With both a B.Com specialized in Accounting and a Master of Finance degree from Rotman School of Management, Jonathan Zhao is a consulting professional with a unique career trajectory.
He is currently a certified CPA working with the Operational Risk and Transformation team at Deloitte as a Senior Consultant helping major financial institutions to transform the way they leverage their assets, people, and technology. On a day-to-day basis, Jonathan is often using skills gained in both the B.Com and MFin programs such as Process Optimization, Organizational Design, Financial Modeling, and Accounting.
This interview details his career journey in becoming a Senior Consultant at Deloitte, merging two of his specialties into one role.
What is your current role and where do you work?
Currently, I work as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte where I help clients assess their non-financial risk management infrastructure to identify and prioritize enhancement opportunities to leverage our client’s people, process, and technologies. I help to develop comprehensive non-financial risk management governance systems and measurement mechanisms including operating model, structure, role & responsibilities, and processes.
A key part of my role is to work with the client’s business and functional stakeholders to effectively identify, prioritize, and mitigate risks by defining mitigation plans that improve the client’s ability to enforce alignment to their business and technology strategy priorities.
I want to keep expanding my skillsets and interests into multiple fields or areas, rather than being strong in just one
What made you choose to pursue an MFin degree and hold both an accounting and finance background?
Given that the majority of my clients at Deloitte are financial institutions, the MFin provided me with a solid understanding of finance, derivatives, asset pricing, credit, market, operational, and enterprise-wide strategic risk management.
"Coming from a B.Com in accounting, choosing to pursue an MFin degree helped me in expanding my profile and understand all the key components required to advise my clients."
MFin also provided me with access to top-class professors and experts from various backgrounds, as well as an opportunity to work alongside peers who share the same interests and aspirations as me.
How has the MFin program at Rotman helped you in your career? Do any concepts cross over?
Within my role, I've been able to drive more insights and provide well-rounded solutions to my clients with the incredible and rich knowledge I gained in classes.
In particular, the Machine Learning class offered by Professor John Hull provided me with a solid understanding of the concepts behind various emerging technologies and helped me gain a profound understanding of how these technologies can help financial institutions advance and excel in the current competitive market.
The MFin program equips me with the knowledge required to better serve my banking client
What are some lessons/takeaways that you’ve gained at Rotman thus far?
Resilience and flexibility are some of the key lessons to be gained in this time. I observed the efforts made by the Rotman program team to deliver the best experience to the student community during COVID-19. The accommodations made towards the students at Rotman are left unnoticed and have allowed us to feel taken care of.
"I learned to embrace the fact that changes are opportunities to improve oneself or try new things. I’ve also learned to always stay positive about the situation, capabilities, and ability to adapt to change."
How has COVID-19 impacted your work and studies, and how do you see some of the changes altering how your work long-term?
The biggest impact felt by COVID is the lost opportunity to interact with others in person, both at work and during my studies. I find that companies are adopting digital technologies at a surprisingly fast pace due to COVID-19, and there has been an elevated recognition of technology’s strategic importance. I can’t emphasize the importance of working with technologies to better embrace the digital era.
What are your plans for the future? How does doing both routes align with your career?
After completing my MFin degree, I am looking forward to building up my knowledge base and creating new initiatives for the firm, and become a trusted advisor for banking clients covering multiple business units.
With my current experience and accounting background, I have an in-depth understanding of the overall business process and how everything works operationally, as well as how technology would affect a business model. In addition, my MFin degree has equipped me with a solid understanding of the banking business from a financial perspective.
The combination of both helps me bring in a unique value to the team as well as the industry, and I am looking forward to elevating my career to a higher level
Do you have any advice for individuals in accounting wanting to pursue an MFin?
I would recommend the MFin program to accounting practitioners who would like to expand their profile and knowledge on how numbers can drive business decisions. I have two pieces of advice, the first is to network. I was able to make many meaningful relationships along the MFin journey due to networking and learning about other students' journeys.
The second is to always stay curious. Rather than staying in one specialist, we are in a world which requires adaptability and holding multiple roles at the same time. Being one of the multipotentialities and holding many skillsets can always help you elevate in your career!