Real Work, Real Life

Financial Services, CFA, Investment Associate

December 13, 2023 Emily Sampson Episode 42
Real Work, Real Life
Financial Services, CFA, Investment Associate
Show Notes Transcript

On this week's episode of Real Work, Real Life, I’m talking with Urmi Hossain, an investment associate based in Canada with the goal of becoming a portfolio manager. Urmi is a CFA, or a Chartered Financial Analyst. CFA is a globally recognized professional designation that measures and certifies the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams covering areas, such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis. 

Working in financial services can offer a lot in terms of compensation and benefits and upward potential. We also talk about the challenge of finding that first job out of school and how disheartening it can be struggling to get your foot in the door somewhere, even when you have all of the qualifications on every posting. So if you’re there now, just know you’re not alone. My best advice for that stage of your career is to keep a number of strong applications open at once, don’t stop looking and applying until you’ve actually started a job. Hiring for salaried, professional jobs can take months of stops and starts, so if you have a lot of irons in the fire at once, it’s not so disappointing if one falls through. 

If you enjoyed this episode, you might enjoy my interview with Steph, a Certified Public Accountant:

You can find out more about Urmi here: 

  1. LinkedIn:
  2. Book:
  3. Blog:
  4. YouTube Channel:
  5.  Instagram:

If you like the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify  (linked below) and please share with a friend! You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Tiktok. And if you’d like to be interviewed here, or there is a particular job you’d like to learn about, please reach out at


Transcripts are now available here: 

Urmi Financial Services

[00:00:00] Welcome to real work real life, where I talked to real people about what they do for work and what that means for their lives. Today. I'm talking with Urmi. And investment associate based in Canada with the goal of becoming a portfolio manager. Autonomy is a CFA or a chartered financial analyst. CFA is a globally recognized professional designation that measures and certifies the competent and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams, covering areas such as accounting, economics. Ethics money management and security analysis. Working in financial services can offer a lot in terms of compensation and benefits and upward potential. We also do talk about the challenge of finding that first job out of school and how disheartening it can be struggling to get your foot in the door somewhere. Even when you have all of the qualifications on every posting. 

So if you're there now, just know you're not alone. My best advice for that stage of your career is to keep a number of strong applications open [00:01:00] at once. Don't stop looking and applying until you've actually started a job. Hiring for salaried professional jobs can take months of stops and starts. So if you have a lot of irons in the fire at once, it's not so disappointing. 

If one falls through. If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy my interview with Steph a certified public accountant. Which you can find LinkedIn, the show notes. So let's get into it.

Emily: Thank you so much for being here, Urmi.

Urmi: Hi Emily, how are you? 

Emily: Good, good. So what do you do for work?

Urmi: I work as an investment associate. I work with a portfolio manager.

Emily: That's amazing. So if somebody knew nothing about that work, how would you describe the work that you do, sort of an elevator pitch,

Urmi: If I have to say there's an elevator pitch, I would say, hi, I'm Urmi, I work as an investment associate, come and become a client of us. We will transform your financial goals into a reality by making sure that you start living the life of your dreams.

Emily: quite an elevator pitch, sold. What interested you about it [00:02:00] initially? How did you get into this line of work?

Urmi: Started from when I was in university because I wanted to study finance. I had an end goal in mind, which was to become a portfolio manager. So my reasoning of, of studying a degree in finance is because my destination is to be a portfolio manager. So that's how it it started. And for me to become a portfolio manager, I need to, be an associate and learn about the job before I can take on that role.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. And so that's still your goal is to get to be a portfolio manager.

Urmi: It's one of the options. I mean, I, still like to keep the door open if something else happens, but for now it is this.

Emily: Right. Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about what education you have and what education and certifications might be required to get to be, let's say, to get to be a portfolio manager?

Urmi: I have an education in finance, so I did my bachelor degree in finance and I also did an honors in finance, [00:03:00] which is not required to be a portfolio manager, but it was something that I wanted to pursue. And after completing my degree, I also pursued a certification, which is called the, it's called CFA, which is the charter financial analyst, and you typically need that to work in finance for roles, such as portfolio manager.

the CFA I would say is. Probably one of these certification that you need because you are managing portfolios of clients and you need that knowledge, which the CFA gives you. So that's the certification I have completed.

Emily: Oh, great. So how long does that certification take and if you know, how much does it cost?

Urmi: So, how long it's really very subjective, because basically how these certification works, there are 3 levels and for you to go into the next level, you have to pass through. Prior levels, so there is no really a time frame, like, if you're good and [00:04:00] excellent, you're able to pass everything in 1 shot. Then I think probably because I think now they change a couple of things after the pandemic.

So usually, I think prior to the people would take, I think, 3 or 2 and a half years if they were able to pass everything in 1 shot. But now I think I also don't want to be wrong about this because they change a couple of things in the program. It might take you the same time, but it might take you also a long time because I know people that.

took, like, 10 years to complete the certification and that's because they kept failing 1 of the levels. So it's really about it's there is no time for him. Like, he can take you 20 years. He can take you 10 years. He can take you 2 years. He can take you 3 years. For sure. It's not going to take you a year because every exam is paced out and you need a certain amount of time to prepare for each for each level.

And some levels are offered. Twice a year, some levels are off for like once a year, some are off for like multiple times. [00:05:00] And so it's really more actual pace. And when it comes to the cost again, it's the cost goes per per level. So you have a 1 time fee that you have to pay 1 system into the program and then you have to pay for each exam.

Usually each exam. I think it came about. The 8 to 900 USD, but I also might be wrong because things might have changed because of inflation. Maybe they they have increased the price and so forth. But again, if you don't pass the exam, you have to keep paying for it. So each time that you sign up, you have to pay for it.

So that's how it works. Yeah.

Emily: Wow. And so there's a decent fail rate, it sounds then. Like some professional certifications, it's sort of... Not every single person passes, but there's a significantly high pass rate. And this is maybe one where if there's a good chance you might fail it at least once. Oh

Urmi: because, and that's, that's the thing, like the CAP program is known to be notoriously difficult. And the [00:06:00] passing rate yes, I, it's, it's very low. Like it's, it's very low. We don't even reach 50%, like it's below 50. For some level it's 25. For others is 40, and it also goes by by year. But on average that it has always been around the 40% passing rate.

Emily: my goodness, that's much lower than I thought. Wow. Yeah. So it's intense. 


it's intended to really Make sure people know their stuff before they, before they pass all the way.

Do you know, and, and if you don't know off the top of your head, do you know how much it costs you to get your undergraduate degree?

Urmi: So it depends on Where you're located, and it also depends in which city you are, and it depends also on your status. Like, are you Canadian or are you an international student? Because I did my degree in Canada and I'm based in Quebec and. I didn't keep back if I'm not mistaken, it's[00:07:00] compared to other properties, I think it's cheaper to get a degree and I went to a business school and.

My business school was a bit more expensive compared to the whole university. And so I think per year, I, I think per semester, I paid. I'm trying to remember how much

I paid. Oh my gosh, I think each course was around. 400. And I used to take, I think, four classes. But I would say on average it was 2000 per semester. No,

Emily: First semester, would that include like room and board? Was that like your full cost of going to school 

or was 

Urmi: no, no, no. No, I was just, just going to school.

Emily: Still though, I would, I would say. That's not zero money, but also I'd say very affordable.

Urmi: Yes, definitely. Definitely. Especially if you get government assistance.

Emily: Yeah. So you went kind of straight through to begin working in [00:08:00] finance. Did you kind of consider any other career paths before that or was that really your goal from the beginning and you followed it through? 

Urmi: I was always very, confident about my, my decisions. I, That's what I wanted to do. 

And that's what I would do redo as well. Yeah, I was very, very sure about it because when I was in university, finance was not my major. It was actually my minor. I had another major and then I changed in finance because I felt there was a bit more opportunities in the market.

And I think there was a better future with finance compared to my other, the previous major that I have chosen. And With finance, it was just, it was just love. Honestly, it was, it was really love. So that's why I knew it. I knew that that was what I wanted to do. That's why I would never change my decision.

I would always go back and choose it. And I enjoyed every single moment of it. When I was in university, post university work, the certification that I have done, no matter how difficult things were, it was always a very enjoyable process for me.

Emily: I love that. So can we talk a little bit more about that? Like, you know, you mentioned that you, [00:09:00] that it felt like there was good opportunity in finance, which is a perfectly reasonable way to choose a career, but what else do you really love about it? 

Urmi: I think the fact that it's like always changing and it's very dynamic and I think it meets with my personality like it's a well, it's a good match with my personality, and it's like there's always something new. You learn about different companies, how they make money, you learn about the story behind the stock price, how the stock price is priced and there are always new products coming into the market and others, the holding with alternative investing.

So, there's so much new information around and there's always new information. And also the fact that everything that we do in the world is tied to finance. Like, literally, it's in our everyday life. That's that's what I like about it.

Emily: Oh, I love that. Yeah. That's a really interesting way of thinking about it. Well, you kind of started to go there, [00:10:00] but what type of personality do you think does well in this job or in this field? 

Urmi: it goes by the type of job that you're doing. I can speak a little bit from my, perspective for the role that I'm doing. You definitely need to have good client serving skills and be able to have those communication, active listening skills because the clients come first.

And you have to be able to, you know, advise them have meetings with them, listen to them, sometimes be even their own, like, be their therapist.

Emily: I'm sure.

Urmi: And definitely you have to have that knowledge in finance. And I also think that there are a few skills that you need when it comes to this, like, you have to be proactive.

you need to be detail oriented because you are dealing with numbers, you are placing trade, you are playing with this number. So you have to be careful with whatever you're doing. So you have to pay attention with those things.

And I definitely think that if you, if you're working in a team, you need to be a very good team player [00:11:00] and have communications, like be Open with your communication.

Emily: Oh, absolutely. So what do you make today? And do you have a sense of like what you made when you started out and maybe what a portfolio manager might make just to give kind of a range of what people could expect to make in this field?

Urmi: So I think if you are someone who wants to pursue a career. In finance in general. I think as a, as someone who's like started studying and just finished university, I I think you can start with a base of probably 42 to 45 k Canadian

And, and then of course, like you can get more, you can get less depending on the job.

Again, like it's not that I'm seeing on average this is what you can expect to make definitely as you progress with experience, knowledge, expertise, definitely. Keeps going higher and higher. And I think the portfolio manager at the end of it, I think probably is making. On average, I think 120 K [00:12:00] 

on how far I can go, but I'm pretty sure I can go even further because a lot of the time.

It's also depends on how many clients you have, how much you're charging in fees. So you can make a lot of money by being a portfolio manager.

Emily: Yeah. And I'm sure this is one of those fields that if you're like in New York at one of the huge firms and you're a partner or whatever that leadership structure looks like, probably the sky's the limit, I would imagine at some point, but it's, it's interesting to know that kind of those earlier, earlier levels, what you might be looking for.

 Is there anything you want to kind of share about your, your benefits in your role? Does your company provide additional healthcare, for example, on top of what is you know, taxpayer funded?

Urmi: yeah, so you do receive a lot of perks by working for a company. Definitely. You definitely get the pension benefits. So there are some pension programs where basically, like, you contribute a [00:13:00] certain amount of your salary and the company matches a certain percentage. And again, the percentage, it varies.

It really depends on several factors. That's 1 benefit. Also, the stock option plan where you can purchase the stocks of your company, so you become in a way the an owner of the company makes you a shareholder. So that's another perks as well. That's from the point of view from, like, pension and stuff like that.

You get those kinds of benefits. And it's not just 1, you get multiple type of, pension benefits. in terms of insurance, you do have a lot of courage when it comes to like private health care. So the cover, like, you know, if you're visiting a doctor, if you're visiting a dermatologist, again, it depends on the plan, but usually they tend to cover 100 percent or at least 80%.

So a lot of those things like massage, dental plan, health care plan, those things are very much covered and like. Every year they get resets every year. You get a certain amount of like money [00:14:00] that you can spend on those things. You also get other benefits when it comes to sports. So if you're someone who's practicing a sport, or if you're buying, let's say a sport gadget, that too can be also expensive, and the company covers for it.

Emily: Oh, cool.

what have you found about location? do you feel like you've kind of can find work where you want to live or have you felt like you needed to move? And do you feel that working In an urban center is really helpful or are there plenty of roles a little bit further outside the city?

Urmi: I definitely think there is a little bit of demanding for this. And I think that's role because I think there are a lot of portfolio managers in in the sector, and they always need help. They always need to have someone to support them in the interval that they have, and definitely there is a lot of demand, so like I don't, like I never felt the need to move anywhere.

I never felt that need. There is, [00:15:00] there are a lot of opportunities. And I think anywhere. In the world, I think there is demand for this role because we live in a society where a lot of clients need help with managing their money. And so definitely, like, it's like, I don't think there is a challenge when it comes to that.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's good to know. What are your hours like and do you feel like you have good work life balance?

Urmi: Yeah, I do 8. 30 to 5 o'clock.

Emily: Okay.

Urmi: And basically we have to make sure that we are there from 9. 30 to 4, because it's when the market is open. So that's very important that we are right there physically or anywhere, like, we are able to play straight. So that's very, very important. But he starts at 830 finishes the 5 and I do have a very good work, like, balance, because As a team to depend from other [00:16:00] departments, so. You can stay there until 7 p. m., but if the other department is not there, there is no point for you like, there is no way for you to do overtime. So there is a lot of good work life balance. I never felt the need to do overtime. Maybe if there is something happening next day, maybe in that case, you have to do over time, but definitely there is a good work life balance. Yeah, I

Emily: good to know. can you work remotely at all or do you need to be kind of in an office? 

Urmi: I have to be in an office

Emily: Huh.

Urmi: just because it's the policy,

but I do also work sometimes remotely. So it's not like. I cannot work remotely, but the thing is, I I can only work remotely only within my country.

Emily: Yeah, so, in the United States as well, you can only work in some states it varies by company and it varies by time and all of those things. That was something that was total news to me when I first thought about remote work. You sort of think, oh, if you can work remotely, you can work anywhere, but it's much more complicated than that.[00:17:00] 

Urmi: It's much more complicated and also because there is other regulations behind because we are all very much regulated as people and we have to be registered in the city where our clients reside. 

Emily: Interesting. Wow. Okay. Sure. That makes perfect sense. walk me through your average day? What does it look like?

Urmi: So I start my day around 8. 30, 8. 45, and usually it starts with I need my cup of coffee. That's like my ritual. And usually I basically, like, prepare reports to check the trades from the previous stages to make sure that there is nothing off. And so we double check our buy and sell.

 We also check if anyone has withdrawn contributed money. And then afterwards, it starts from things like, do we have to open accounts? I have to check if I have to open accounts. I have to check if there is anyone asking for early payment from sort of register accounts.

I'm [00:18:00] also checking the social media account of my advisor. If you have to make any create any posts, because there is also that marketing aspect.

We also have to check any maybe portfolio rebalancing that we have to do because we manage portfolios and portfolios need to be balanced. They don't meet a certain criteria for outside of a certain range of money.

Then we also got calls from our clients sometimes during the day who wants to who want to place trades. We also have clients coming in for a meeting. So, even for that, we have to prepare documents and make sure that everything is on file. Then we, so basically we do a kind of meeting documentation. We do a little bit of marketing and then we're just checking like little things to do, like we're checking, like, is there anything that we have to update from of our clients in our file?

Is there any investment that we have to renew? So we call them. So basically those little things, and that's usually, until 5 PM like that.

Emily: Yeah. Just things. [00:19:00] Keeping up with things. Do you work mostly with individuals or do you work with companies?

Urmi: No, it's individuals.

Emily: Do you have like a particular life stage of person you're most often working with or is it all over the board?

Urmi: No, it's usually people who are in the retirement or retiring

Emily: Ah, okay. Yeah. Interesting. So you're kind of helping them prepare for retirement, transition into retirement, and then manage their money while they're retired.

Urmi: exactly like we have people who are pre retirement who are still working, who need help managing their money because they want to like achieve certain financial goals and then we have those are already retired. They need like money to achieve other goals later in their stage.

let's say they want to travel. So we help them to like, achieve those kinds of goals. So usually like. It's like, I would say it goes from 45, 50 to 75 or 80, 85 years old.

Emily: Oh, wow. Interesting. . How would you say the work will [00:20:00] change as you progress in your career?

Like, let's say you do become a portfolio manager. How will your work change between those roles?

Urmi: think I would be more and more client facing. I really do meet with clients, but I'm not the. Person who's in charge of like discussing their financial goals. So now I'm more like the backstage, 

Emily: Yeah,

Urmi: but if I do eventually become a portfolio manager, I'll be the person constantly interacting with their clients.

Like if a client is coming in, it's because they want to have a meeting with me. And so that, that will be, I would say that that will be the big chunk of it. And then of course, you're meeting with your current clients, but you're also going around and finding other clients or other prospects who will become your clients.

So that's, that's how it will shift. It will be more about serving your current clients, but also developing your business. I

Emily: Yeah, of course. That makes so much sense. yoU mentioned quite a few things that you really love about your work. but is there anything that you would add that you really love about it, [00:21:00] especially if it's something that you think people might find surprising?

Urmi: There's so many things I like. That's the thing, like, I can give you a huge list. I do, like the fact that I am working somewhere that I always wanted to work. that's one. I'm doing what I always wanted to do. And I do have a great team around me. So that's very, very important. So I'm very lucky in that sense, because I feel like I am in a stage of my life where I'm doing what I want to do.

I have the right people around me. I have people who support me and I and I like the fact that I'm being able to be myself among these people. And I think that's very important for me. I think probably because I am also at a different. Stage of my life where, you know, I'm no longer in my 20s, so I feel like I have matured to the point that I'm like, I want to stand up for myself and I want to be in a place where I can be myself and share my ideas.

So, like, if people don't like it, then I don't think we sit at the right place. So I'm lucky that I'm able to find that fit. 

Emily: Wow. Yeah. I mean, and [00:22:00] I, I guess I wouldn't say it's surprising, but I think you, someone could hear finance and not necessarily think, I feel like I can be my authentic self. I love my team. I, you know, so that's really great to hear and I'm so glad you found a good fit for you. That's amazing. 

Is there anything that is tough about it that either you didn't expect at all or you just didn't anticipate how kind of annoying or challenging it would be? 

Urmi: No, no, no, no, no, really. 

Emily: That's great.

Urmi: Not, not where I am right now. I think the toughest part for me was to find a job. That's the toughest part. Yeah, that's, I think, a challenge in general. And I think it's a challenge in every, I think, in every sector, but I also felt like. Every time I applied, it was always a big, big rejection.

Like, I would get rejected all the time and it was a lack of skill, probably a lack of experience. It was a lot of things. That was probably the biggest challenge, but I [00:23:00] didn't want to get your foot there. Once you get the experience, I think things are pretty smooth, but I think finding a job is always very, very challenging, in any sector.

But that was a big challenge for me, even after. I started a career in finance and it was in 2021 or 2022 that I was looking for, for a job. And what happened is I kept getting rejected. I think I got rejected for the full, for a full year, even though I had all the necessary experience and skills. And so I was like, I don't know how to sell myself anymore.

That I I just give up. I'm happy. I'm happy. I did not because I landed where I wanted to land, but it takes time.

Emily: yes. Oh, my gosh. I mean, I'm glad you mentioned that because you can sort of see people that are happy working in a job and you never see that part where they're looking for a long time. And when I think to most of the people I know, that's a pretty universal experience, especially if you're looking for sort of a highly qualified, salaried professional job.

It's not always easy. And you can get rejected for a long time, even though you [00:24:00] have Everything that you need. And if you just get unlucky enough to be looking in a not great hiring time, it can just take a long time. And it's made me realize why lots of people will stay in jobs for a long, long time, because it's daunting to think about the application process and the interview process.

And it takes so long and I can understand why it's not very appealing to people.

Urmi: It's daunting. Yeah, 

Emily: so what do you hope to be doing more of or less of in the next five to 10 years? 

Urmi: I think for now, I just have 1 goal, which is to learn as much as possible for my job and maybe hope to become that portfolio manager. I had in mind because I think there is not enough for women. For other managers in finance, and I do want to I had to have that objective that I do want to become 1 to be.

Representation for other women who want to work in finance and eventually become a portfolio manager. So that's my, goal for the for the next few years.[00:25:00] But I'm pretty sure things can change because the world is so dynamic and I'm also very dynamic. I'm always open to new things.

Emily: Ah, I love it. That's a great goal. So this is the last question I have for you, which is what is one piece of advice generally about work that you would give your younger self?

Urmi: I would say to speak up when you don't like something,

Emily: That's great advice.

Urmi: This happened a couple of years ago with with one of the companies I used to work for. And was a point where things were getting a little bit hectic and busy and it was really impacting me. I honestly didn't like how things were. Returning I didn't like the fact that I was in I wasn't really being listened to and it went to the point that I had to take some time off and I wish I didn't.

But I'm glad that in that moment. I did stand up for myself because. I realized that when you work in in some places, I sometimes no 1 actually cares. About you, but you have to care for [00:26:00] yourself and it sucks. Honestly, it sucks. But I think that's how every company works. we're just numbers. We can, that people can read out, get rid of right away.

We're. Replaceable and he sucks. So no matter in what situation you are, you have to, you always have to think of yourself. And if you have to walk away, or you have to quit a place, never feel bad about it because work is just work. It's not your life. You're not supposed to be devoting your life to it.

it's part of your life, but it's not your life. that's what I want to tell. And you always have to like stand up and speak up for yourself in every situation where you feel something is not right towards you.

Emily: 100 percent could not agree more and that is great advice. So where can people find you if they want to know more about what you do?

Urmi: Yes, I have a LinkedIn profile. It's called the Udmi Hossain. I also have a YouTube channel called Udmi Hossain. I have an Instagram account called Udma Mio and and I have my blog called myways. ca.

Emily: I love it. I will link all those in the show notes so that people [00:27:00] can find you and just thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed this discussion.

Urmi: Thank you.

 Thanks for joining me. If you liked the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify. And please share with a friend. You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or ticktock. And if you'd like to be interviewed here or there's a particular job you'd like to learn about, please reach