Carol Lee is a Director with BMO Capital Markets in their Investment & Corporate Banking group. She recently returned to investment banking, following a sabbatical, through Women in Capital Markets’ Return to Bay Street program. Now in its seventh consecutive year, Return to Bay Street so far has helped 42 senior professional women return to the capital markets industry after an extended absence, contributing to increasing the proportion of women in leadership roles in the financial sector by giving qualified women the opportunity to resume their careers at similar levels as they left, and to serve as role models for others. Prior to her career break, Carol advised corporations, hedge funds and institutional investors on transactions over a 14 year investment banking career in Toronto, London and New York.
My first job ever was… Working as a cashier at my parent’s convenience store, yes the corner Korean convenience store, at the age of 10. I still remember making change for customers standing on a milk crate.
I chose my career path because… I studied leveraged buyouts (Robert Campeau’s buyout of Federated Department Stores to be exact) for a grade 10 Economics class project and thought there was nothing more exciting than putting a deal together.
My proudest accomplishment is… Asking for new professional opportunities and taking risks. They often involved moves to different countries (New York and London), new business lines and products.
My boldest move to date was… Getting off the career track to take a sabbatical.
I surprise people when I tell them… That I love surfing and have surfed breaks in Bali, Costa Rica, Tofino and New Zealand.
My best advice to people starting their career is… Network and keep networking. You never know when and where you will come across your next mentor, best friend or opportunity.
My best advice from a mentor was… Always pack a pair of running shoes. Running is the best way to see a new city and work off the jetlag on business trips. They also come in handy when you need to race through an airport to make your flight.
“Network and keep networking. You never know when and where you will come across your next mentor, best friend or opportunity.”
I would tell my 20-year old self… To be kinder to myself and remember to enjoy the journey.
My biggest setback was… Overcoming misconceptions about my skills and drive after taking a career break. (Two things I never imagined would be challenged after a 14 year+ global banking career.)
I overcame it by… Working harder to unearth opportunities to demonstrate my skills, networking and learning to ask for help. (I am still working on this.)
Work/life balance is… Elusive. I don’t know anyone, male or female, that has it without a lot of outsourcing!
Being a woman on Bay Street is… Improving. There are more of us in the business today than when I started my career but we still have a ways to go, especially in the leadership ranks.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I changed my name to Carol when my family immigrated to Canada. My sisters and I were named after my aunt’s nursing colleagues. She thought it would make for a better transition to life in Canada than having people struggle with pronouncing our Korean names.
I stay inspired by… Trying new things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It makes me appreciate those that are naturally gifted or excel through discipline and tenacity.
The future excites me because… After so many years away, I love being back in Toronto. Sometimes you need to leave to remember how great this city is.
My next step is… Still a work in process. Stay tuned!