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Q&A with Paul Heakes, MFin ‘21

Paul Heakes, MFin '21

  • Job title: Manager, Willis Towers Watson: Insurance, Consulting, and Technology
  • Previous education: B Sc. Eng, Queen’s University
  • Other designations: FSA, FCIA

What is your current job and what role does it play within the finance industry?

I am an accredited actuary working for Willis Towers Watson, a large global consulting firm.  I work within the Insurance, Consulting, and Technology group, which focuses primarily on advisory and technology solutions within the life insurance industry. Actuaries play an important role in the finance industry through the quantification and mitigation of not only non-financial risks but also financial risks. In addition, we often have significant involvement with M&A activity within the insurance industry.

Why did you decide to study the MFin program?

Actuaries are well-known for their ability to quantify and manage the liability side of the balance sheet; however, we are also required to quantify and understand the financial condition of a company or pension plan. As a result, actuaries also require a deep understanding of the asset side of the balance sheet.

While we do receive training through actuarial exams and as working professionals, I felt it was advantageous to pursue the Master of Finance at Rotman in order to enhance my credibility within our industry and create new opportunities in non-traditional areas which I am interested in.

What is your top reason for choosing Rotman?

In addition to the convenience of Rotman’s proximity to downtown Toronto, I concluded that Rotman offered a superior program in terms of the quality of its faculty, its cutting-edge curriculum, its unparalleled resources, and a strong connection to the finance industry.

Any goals coming into the program that have already accomplished? Have you been able to hone in on new skills and apply them to your workplace?

My main objective was to learn as much as possible through leveraging not only the curriculum but the diversity of both my instructors and fellow classmates.

I have found that the Rotman environment has allowed me to open my mind and apply new perspectives to my everyday work.  

Specifically, courses focused on accounting, financial statement analysis, and fixed-income markets have provided me with additional knowledge and skills which have improved my depth of analysis and understanding.  I am certain that our future classes will provide similar positive results.

How are you finding Rotman’s community? 

Rotman offers considerable opportunities for networking, additional learning, and career services beyond the core MFin program.  One service I have taken advantage of is the Self-Destruction Lab, in which presentation skills are reviewed using sophisticated analytics.  Results are delivered by faculty who focus on this service in order to improve the quality of delivery and I have found it very enlightening and helpful.  While it is difficult to full advantage of the various opportunities given existing responsibilities related work, family life, and the MFin, I am looking forward to placing emphasis on some of these opportunities during the 20-21 academic year.

What has been a highlight of your current Rotman experience?

It is difficult to choose a specific highlight as there are many, but I would say the overall sense of purpose, and intellectual and personal growth has been my most notable highlight thus far.

Has the Rotman and the MFin program met your expectations?

Given that it had been some time since I had last engaged in formal education, I was not entirely sure what to expect.  Returning to school and balancing it with work and other responsibilities was somewhat daunting.  While there have certainly been personal sacrifices over the past several months, I have felt highly engaged in the MFin program.

I have met several amazing and inspirational people, grown personally and intellectually, and feel fortunate to be apart of such a positive learning environment.

How has your experience so far been going online due to COVID-19?

While recent developments related to COVID-19 are unfortunate and unprecedented in terms of their impact on the MFin program, I have been greatly appreciative of the efforts and professionalism demonstrated by Rotman and its instructors and program coordinators in order to ensure the quality of online course delivery. It will invariability require an adjustment from all parties, but I am certain the remainder of the academic year will be delivered and received successfully.

Future plans? 

It is unclear whether I will continue on a more traditional actuarial career path, or transition into non-traditional opportunities.  Nonetheless, I am confident that the MFin program is providing me the necessary credentials, tools, and connections necessary to succeed regardless of the direction I choose.

What would you say to someone considering choosing the MFin?

Individual circumstances vary and each person needs to determine what works best for them in terms of their career aspirations.

The MFin program is extremely valuable for those looking for a more in-depth professional and technical credential focused on the finance industry.

In addition, both based on reputation, curriculum, and faculty, it is unparalleled in terms of the quality of education that it offers.


This post was written while Paul was a student in the program.

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