Meet the Newport team
An occasional blog series that introduces you to our Newport Private Wealth team members
In this new blog series, we take you behind the scenes to meet some of the Newport Private Wealth team who do an extraordinary job in making things run smoothly. First up: Michelle Ali, Operations Accountant, who joined Newport in 2015 and is responsible for the relationship between Newport and our fund administrator, financial statements, distributions and tax calculations.
We caught up with Michelle to chat about her financial services journey, the pivotal role she plays behind the scenes at Newport, and her commitment to the company’s Inclusion Action Committee.
What led you to a career in financial services?
I’ve always had a propensity for numbers. The rules of math appeal to me: I can make sense of any problem by putting it on a spreadsheet. Somehow, I always knew that I would end up in financial services. After attending the Schulich School of Business at York University, I worked for a financial data supplier. It was my first foray into the financial industry, learning about securities and bond pricing from the ground up. From there I went to Citigroup, where, by coincidence, I worked on the Newport suite of funds as the Fund Accountant and later Supervisor.
When Citi Fund Services exited Canada in 2015, Newport offered me an oversight role managing the relationship and transition between the previous and current fund administrators. I felt a personal responsibility to Newport and already knew the funds so well that it was a seamless transition. I was thrilled to be able to continue what I had started. I also helped to forge a relationship between my first employer out of university and our new fund administrator for bond pricing within our funds. I’ve come full circle – everything I’ve done has led me here.
You worked with Newport from a distance for many years – what did you discover when you joined the firm that you hadn’t known before?
I had always seen the back end of things but to see how it worked with the Portfolio Managers and the Portfolio Administrators was so helpful. Plus, I was fascinated by our investment process, and the diverse asset classes we have. It gave me the full picture of how we manage our client portfolios so successfully.
It was also an exciting time to join as the company was transforming and embracing digital technology. We were launching a new website and I could see from the inside how our sales and marketing efforts were benefiting clients and the brand.
Most of all, I really enjoy the people I work with. The leadership team is so approachable; always willing to chat and help where they can. When you’re in a smaller company there aren’t the same silos as in a larger firm; our collaborative style really helps us to achieve our goals and objectives.
When we shifted to “work from home” last March, you had to mobilize and not miss a beat, at what is the busiest time of year for you. How did you manage?
It’s true that March is generally an incredibly busy time for us. Along with the fund oversight reviews that I do day to day, and the additional oversight and reporting requirements associated with the 70+ private investments held in our funds, I’m also reviewing taxable income calculations that feed into client tax slips and helping to prepare the annual financial statements. I planned ahead and I stayed connected with my team members to ensure that all tasks were covered, and nothing would slip through the cracks.
I’ve always been driven to do the best I can, doing everything possible to avoid errors and ensuring the same high standards were, and continue to be met. And while the new norm was challenging at first, I have to say I don’t miss the office commute!
You’re on the company’s Inclusion Action Committee. Can you share why you wanted to get involved and what the committee does?
When Newport formed the Inclusion Action Committee last year, it was a way for us to think about how we can increase our awareness of societal issues we may not have thought deeply about before. I was really interested in how I could personally contribute to being an agent of change for the company and in society.
One of our mandates is to establish ways to promote inclusivity and respect. I was involved in identifying a training program that’s helping us create a common baseline of understanding, and we’re rolling that out now. We’re also looking at grassroots organizations we can partner with to contribute time, skills and mentoring opportunities. It’s rewarding and exciting to be part of this initiative.
What about outside of work? What are you looking forward to getting back to doing once the pandemic is behind us?
Pre-pandemic, I was more active, so the first thing I’ll do is hit the gym for spinning and muscle pump classes. I also look forward to travelling to a sunny destination. What I really miss are the little things like going to restaurants and to the cinema and hanging out with friends and family. Thank goodness I have my little pup to take on walks through the neighborhood. He’s a five-year-old Maltese-Shih Tzu mix; a small dog with a big personality!
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