Investment and career insights from women in asset management

Five women share their success strategies
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Whether it’s growing up dreaming of stock markets or becoming interested in investing from growing one’s own savings, there’s no one path to a career in asset management. But what these five women at BMO’s Global Asset Management have in common is a love of the pace, excitement and learning opportunities the industry offers. Here they share their top tips for growing success—both in their careers and personal finances.

Asma Panjwani, Director, Synthetic Asset Management

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, but I set out to do a degree in chemical engineering. Halfway through, I discovered my true passion lies in business and finance, so I swapped beakers and lab coats for spreadsheets and calculators and have never looked back.

There is no standard path towards an investing career. Our team includes physicists, economists and engineers. The common thread is a high degree of intellectual curiosity and a recreational interest in investing. Having internships and other experience on the resume is helpful, but oftentimes having a track record of managing a personal portfolio and being able to explain your investment choices is more telling. Being informed and current matters. I used to read the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times every morning—it’s a great way to learn about the markets and business in general.

Samantha Cleyn, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Sales & Service

I never knew my current role—or any of the roles I’ve held—even existed when I was in school but I’m so happy I found this career track. My advice is to find a role that you are truly passionate about, a firm you can grow within, and clients and colleagues who can help you develop. I am fortunate to have worked with sophisticated institutional investors like corporations and pension funds my entire career. No two days are the same, the conversations are in-depth and technical. I absolutely love the challenge and knowing that my advice can really make a difference in them achieving their objectives. 

Working in asset management has also made me a humbler investor and hopefully a wiser one. My advice is to start as early as possible, participate in all employer-sponsored programs, maximize your contributions and never leave any free money on the table. For retirement specifically, maximizing accumulation should be your key objective as you start your career. 

Erin Allen, VP, Online Distribution, BMO ETFs

I first found my passion for investing by day-trading bank stocks in my own TFSA back in 2008. In the first year, I took my savings from $5,000 to $25,000. I began taking courses with the Canadian Securities Institute to learn what it means to be a long-term investor. From there, I started selling mutual funds and growing my knowledge by talking with investment advisors daily. I’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and investing confidence over the last 15 years.

One thing I’ve learned is the importance of a diversified approach. The two simplest and most crucial lessons? Not putting all your eggs in one basket and staying invested through market volatility. Picking stocks and trying to time the market takes a lot of time and is a zero-sum game. It’s challenging to time the market accurately, even for the experts. 

Bonnie Li, Associate, Alternative Investments

I like to think of my team in alternative investments at BMO as kind of a start-up within asset management because we’re trying to bring new and innovative private market opportunities to more investors. BMO asset management offers me the environment to work alongside some of the brightest investment professionals in the industry and gives me the opportunity to strengthen my understanding of personal investing and build up a sound decision-making skill set. 

Setting aside a portion of income is always the hardest first step, and making sure to utilize registered accounts, such as RSPs and TFSAs, can help reach specific investment goals more easily and quickly. It’s also a good idea to take the time to learn about different asset classes and investment ideas—diversification can help improve downside exposure and achieve more stable returns. 

Shannon Lewis, Associate, Sales Activities, Distribution Support

I don’t come from an asset management background—having always worked in communications and events. The part of my role that I find most interesting, is that I am able to experience all the different aspects of asset management. Working with various teams, I’ve been able to learn about different funds, how they work and how asset management firms function. I can do what I enjoy, not working with numbers or putting together portfolios, but thinking creatively.

I bring a different perspective to the table. I’ve learned never to be afraid to ask questions in your career. In asset management, when you hear things like ETFs or synthetic asset management, it can be overwhelming. I find that the people who succeed in their roles are the ones who take the time to listen and learn.


This communication is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Particular investments and/or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.

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