Love of music, math leads to banking career


Music and math have long been considered joined at the hip or, more accurately, at the brain.

Research suggests students who do well in music also excel in math. One theory is that music strengthens the neural chords that transmit information between the brain’s two hemispheres.

Joshua Singh may well be a living example. An inspired drummer in high school, he also had a knack for numbers and always did well in mathematics.

His head for figures eventually compelled him to study electronics engineering — good math skills are a prerequisite for engineering — but something happened during his first year at college.

“I love to do math, but I also love to interact with people,” Singh says.

“The problem with engineering is that it can be a lonely, impersonal profession.”

Three-year co-op program

His chosen career chafed at him so badly, he pulled out his Centennial College calendar again and started looking at other options. He liked what he read about the college’s three-year Financial Services Co-op program.

It prepares students for a career in financial services by emphasizing general business knowledge, selling, technical and analytical skills, and high-level communications in an inconstant and stimulating industry.

Singh transferred to Centennial’s School of Business and never looked back. “The program offered me a chance to work with people, as well as work with numbers. Banking is a very human endeavour,” he notes.

Singh found the college courses in organizational behaviour, computers and marketing to be relevant and timely, with lessons in PowerPoint presentation skills, for example, being extremely practical.

The co-op component allows students to spend four months at a time with an employer in the industry — invaluable opportunities to gain real work experiences that punctuate a resume.

Singh spent one work term making mutual fund entries at Franklin Templeton Investments, and another term working as a customer service representative for the Bank of Montreal at First Canadian Place.

He characterizes the co-op assignments as very beneficial and well paying, too. Most importantly, they were experiences that made his future employer sit up and take notice.

“Banks want to know: Can you relate to other people? Your co-op experience can prove that you can,” Singh says.

Singh graduated from Centennial in June 2003 and started his job at Scotiabank barely six weeks later. As a personal banking officer, he shows a lot of empathy for his clients because, as he says, “we all need help once in a while.”

“I like looking after people’s personal investments. You can help to make them better off financially,” Singh says. “I enjoy helping people get out of their rental apartment and buying their first home. It’s a great sense of accomplishment.”

Interesting parallels

As for his love of music — he owns a drum machine and samplers — Singh says there are some interesting parallels with his job.

“Making music and making a sound financial deal are very similar. You’re sampling different elements and putting them together to provide a unique product. There’s room for creativity in a financial deal.”

Singh has some advice for other young people struggling to find the right career path — just as he once did.

“I read biographies of successful people who have been around a long time. What I’ve learned is that you have to be the driver of your career — nobody else is going to do it for you.”


Fast Facts

Centennial College’s three-year Financial Services program includes the Canadian Securities Course and Professional Financial Planning Course, among others, which qualify students to write the professional accreditation exams.
Qualified graduates may be eligible to participate in an articulated university program, such as those offered by Ryerson University, Royal Roads University, Northwood University (Michigan) and others.
Financial Services graduates typically work for Canadian chartered banks, financial planning organizations, investment funds, discount brokers and life insurance companies.
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