The Rotman Review: How An MBA Shapes Success In Finance

As a joint degree PharmD/MBA student at Rotman, the transition from one degree to another left little time for saving and investing. Now, nearing the end of my degree, being more adept at managing personal finances has become a welcome side effect of pursuing an MBA.

For myself, investing was a challenging topic prior to my MBA. I had no background in business or finance. Many of the ideas that informed my understanding of investing came from the internet, and all this information was overwhelming.


Although I consider myself a cautious person, I was convinced that not being in the market was a costly mistake. So, I chose to buy a stock on the guidance of purported stock market experts. By relying on others and not developing my own investment strategy, I entered the market blind. I started losing money, and then settled quickly for selling to break even — only to watch the stock increase in value in the following weeks.

Dr. Peter Zhang

When I took my core finance classes, I was bewildered by the breadth of the theory that guides investment strategies. Naturally, understanding dividends, bond coupons, and capital gains was a necessary component. Still, one idea taught in class, the Modern Portfolio Theory, has made a strong impact on my personal investment strategies.

This idea won a Nobel Prize in Economics. It helped me develop an understanding of diversification and the products that enable this in the market such as exchange-traded funds. Exchange-traded funds can track a large basket of stocks or other securities, allowing convenient diversification. They can also be bought and sold on the stock exchange like a stock. As someone who had previously neglected capital markets because it was not well understood, such learnings gave me the confidence to explore further.


When I took a deeper dive, I found that my peers, who have been finance professionals prior to pursuing their MBA, are a great source of information and guidance. Many had been accountants, equity research analysts, or investment bankers who hold a wealth of knowledge on securities. One helpful tip I found was that losses on investments are tax deductible, opening the way to a number of strategies to recuperate losses.

Another learning that I found particularly helpful has been information on the tax-advantaged investment accounts. While income from investments are typically taxable, tax-advantaged accounts like individual retirement accounts allow investors to grow their investments tax-free. These tools provided by the government are must-haves when it comes to building a healthy nest egg.

When it comes to purchasing stocks, core courses like accounting help students develop a thorough understanding of financial statements to better assess companies of interest. On the other hand, classes on macroeconomics have been helpful in understanding the impact of inflation and interest rates on the market. With a greater grasp on these topics, I left the classroom feeling satisfied in my performance in the market, confident in my personal finances, and better prepared in investing for the future.

Dr. Carol Wong


Beyond personal finances, for those interested in pursuing a career in finance, there are a multitude of electives to support this endeavour, no matter the background. To name a few, Rotman offers finance courses such as Value Investing, Securities Analysis and Portfolio Management, The Management of Private Wealth, and Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance. Outside of the classroom, there are Marquee Workshops, which are non-credit sessions that teach practical skills such as building financial models.

Transitions from a non-traditional background to finance are well supported by the business school environment. PharmD/MBA’21 graduate, Dr. Carol Wong, developed an interest in capital markets while completing her studies at Rotman. She credits her finance and strategy professors for helping her develop an appreciation for the intersection between business and science, and the fundamentals of investing. In particular, she praises the late Professor William Mitchell, who inspired her to pursue a triple jump from clinical pharmacy in Canada to Wall Street.

Today, Carol is an Equity Research Associate at Wells Fargo Securities, where she focuses on equities in the healthcare space. Having entered Rotman with a pure science background, she encourages students to venture out of their comfort zones when exploring post-MBA careers.

Dr. Peter Zhang, PharmD is a Hospital Pharmacist and an MBA candidate at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Through the unique combined Doctor of Pharmacy/MBA degree program, he has explored the intersection between life sciences and commercial strategy. Additionally, he has published research works in peer-reviewed academic journals and opinions in national media outlets in Canada.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.