Katherine Brewster (BComm’05) began her career in New York City right at the end of her Dal Commerce studies. Her first job was with Pharo Management, an emerging markets hedge fund. Katherine worked in their back office in operations, which was a fast and furious introduction to the world of alternative investments. In 2007, she moved to a broker dealer called Blue Sand Securities, which raises capital exclusively for hedge and other private funds. There she received her FINRA securities 7, 63 and 24 licenses and worked to raise capital for hedge fund clients, with the idea that she would work in lucrative hedge fund sales. But over the next couple of years, Katherine realized that the sales side of things wasn’t really for her. She enjoyed operations and compliance so she asked the partners if they would move her laterally in the company to work alongside Blue Sand’s dedicated chief compliance officer (CCO) and they agreed. She assumed the management of all service providers, IT, cybersecurity and running the New York office.

She’s been with Blue Sand now for almost 15 years and along the way has worked with 100+ hedge funds across the spectrum of strategies. In 2012, one of those client funds – Merion Investment Management – approached Blue Sand and asked if they had anyone to refer as a CCO. Since compliance is an interest and a passion of Katherine’s, she suggested herself for the job, and with the consent of her employer she took on that engagement in January 2013. Since then, Katherine has filled these dual complementary roles and it’s a really good fit for her. She loves compliance, rules, regulations, protecting investors and ensuring that both firms’ policies and procedures are in line with what SEC and FINRA regulators require. She’s happy about where she is in her career and credits a lot of her success to networking, asking for opportunities, taking risks and seeking mentorship.

We asked Katherine to tell us about the fund she recently set up at the Rowe School of Business and what inspired her to do so.

Setting up a fund to support students is something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now and I am finally in a position financially where it makes sense for me. It was important to me because I had such a positive experience at Dalhousie. I grew up in the Maritimes but then moved with my family to Arizona where I attended high school. But I missed Halifax so much that I came back to attend the Bachelor of Commerce program at Dalhousie. It felt very much like coming home – I love Halifax and I love our school. Something I’ve realized along the way, in university and my professional life, is that women and minorities are really underrepresented in finance – I read recently that only 3% of senior leaders in hedge funds are women. I think there is a big opportunity to mentor people at a younger age, help them to get excited about the opportunities in finance, and work toward equalizing the industry. Money-related stress can make it challenging to focus and do well in school. So, my idea was to provide support to a young woman in university who is hard-working and could use support financially and help alleviate some of that stress through a scholarship or bursary. I hope that by reducing some of their student debt, they’ll have an easier time transitioning into the working world when they graduate.

Why is this area of support meaningful to you?

It was important to me that this gift be accessible to women and female-identifying individuals and potentially someone who is also in an underrepresented minority community. Women and minorities are still underrepresented in business and especially finance, which is to everyone’s detriment. I’d really like to see that change in the next generation, so anything I can do to contribute to that change in a positive way, I am happy to do.

If you could share a message with your fellow alumni, what would it be?

Get involved however you can. Mentor, offer your time or expertise, or, if you are able, give financially or create a small scholarship. Think about things that were good experiences for you when you were in university, graduating and trying to get out there and transitioning into becoming a professional. Create those experiences for others. Remember the challenges you faced and consider ways you or your company could reduce them for students and new graduates. Think about barriers to entry that others may face when looking to join your industry and ask yourself how we can work together to remove those barriers. Being available to alumni to provide guidance or feedback on résumés or offering to do practice interviews can have a positive impact. Over the years I’ve had half a dozen graduates reach out to me on LinkedIn or through the network asking for advice or wanting to know how I ended up in alternative investments, and I always make time to talk to them. I hope that as a woman who has joined the C-suite in finance I can inspire and motivate other women to join the investment industry and seek executive and management roles. I think as alumni we have a responsibility not only to represent Dalhousie in a positive light, but also to help ensure that our graduates have a leg up in the world. What I’ve experienced firsthand living in the U.S. for so long is that many people get their first interviews and sometimes jobs based on their university networks, and I’d really like to see that become more the norm for Dalhousie.