation, which ultimately led him to the Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) program at the University of Waterloo. Although Ismail arrived at Waterloo with the intent of pursuing a career in accounting, his outlook changed after he took his first finance course, which sparked his interest in capital markets. At the end of the course, he consulted his professor who encouraged him to further explore his interest and get involved with on-campus finance extracurriculars.

Ismail’s first co-op experience was in the assurance & advisory practice at PwC, where he had the opportunity to audit asset management clients, his first real world exposure to finance. Following his co-op experience in assurance, Ismail decided to transition to finance, and pursued related experiences in the School of Accounting and Finance to best position himself for the highly competitive investment banking recruiting processes.

Following that, he had a diverse set of co-op and internship experiences within different investment banking product and industry groups at CIBC Capital Markets, BMO Capital Markets and Lazard. Ismail explained that the dynamic work environment and robust learning experience was what drew him in, “From the perspective of somebody just starting their professional career, you get given a lot of exposure and responsibility very early on with each day offering the opportunity to work on something new and unique.”

Leveraging public and private data, bankers form holistic views of businesses, and construct financial models to value them, two skills which are incredibly transferable. Ismail described his experience within CIBC’s Equity Capital Markets (ECM) group as a hybrid between investment banking industry coverage and sales & trading, which gave him exposure to market developments and the pricing process. As Ismail continued to explore areas of interest within finance, he took on a more coverage-based role within BMO’s Global Metals & Mining group. After which, he completed a summer internship in San Francisco within Lazard’s Technology Mergers & Acquisitions group. Ismail credits the co-op program for allowing him the flexibility to explore different areas of interest within finance and equipping him with the skillset required to succeed within a full-time role.

Upon graduation, Ismail joined PJT Partners in the London, UK office where he worked as an industry generalist across both restructuring & special situations as well as mergers & acquisitions before moving to New York. He elaborated, “I have been very fortunate to have had the breadth and diversity of experiences that I have, especially at such an early point in my career. I have gotten to develop a truly global perspective through my upbringing and the opportunities I have had to work in some of the world’s largest financial hubs.”

Reflecting upon his time at SAF, Ismail has one key piece of advice to current students. From both a professional and personal perspective, it is imperative to develop a strong support system including mentors, peers, friends and professors with whom you can bounce ideas, share advice and leverage resources. “Go out of your way to meet new people and make new friends in SAF and across the broader University of Waterloo community, especially early on in your first year. There are a lot of very intelligent, interesting and friendly people that have different strengths and perspectives from yours.” He elaborated, “Having people who are personally invested in your success and being surrounded by people that are working towards the same goals as you will make everything so much easier and a lot more enriching.”

In Ismail’s experience, some of the best learning opportunities came from outside the classroom. Notably the Student Investment Fund (SIF) and Student Venture Fund (SVF). These funds allowed Ismail to gain greater exposure and build meaningful relationships with likeminded students while also receiving mentorship. Ismail also participated in several case competitions during his time at SAF, placing first for both the Pacific Venture Capital and Battle on Bay competitions. “I am a massive advocate for students entering as many competitions as they can. Not only are they a great way to test your skillset against your peers but they are also a fantastic way to travel with your friends for free.” Leveraging the competition subsidies SAF has to offer can enhance the overall experience a student has in their undergraduate careers from both personal and professional aspects.

Overall, Ismail’s time at SAF and his early career have solidified his belief that students should actively begin exploring their interests as early as possible and strive for new experiences to get out of their comfort zone. “The major advantage SAF students have is that the co-op program pushes us to start thinking about recruiting and networking way earlier in our university lives than any other school. As finance recruiting timelines become increasingly accelerated, having a plan early on to position yourself for the role you want is extremely beneficial. It’s unrealistic to expect students to know exactly what they want to do the day they get to university but SAF is a platform they can utilize to really explore their interests before committing to a career path.”

Lastly, Ismail’s message to current students is to utilize all of the tools the university offers and place an emphasis on being well rounded. “In my experience, the most successful people I have come across are, of course, intelligent and hardworking but they are also very balanced and well rounded. Higher education is really an opportunity for personal growth on all fronts so while it is good to work hard and excel professionally, it’s even more important to figure out what you enjoy doing and having memorable life experiences. There are many avenues to pursue what you like whether it be joining sports leagues on campus, using the exchange program as a tool to travel the world or making lifelong friends through extracurricular clubs. Make sure you have fun along the way and it will also help you professionally more than you think.”