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Alumni Spotlight: Parisa Naghibi (MBA'12)

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Over the last two months, we had the opportunity to sit down with various QUAAF alumni from the graduating classes of 2012 to 2019 to learn about their experiences and hear about their journey to where they are today. This initiative has produced incredible insight into how various members of the team learned essential new skills, gained invaluable exposure, and personal advice on how to make the most of our short time at Smith. We are proud to be sharing the years of wisdom and experience of our alumni.

This week on #SpotlightSaturday, we focus on Parisa Naghibi who found success at HSBC after completing her MBA, and worked both in debt and equity worlds. Read more about how QUAAF helped her career and what books she recommends to unwind!


Could you give us a quick summary of who you are, your background prior to your MBA and your current role at HSBC?

I did my undergrad in theoretical economics before moving to Canada in 2007. I was working in sales and retail banking before pursuing MBA in finance in 2011 - graduating class of 2012. Shortly after, I started working for an American investment bank in equity research covering Canadian consumer products which, because of the (low) volume of the public companies in Canada in that sector, represented a wide range of sub-sectors: Grocers, QSRs, Entertainment, Discount Retailers, Pharmacies, Loyalty, Packaging, etc.

I started working for HSBC in late 2013 – making quite the transition from the equity side of the market to debt. I worked in loan syndication for just over five years moving up the ranks to a Director role by early 2018. A little over a year ago, I was approached for a role in strategy and planning for Commercial Banking and after working in that area for a year, I was promoted to Head of Strategy & Planning for commercial banking in late 2019.

There's this divide between the debt and equity worlds where one doesn't understand the other and vice versa on Bay street. Could you tell us about that transition?

People used to think (and they still might) that equity capital markets is the "cool” side of the street. When I was job hunting after my equity research role, I was mostly looking at hedge funds or buy-side firms. The opportunity at HSBC came by very unexpectedly and I decided I would explore with an initial conversation with the head of the team at the time. I became more curious and interested in the role so decided to give it a try. It also felt more meaningful to provide lending opportunities to customers – enabling their growth and business strategy. Whereas, at the time I felt equity research was becoming more commoditized and populated with buy side firms building in house capabilities diluting the impact/ value of sell-side research.

Suffice to say, it was a significant transition in the lens from which we evaluate companies and I am very lucky to have experienced both.

A lot of people coming out of school, have this notion of getting great experience at their first job and then start looking for exit opportunities as early as six months into that job. You on the other hand, you stuck with the same company for six years. So from my perspective, that's really rare and impressive. What made you stick around at HSBC?

I really liked the culture and the team that I was working in. It was also exciting to, over time, build better analytical skills (proposing marketable terms and conditions to customers) and sales capabilities (facilitating partial sale of loans to prospective lenders).

I found it very interesting and did not necessarily see myself moving from loan syndication. But when the new opportunity presented itself, I thought I might regret not taking a chance and went for it. It boils down to the team, the culture and the progression I have made in my career with the added responsibility and new experiences. If you examine my work history before HSBC, there was quite a bit of movement.

Do you have any advice for current Smith Masters’ students on how to make the most of their one year?

Be curious and communicate that curiosity. You can tell whether someone's interested or if they want you to figure things out for them. And I come across this quite often when alumni or others reach out to me for opportunities.

 I was able to communicate my interest, and did my homework. My path to get to my first role out of MBA was very competitive and difficult but I was able to communicate my enthusiasm and interest and the willingness to do the hard work.

I think it's a great opportunity to speak to as many people in finance as much as possible (only after having done your home work and research), and to avoid having a narrow focus. As I've progressed in my role, I see there's so many different things you can do, so don't limit yourself to one area. Ask questions. Figure what matters the most to YOU in the long run. It's different for everyone and just because the headline sounds good doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you.

Ask questions. Figure what matters the most to YOU in the long run. It's different for everyone and just because the headline sounds good doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you.

So what's one book, movie or a TV show or activity you always find yourself going back to when you want to unwind?

I do yoga three, four times a week. For books - I add new ones to my list all the time, but two that I read in 2019 and I'm definitely going back to would be Man's Search for Meaning and The Road Less Traveled. They're not necessarily business related but there's a lot to learn from those books that I definitely want to go back to and be reminded of.

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