Kira Hewitt is a graduate from the University of Victoria (UVic) with a degree in economics who is currently working as an Associate at Scotia Wealth Management’s Private Investment Counsel in Vancouver. Kira completed three Co-ops while at UVic. The first of these was as a member of the contracts and procurement team for the Department of National Defence, the second as a member of the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) team for the BC Investment Management Corporation, and the third as a business development/advisor sales team with Fidelity Investment. In 2018, she was nominated for UVic’s Co-op student of the year award.
Kira is a prime example of how Co-op and other forms of WIL can help prepare students for a working life. When discussing her current job and future plans Kira told ACE-WIL:
“Finishing school and taking on a role in wealth management felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work in university and a lot of soul searching trying to figure out what I wanted to do once I finished undergrad. My current role offers a very supportive environment to continue my education. I’ve recently finished my coursework to become a Qualified Associate Financial Planner (QAFP) and I’m working towards my Chartered Investment Manager (CIM) designation. After that, I will start on my Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, which usually takes about three years, and then I would definitely like to have some international experience and either do my MBA or work in another country. So, in five years, I see myself still trying to learn as much as I can and always trying to one up myself and be a better version of the person I was the day before, wherever I am in the world.”
Kira is an advocate for ESG values in the finance field. We, naturally, were curious about what those values were. So we asked her about them.
“Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) principles are a really interesting area of investing and is something that is only growing in importance in the future. ESG focuses on the more qualitative factors that can affect a company and how they deal with these risks. The most relevant aspects change depending on the company and the industry (ex. carbon emission levels are more of a worry for oil and gas companies compared to an insurance company). A lot of the time ESG is seen as binary (a good ESG company vs. a bad one, profits vs. ethics) but in reality, it is far more useful to consider ESG factors as a risk management tool, giving you deeper information about a company that could be material to its long-term value. As millennials begin to hold the majority of wealth in the global economies, we’re seeing more and more focus on companies that are trying to do better, give back to their communities, treat employees equitably, reduce carbon emissions, and protect the environment. A lot of companies now know that they need to do their part to improve their performance related to ESG. Often, companies that you would assume are the worst performers in regard to ESG factors actually do a lot of work to mitigate those risks and improve their company practices. What investors and consumers want to see is improvement and change rather than stagnation.”
Having learned this, we were curious about what putting those principles into practice looked like in the real world. Was it difficult to push for principles if you were a younger member of a team? How do you balance ethics with the profit motive that necessarily exists in a field like finance? Fortunately for us, Kira had some good answers for those questions as well.
“While it was never up to me to make those big decisions, my team was able to add value by providing Portfolio Managers with vital information to inform their investment decisions. I’d say being a junior member of the team could sometimes be an advantage as I would know about things as it related to the values of younger consumers, what their concerns were and how they’d react. For example, when researching a beauty company, I noticed that they marketed as cruelty-free and vegan but simultaneously were selling product in China, which requires foreign personal products be tested on animals before being allowed in Chinese stores. I was able to call attention to this as a risk for their brand as the consumers they were targeting by saying they were vegan and cruelty-free would definitely care and would even change products if they found that wasn’t entirely true.”
In addition to her career, Kira also works as a mentor for other women considering pursuing a career in finance. Kira found that in finance groups she was often the only woman or that the group had the bare minimum number of women to meet a quota. She wanted to change that.
“Finance in general has been historically male dominated, like many other industries, but that’s starting to change and I wanted to help more women see that this is a great industry to get into and there’s tons of opportunity. It just had never been presented to them so they didn’t really know it was even an option. I used my position in the UVIC Investment Group to put on events with great professional organizations like Women in Capital Markets and Young Women in Business to start to expose students to some great female role models in the industry and to start talking about the variety of career options that fall under the umbrella of finance.”