Q&A: Michelle Khalili, Managing Director, Equity Capital Markets, CIBC

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Describe Your Career Path.

I graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of commerce degree in economics and accounting. After graduation, I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in its audit group, working in both Kuala Lumpur and Toronto. During this time I became a chartered accountant. While I enjoyed what I was doing I realized that what I really wanted to do was help companies look forward and to grow. I moved to the advisory side at PWC and then to an M&A advisory shop. After that I joined the investment banking group at an independent boutique investment dealer, and got my chartered financial analyst designation. I spent a number of years there in a generalist role, doing M&A, advisory work, and financings. This role helped me focus and realize what I loved most about this business - the equity markets. I then joined CIBC, where I've been for the past ten years, working in its equity capital markets group.

Describe your role at CIBC.

I am a managing director in the equity capital markets group in the bank's Toronto office. Our group acts as equity product specialists, responsible for the origination and execution of equity new issues. These include IPOs, follow-on offerings, and secondary offerings. Our product side includes preferred shares, common shares, trust units, convertible debentures, and retail structured products. Equity capital markets acts as a link between many different groups, both internally and externally. Our external clientele are the issuers, including ceos, cfos, and boards of directors. My role is to provide clients with market intelligence and color, transaction guidance, deal execution, and after-market support. I work with clients in the oil and gas sector but also have clients in other areas, such retail and consumer products. As CIBC provides a full range of banking services, I also have many internal clients and partners, including investment banking, sales and trading and retail brokers. I work with these groups to ensure the full financial needs of CIBC's clients are met.

What is a typical day like for you?

In this industry your day-to-day can change dramatically. In fact, it can change in a matter of minutes, which is what makes it such an exciting place to work. It can be stressful but it is a lot of fun. I wear many hats in a given day, which is a great thing about my job. Recently, for example, I spent time meeting clients and giving them insight on the current state of the equity markets and new equity issue environment. Central to this were discussions on where we see demand for equity offerings going forward. At the same time I was also engaged in launching a financing for an oil and gas company that needed to raise money for an acquisition of assets. In another transaction, we sold an investment in a power company for one of its shareholders. In each of these transactions, I'll work with different parts of CIBC. For example, I may be involved with different investment banking groups, such as the oil and gas team or the power and utilities group. Or, I may be working with the equity sales desk when we launch a financing. On the same front, I'm also working with a diverse group of business leaders in a number of different industries across the country.

What advice do you have for an up-and-coming capital markets professional? Any advice for undergraduate students?

When I speak with undergraduate and MBA students, I often tell them to be well- prepared for every conversation and meeting that they have with someone in the capital markets industry. Research the companies and people you are meeting with. Know what's going on in the business world. It can be as simple as reading newspapers and business journals. But also know who you are - what your strengths are so you can capitalize on them and if you do have areas of weakness, make sure you work on them. Also, it's very important to network even when you are in college. Be proactive. Meet people and find out what they do so you can develop knowledge into various aspects of the business. Are they on the buy side or sell side? Are they an equity trader or do they work in foreign exchange? I work with a great team at CIBC, but also with clients and individuals who are leaders in their industry and in their community. I feel we provide a real service to companies by helping them to grow their business. Capital markets is a demanding place to work but the work is also very gratifying. Why wouldn't you want to work in an industry that is vital to the economy and also highly rewarding?

What are the most important skills for a career in capital markets?

It's important to love what you do. In terms of skills, you need to have a strong education and a willingness to learn. This will give you a solid foundation to develop your technical skills through experience and training. You need to have strong interpersonal skills as well. It's a client-focused business and you must be able to connect with your clients and your colleagues. From where I stand, I can see that there is a world of opportunity in capital markets. There are many different areas in this industry that require a vast array of skills and personality types. One of the best parts of this industry is that you can work together with different product groups and different areas of expertise, to help deliver the best possible solution for the client.

What should people wanting to work in capital markets be doing to prepare, i.e. groups to join, networking, reading?

There are a wide range of ways to work in capital markets: sales, trading, M&A or credit, for example. It's important to know the different areas in this business, recognize your interests, and proactively seek out available opportunities. It will help you to position yourself and also to determine what you like and how to pursue the area that interests you. The nice part about capital markets is that you can work in one area and move to another one later as your skills grow or your interests change. In terms of organizations, there are a lot of good ones, including Women in Capital Markets, here in Canada, university and alumni groups. Step up, volunteer and do things for causes that you are care about. This is critical, no matter what stage you are in your career. I currently sit on the board of directors for the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and have been very involved in CIBC's Run for the Cure for breast cancer. Doing this type of work helps build your skill set, knowledge and network.

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