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Economics Alumni Feature: Thomas de Mello (BA, 2009)
Thomas de Mello graduated from SFU in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in economics. During his time at SFU, he participated in the Co-op program and completed two terms with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Shortly after graduating, he joined PSPC full-time and worked with the organization for another seven years.
In 2016, he made a career change and joined RBC Dominion Securities as an Investment Advisor. Thomas' team specializes in financial planning and investment management for high-net-worth families, individuals and business owners. He is licensed in both securities and life insurance, and now manages a collective portfolio of close to $100M for his clients.
Originally from Halifax, Thomas now lives on the North Shore with his wife, two sons, and his beloved dog–a 10-year-old Shiba Inu. With a diverse family background, Thomas and his wife have strong international connections and frequently visit the Philippines, India and other parts of Asia.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Every advisor runs their practice slightly differently, but my typical workday runs from around 6:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. The first part of the day (6:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.) is generally dedicated to client service, portfolio management, and administrative tasks. After the market closes at 1:00pm, the afternoons are generally blocked for client meetings and business development activities (proposals, presentations, phone calls etc.). With that said, every day can be different and there is a lot of variety to the job – it's a mix of analytical tasks that involve a lot of critical thinking, client service and relationship building, as well as sales and marketing.
How did SFU Economics influence you and/or your career?
SFU Economics had a very strong influence on my career. It provided me with a solid academic foundation and all the tools necessary to work in a variety of roles. It opened the door for me to get my first job with the federal government and then enabled me to make a mid-career change into a completely different industry that was more related to my actual degree. I refer back to topics I learned during my years at SFU on a daily basis now, and that foundational knowledge allows me to continue to build on my education in more specific, industry-related topics.
Looking back at your university experience, what is one piece of advice you would give to current students?
I really value my experience in the Co-op program. Even though my first job was not directly related to my degree or current role, it was still a tremendous experience and helped get my foot in the door for my first real professional employment (which can often be one of the most challenging stages for new grads).
I think it's really important for students to gain as much real-life work experience as possible, as you learn so many different skills from these roles that you can apply to a variety of areas. Even if it's not a co-op job or professional business setting, all of that experience will help you along your journey. I still truly feel that my time working as a waiter and ice-skating instructor helped prepare me for my role today through improved communication, organization skills and time management. I strongly recommend the Co-op program if possible, but any work experience will help you in your future career path.
What hard/soft skills or credentials does one need to succeed in your industry/profession?
To succeed in this role, you really need to have a strong combination of hard and soft skills. You need to understand the foundations of finance and economics, and then refine your knowledge further to more specific areas during your career. You also need to have strong interpersonal and client-service skills – this role is built on a foundation of trust and you need to be able to convey your service offering to clients in a way that they can understand and appreciate.