BSc, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, SFU 1987
Certified Financial Planner, Financial Management Advisor, Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute
Co-founder, Sophia Financial Group
Kamal Basra is a co-founder of Sophia Financial Group, a company that provides long term financial planning and investment management solutions for clients. With 19 years in the investment industry and her long list of credentials, it’s interesting to note that Kamal’s career began in a molecular biology laboratory sequencing DNA, doing scientific research and analyzing data. She graduated from SFU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology in 1987. She spent the next few years applying her knowledge and doing research in the field of heart disease.
Kamal was the first person in her family to ever attend and graduate from University. Her family immigrated to Canada when she was three years old. They were sponsored by her grandfather who had arrived alone in the 1940’s. He worked in the lumber camps on Vancouver Island for many years travelling back and forth to his family living in a small farming village in India. Although her mother only had a grade three education and had to work multiple jobs to raise her three children as a single parent, she believed in the value of education. She always told them that no one can ever take away your education.
Kamal has personally seen the transformation that education can make in people’s lives and supports and helps individuals, locally and abroad, to overcome obstacles so they can become the leaders of tomorrow. She has established bursaries at SFU to assist Aboriginal students in the Faculty of Science and at the YWCA to help young mothers continue their studies. She travelled to Uganda in 2015 to learn about the management of 9 Canadian charitable projects ranging from health care clinics, to microloans projects helping women in small villages, to educational programs for children living in poverty. She continues to support several of those projects.
After having children, and juggling home and work life, Kamal became a manager for the Canada Revenue Agency where she was able to combine her analytical skills with direct human interaction before entering the investment world. By combining her strong analytical skills with her passion for helping people, the path for her second career became clear.
Kamal took many courses to earn her credentials and learn everything she could about the investment industry. This brought her back to SFU in the evenings for hours of study preparing for industry exams. She began to understand that money is truly the currency of change. Not only can people’s lives be changed by money but so too can communities. One of Kamal’s strengths is her ability to analyze, evaluate and translate complex financial data and concepts into a language that people find easy to understand. Also inherent within this process is a deep-rooted compassion to help each individual improve their life. Kamal believes that when foundations are strong, individuals are able to share their true gifts with the world.
Kamal is a mentor and active in many organizations including the YWCA. She serves on the Board of the Interspiritual Centre Society of Vancouver. She previously served on the City of Vancouver Women’s Advisory Committee, the Board of Women In Leadership Foundation, and Canoe Kayak BC. In her free time, she plays women’s league soccer and enjoys travelling the world on trekking adventures.
Why did you choose to go to SFU?
When I was about 10 years old, my aunt married a man from India who was the first person I knew who had attended university. He continued his studies at SFU and brought me up to the campus oneday. I had never been to a university and was awestruck by the beauty of this amazing place on top of a mountain. At that moment, my mind was set and this became my goal.
Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?
Countless hours stretching into the wee hours of the morning were spent in the study areas along the main floor of the AQ, in the science floor of the library and in room AQ5017, which has an amazing view.
What is your favorite memory from your time at SFU?
My favorite memory was sitting on the steps by the pond in the summer, studying outdoors.
Who was your favorite SFU professor and why?
Dr David Baillie. He had a very youthful personality and his passion for genetics was contagious. I had the opportunity to work in his lab to get experience in DNA sequencing and analysis.
How has your SFU degree impacted your career?
It has provided me with a solid understanding of scientific principles which gives me a framework to understand technological advances. It also taught me the importance of data analysis in decision making.
What is your favorite SFU snow story?
Feeling grateful driving down the hill in my little 1974 Fiat while seeing all the other cars that had slid off the road.
If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?
Learn, and continue to learn throughout your life! Our world is changing at a very rapid pace and we need people who can make sense of that change and share it with others.
What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?
The Academic Quadrangle and the pond and grassy areas - that is what makes SFU one of the most beautiful places to study.