Oricia Smith joined Sun Life Global Investments as Interim President and Senior Vice President, Investment Solutions, Sun Life Canada, on October 28, 2020. She is proud to be the first female president of Sun Life Global Investments.
Oricia joined Sun Life in 2016 as Vice President of the International Investment Centre. Over the last four years, her role expanded to include product development and analytics at SLC Management. Prior to joining Sun Life, Oricia spent over 17 years at Invesco and started her career in the investment banking division at TD.
We caught up with Oricia to discuss the opportunities ahead and her passion for all things diversity and inclusion.
How did you come to work in the investment industry? What do you love about it?
I completed the Canadian Securities Course in university because my brother did it -and if he could do it then so could I! One summer, I had a job in Calgary at the stock exchange. At the time, I was thinking about consulting but my summer experience led me to investment banking. I love how dynamic the industry is and solving for all the challenges. The investment industry has its own language but fundamentally is about people - societal, challenges that Canadians face and building long-term wealth. It is also about capital. I believe that as owners of capital we can effect positive changes in society and for the environment by where we choose to invest our capital.
The investment industry combines both the technical and creative sides of the brain. Most of all, I love being a part of helping Canadians achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives.
Coffee or tea?
What did you want to be as a kid?
My dad was an electrical engineer at IBM and led global projects, so I always saw myself in business. My dad taught my brother and me to be curious. He showed us that every problem is an opportunity to learn something new. As a kid, I soldered, welded and took apart appliances. I became comfortable jumping into situations where I knew nothing and just asked a lot of questions to learn.
What sparked your passion for diversity and inclusion?
Part of it comes from being in an industry that is more traditionally male dominated. I saw the value I could bring in building relationships and the power in asking the right questions. I wanted women not to let the industry intimidate them. I wanted women in the wealth management industry to know that you can do this. We need you in this industry - we can make a difference in society.
What opportunity do we have at Sun Life Global Investments to better connect with and empower women as investors?
I’m proud to be part of such a strong and diverse team at Sun Life Global Investments. We have many women leaders on our portfolio management team and out in the field as Wealth Sales Directors.
Our solutions are also part of it. We offer a more holistic platform that includes mutual funds, segregated funds, payout annuities and guaranteed interest products. Our breadth allows us to offer a broad suite of products to investors that could solve for different challenges. We also have an opportunity around long-term sustainability and we are telling that story to investors.
What are your passions outside of work?
Being a mom is a big part of who I am. Family is important. I was a synchronized swimmer way back and I was pulled back into the sport with my two daughters swimming at the national level. I was on the board and president of the synchronized swimming club. We love skiing as a family and my son did competitive racing. We enjoy getting outside and active on our weekends – hiking, biking, paddle boarding.
I also believe that our individual actions, no matter how small, do make a difference. I was one of seven women who started the 100 Women Who Care Toronto West Region organization. We host meetings and raise money for local charities. It’s a rewarding way to give back to the community.
What are you watching or reading right now?
This last weekend I watched White Tiger. I read the book as part of my book club in 2009 after it won the Man Booker Prize and have been to Mumbai so I was interested in seeing the film!
When I need to unwind, I’ve been watching The World's Most Extraordinary Homes. I love the combination of people, culture, engineering and art.
Having kids of your own and working from home over the past year, what challenges and benefits have you uncovered?
You can share in more experiences with your kids throughout the day that you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do if you were in the office or travelling. It’s positive. Your kids get to see you working and ask questions. Mine see me drawing out concepts and ideas on whiteboards that I have all over my room. It’s opened up a new level of engagement. They are curious and seeing a work ethic they wouldn’t otherwise see.
What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Have confidence in yourself. You don’t need to know all the answers. What you need is to be able to ask the right questions. There is value in asking questions and getting to the root cause of the issue, even if not as a technical expert. The industry has its own language. Don’t let the language and terms used scare you. The simplest questions sometimes lead to the best discussions and insights.
I’d also tell a younger version of myself to take more risks earlier in your career. Put your hand up to get involved in projects outside of your current role. Make sure you try different things to get different experiences.
Relationships have value. I have gotten to where I am because of the relationships I have. I love connecting with people. When doing so, I need to remind myself to get out from behind my desk and connect, be genuine and help people out. Building a network will benefit you personally and in your career.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. How have you challenged the status quo over your career?
In the Sun Life’s International Investment Centre, back in 2018, we were the first manager research team in Canada to include diversity and inclusion reporting requirements in questionnaires sent to third party managers. There are still far too few female portfolio managers in the industry and in asking managers to report on diversity and inclusion, it made a statement that it matters to us.
Sun Life and Sun Life Global Investments have the ability to affect society not only by helping people save for their retirement and manage wealth creation but also by having a positive impact on sustainability and diversity.
This commentary contains information in summary form for your convenience, published by SLGI Asset Management Inc. Although this commentary has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable, SLGI Asset Management Inc. cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness and is intended to provide you with general information and should not be construed as providing specific individual financial, investment, tax, or legal advice. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions of SLGI Asset Management Inc. Please note, any future or forward looking statements contained in this document are speculative in nature and cannot be relied upon. There is no guarantee that these events will occur or in the manner speculated. Please speak with your professional advisors before acting on any information contained in this document.