Paying it forward
Since graduating from the UBC Sauder School of Business more than 25 years ago, Ali Pejman, FCA, has remained a tireless supporter and champion for the next generation of graduates. For his efforts, Pejman received a 2021-22 Alumni Builder Award, which recognizes UBC alumni who have contributed significantly to the university and enriched the lives of others.
In a career spanning more than two decades as an investment banker, Pejman has advised on over $25 billion in mergers and acquisitions and over $3 billion in equity financings. The secret to his success, he says, has always been the close and trusting relationships he has developed with senior executives.
It’s the same philosophy that has helped him contribute to causes that he is passionate about. As a long-time supporter of the VGH Hospital Foundation, BC Children’s Hospital, Science World Foundation, and UBC Sauder—among others—Pejman is known for connecting people and making a difference.
“The Alumni Builder Award honours those who have made a notable and lasting impact on the university,” says UBC Sauder Dean Robert Helsley. “Ali exemplifies someone who has relentlessly supported the school as a mentor, donor, and community builder. May he serve to inspire others to step up and give back.”
Despite his busy schedule, for Pejman lending his time, expertise and often personally donating to help his community is non-negotiable.
“I don't take my accomplishments for granted,” he says. “I think circumstances and luck draw a very fine line between great success and not. Because of that, I just feel that wherever I can help, I should.”
Pejman adds, “I believe you should give back more than you're receiving. I've always said to people, ‘The more you do this, the more enriching life is.’”
Pejman learned early on from his parents the value of seeing beyond one’s own interests for the benefit of others. Born in Iran, he saw the difficult choices his parents made when they moved the family to Canada following the revolution to provide a better life for him and his sister.
“I’m so grateful for the sacrifice my parents made and for the life that I get to live here now,” he says.
That included the ability to study at one of the leading business schools in Canada after he graduated from high school. Determined not to take the opportunity for granted, Pejman became actively involved during his time as a student at UBC, serving as President of the Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) Executive Council and developing lifelong relationships with his classmates and professors.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from UBC in 1994, Pejman began his career as a chartered accountant at PwC before deciding to make the leap to investment banking. After a former UBC classmate helped him make a connection at Canaccord, Pejman went on to spend 16 years working his way up to Managing Director and Head of Venture Capital at the firm.
Today, Pejman is the Managing Partner at Fort Capital Partners, one of Canada's leading independent investment banking advisory firms. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, and Science World. He has been an active fundraiser for several charities, including a lead fundraiser for Children’s Hospital/VGH Epilepsy Research program, and he sits on the TSX Venture Local and National Advisory boards and was a past member of the BC Securities Commission Advisory Board.
For his contributions to his community and his profession, Pejman has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants (FCA) of British Columbia, Caldwell Partners’ Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award and, most recently, an Alumni Builder Award. While he’s grateful to be recognized in this way, he says his community involvement has been more than enough of a reward itself.
“All these boards that I've sat on, I’ve met great people, and I learn a lot,” he says. “The volunteering is such a great experience, and it gives you a lens of different people's thinking and thought processes.”
For Pejman, his connection to UBC Sauder continues to be particularly meaningful. He remains close with many from his graduating class, and even hosted their 25th reunion at his West Vancouver home, ensuring that all 90 attendees signed his annual – a memento from that time that he still keeps close to his desk.
“I remember vividly, our grad ski trip to Big White and us being on the bus, singing ‘Sweet Caroline,’” he recalls. “It just really encapsulated those years of camaraderie, our hands in the air and singing along.”
Over the years, he has been an active mentor, volunteer, and donor to the school. He was named an Honorary CUS President in 2006 and helped fundraise for and donate to the Opening Worlds Campaign, which supported the revitalization of UBC Sauder’s facilities on the Point Grey campus. His enormous contributions to the school are commemorated with a named room in the Henry Angus Building.
He continues to mentor UBC alumni and student-run start-up companies through the Creative Destruction Lab and Forum Women Entrepreneurs programs. And he is the keynote speaker at this year’s Commerce Last Lecture event, where he will share his wisdom and advice with UBC Sauder graduating students.
As an alum, Pejman sees a direct correlation between the value of education for today’s students and the value of a UBC Sauder degree for the entire alumni network.
“I always tell alumni the same thing, ‘The more we help UBC become a better school and a more recognized name, the better it is for all of us who have graduated from there,’” he says.
Pejman says he hopes his recent recognition from alumni UBC will inspire others to get involved with making the school better for the next generation.
“I’ve always loved the UBC Sauder logo with the opening doors, because this school really does open doors and opportunities for people,” he says.
Looking back, Pejman says his greatest achievements so far are the relationships he’s cultivated along the way.
“I think if you asked me, what am I most proud of about my career? I think it’s that I’m considered a trusted person. I never wanted to be the richest person. I just wanted to be a good person to do business with. Reputation is important,” he says.