Summer Series: UBC Sauder Co-op student immerses herself in financial markets

Uma Thurnau

Uma Thurnau
Commerce Co-op student
Trade Management Intern — British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI)

Posted 2021-09-02
One of the things that sets UBC Sauder students apart is the diverse professional experience that they bring to the marketplace. Through the Bachelor of Commerce Co-op program, students complete three or more Co-op work terms with employers in all different sectors of the economy. By gaining in-demand skills and knowledge to augment their academic credentials, Co-op students come to the job qualified to make a meaningful contribution.

Uma Thurnau is a third-year undergraduate student at the UBC Sauder School of Business with a keen interest in capital markets. With a passion for finance—combined with hard work, networking and supportive career advisors—she’s building an impressive resume while still in school.

This spring, Thurnau was hired as an intern with the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), one of Canada's largest institutional asset managers and a top employer among many business students. She works in the trade management division as a liaison between portfolio managers and major Canadian banks.

"We're essentially entrusted with funds from the public sector pension plans, insurance funds, and public trusts based in British Columbia,” says Thurnau, who turned 20 this summer. “These are savings of our teachers, firefighters, first responders, nurses, police officers and other public servants. We’re responsible for investing the money that they’ve entrusted us with to help secure their financial futures. Our end goal is for the public servants in this province to live comfortably after retirement."

While helping to facilitate trades may be transactional, Thurnau likes to think about the people whose lives she's touching in a positive way.

"It's gratifying because you can see the immediate impact each time you settle a large trade. You can see your efforts turn into rewards. This job has its share of stresses, but there's immense joy in it too. These are dedicated, inspirational people we're helping.”

Leveraging career services built into the Co-op program

Thurnau credits the Co-op team at the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre for helping her define her career aspirations and then land meaningful work.

“My Co-op supervisor was instrumental in helping me narrow my interests and apply for the right jobs, and also prepare me for the job interviews—right up until I landed this internship with BCI. So, in addition to securing a summer job, I also did a lot of self-development.”

Uma Thurnau


One of the perks of the job is being based in Victoria, where BCI is headquartered. When work is done for the day, she takes her dog for walks, spends time with friends, and heads out paddle boarding along the city’s shoreline.

Adding professional experience to stand out in the crowd

In the fall, she will return to UBC Sauder with her peers for in-person classes. As President of the UBC Trading Group, she will also oversee a student club with over 500 members that host events, workshops, and conducts market research.

One of the things Thurnau won’t have to do is find her next internship—she’s already been selected for the 12th Edition of National Bank’s Women in Financial Markets Internship Program for next summer in Toronto. By the time she graduates in 2023, she’ll have completed at least three internships in her chosen field; something she expects will give her a competitive advantage.

"Having relevant work experience so early on, especially in the field of finance, gives you a head start when you graduate,” says Thurnau. “It has an exponential effect, where you're able to grow faster and have a higher earning capacity once you enter the industry.”

Thurnau says UBC Sauder’s Co-op Program was one of the reasons she chose the business school over others. It’s a decision she’s glad she made.