It’s been quite a year for recent Arts & Science graduate Haeyeon Lee.
Last year at this time, she was preparing to begin the final term of a program that would earn her a Master of Financial Economics. Today, she is in Ottawa, putting all that she learned into practice as an analyst at the Bank of Canada.
In March, Lee was named one of three recipients of the Bank of Canada Master’s Scholarship Award for Women in Economics and Finance. The award came with a $10,000 scholarship and an offer of permanent employment at the bank upon successful completion of a master’s degree.
Once Lee completed her program, she accepted the bank’s offer and moved to Ottawa to begin the job.
“I felt extremely honoured to be recognized and chosen as one of the inaugural recipients of this scholarship and felt a sense of responsibility to promote diversity in the workplace,” said Lee. “I was excited to begin working at the Bank of Canada.”
Designed to attract women in the core areas of the bank's work where they are under-represented – which include monetary policy, Canada’s financial system, currency, and funds management for the federal government – the award is rooted in the bank’s priority of having a diverse workplace and advancing more women in the fields of economics and finance.
“The scholarship's goal of promoting gender equality and diversity in the workplace resonated with me as it is important to foster inclusiveness and have a wide variety of viewpoints,” Lee said when asked why she entered the competition for the award.
Lee (pictured left) describes financial economics as a combination of financial theory based on a core economic framework. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science and economics from U of T in 2015, she was drawn to the field for its inherently analytical nature and wide variety of applications, and because it is constantly changing.
“It can be used to help analyze problems in everything from an individual's investment decisions to a government's public policies,” she explained. “It involves making decisions about allocation of resources under uncertain conditions in financial markets. It can be applied to areas such as asset pricing, financing and investment decisions, and managing the risks associated with those decisions.”
Lee is getting immediate exposure to the bank’s core functions as she begins a sequence of roles across different departments.
“I am currently a rotational analyst in the funds management and banking department,” she said. “My first rotation is in the Financial Risk Office, which is responsible for the risk management of Canada’s international reserves and the bank’s activities.”
She credits her time at U of T with providing the foundation necessary to guide her contributions to the nation’s top financial institution.
“U of T has many knowledgeable professors who are experts in their fields,” said Lee. “They have taught me much of the theoretical framework and concepts necessary for my career. My studies helped me develop many useful, transferable skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and work ethics, and my professional development has been supported by mentorship from many U of T alumni.”
Lee says that rising protectionism – especially in the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner – and the high household debt burdens carried by many Canadians, are among the biggest challenges facing Canada right now.
However, she is also optimistic about new developments in financial economics, and is excited to be joining the central bank at a time when financial technology – fintech – is offering new ways of delivering financial services.
“Fintech is an area with a lot of new opportunities,” she said. “There are many areas of innovation in fintech, such as blockchain technology that can record transactions, robo-advisers that provide lower-cost investment advice, and open banking that will improve customers’ experiences in financial services such as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and digital payment systems.”