Off the Beaten PATH: How This Chief Trading Officer Begins Their Day

By Christina Flores-Chan

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]From the ground up, Toronto’s financial district is characterized by Bay Street’s bronze-tinted skyscrapers and black painted steel, by its white collars and briefcases. Home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canada’s five major banks, and a plethora of law firms and business corporations, the BIA employs over 20,000 people throughout the workday. And despite the golden apparition of the Royal Bank Plaza when it’s struck by the setting sun or the architectural facadism that blends together modern towers with historic brick, the heart of the district actually exists under its buildings and below the city’s concrete streets. The PATH, downtown Toronto’s underground walkway, spans over 30 kilometres and serves as both a circulation and social channel for the business world, whether they’re grabbing a quick coffee with a colleague or tunnelling back to Union station at the end of their workday.

Bay Street Bull spent a day last month down in the underground hub observing the hustle and bustle of the city’s business industry and getting to know the people behind it. You can find their stories and insights through a series of interviews below.

John Christofilos, Chief Trading Officer at AGF Investments

John Christofilos, Chief Trading Officer at AGF Investments

John Christofilos strolls into the Starbucks in the TD Tower concourse at around 12:15 PM. Sporting a grey power suit that matches the salt-and-peppering of his styled, neat, curly hair, he says a familiar “hello” to the barista and orders a traditional dark roast.

He tells us about his morning, which starts the same as it does every day, by waking up at 4:09 AM. — as a tribute to his favourite hockey player Gordie Howe, who wore number 9 for the Detroit Red Wings.

He jumps on the elliptical and rests his laptop on the machine’s screen. First, he checks the European markets, which are about to open, and then the Asian markets, which had closed several hours earlier.

After his workout, he takes a shower, gets dressed and is well on the road downtown by 6:00 AM.

“I’m a creature of habit,” he says, smiling, and then adds one exception to his daily wake-up routine. Sometimes, he opts for weight training instead of cardio.

Where are you headed right now?

John Christofilos: You caught me on my afternoon walk. I take a walk in the morning, and after about six hours of work, I take a break from trading and I go for another walk in the PATH, or if it’s a nice day, I’ll walk outside for about 20-30 minutes and then go back to my trading desk.

How does it feel to be working in person again?

John Christofilos: I love it. I love interacting with people. There are definitely benefits to working from home, but I find being face-to-face with counterparts and colleagues is so much more effective and enjoyable.

Also, I really enjoy and am looking forward to making trips across the country, to Vancouver or Calgary or Montreal, to talk to clients about the markets.

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your professional life?

John Christofilos: The excitement of doing a good trade never gets old. If I can buy a particular stock for our Portfolio Managers at a better price than what I think I can buy it for, then that’s a big win, and the same goes for the selling side. I’m also excited about the great things we are doing to continue to grow our business, and the small part I play in that strategy.

I’m also excited about AGF’s 65th anniversary. We’re one of the oldest Asset Management companies in Canada, so this is a big milestone for us, and I’m expecting a big year of celebrations for AGF.

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your personal life?

John Christofilos: Personally, I’m excited about the next time I get to see my grandson!

Toronto’s PATH network through the financial district

Benjamin Wearing, Summer Intern at CIBC and Rotman Commerce student at the University of Toronto

We find Ben perusing the wide variety of lunch options offered underneath Commerce Court. Among a food court filled with buzzing corporate conversation, the third-year university student is bright and wide-eyed, wearing a crewneck sweater and khakis, with Nikes that match the forest green of his shirt. 

He looks a little lost, but he assures us that he isn’t. Instead, he is more sure than ever that this is exactly where he wants to be. He tells us he’s just come from CIBC, where he will be interning this summer. 

“I just got the offer last week and figured I’d check the building out. On the outside, it’s just a building, but I can just picture what could be happening inside of there,” he says, “What I’ll be doing for the next few months.”

Born and raised in Calgary, Ben has worked on a golf course back home every summer for the last six years, and as a business major with a specialization in finance and economics, he’s excited to be working with the bank.

“For me to be finally working in this space means a lot to me,” he says, watching a group of younger men in corporate attire walk by, holding takeout boxes and laughing together.

“I just bought a suit from Simons.”

Will you be working in person this summer?

Benjamin Wearing: I’m not sure yet, I think they’re deciding whether the internship will be remote or in-person, but I hope to come into work some days. Being in online classes for so long was unmotivating, I basically turned away from my bed and my desk was right beside it, so I hope to experience the culture and atmosphere of working in-office.

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your professional life?

Benjamin Wearing: I’m looking forward to the opportunities that come from this internship, actually getting that work experience and putting that on my resume and seeing where that could take me in the future, maybe within CIBC.

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your personal life?

Benjamin Wearing: It’s funny because, since I grew up there and I spent every summer there until now, I’ve always called Calgary my home. Whereas now, I’m actually living and working in Toronto over the summer, and this is now my home. Just the realization that this is where I live now, this is where I spend all my time and this is where I’ll probably live after university too, is really exciting.

Murray Dalgleish, Lead Project Manager and independent consultant for firms in financial services

Murray Dalgleish, Lead Project Manager and independent consultant for firms in financial services

Murray Dalgleish is walking through the PATH’s interwoven tunnels, going from one finance firm to another. It’s mid-afternoon, and despite a sunny sky above ground, the stinging cold air keeps the independent consultant content circulating through clients underground.

He travels without a coffee in hand, but he doesn’t need one. He’s already had his three cups this morning, before getting to work. His Nespresso machine, a gift from his family, sits in his work-from-home office. For the past two years, he’s been his own barista, pouring nothing but a splash of milk into every cup to keep the flavour strong.

In May, he’ll be back following a hybrid work model, with half the week in person and the other from the comfort of his own home, but Murray says the transition between in-person and virtual work has been a smooth one.

“We work with teams all over the world,” he says, “So, as a work team we’re quite comfortable not being in the same physical space and we’ve been adaptable to meeting new people and getting to know them as best as we can.”

Can you tell us what sort of project you’re working on right now?

Murray Dalgleish: Currently, I’m helping my client implement a new end-to-end reporting solution and meet a complex and challenging regulatory deadline by the first quarter of next year. The work requires expertise from multiple disciplines, including IT and business, on-shore and off-shore teams.

Projects are, by definition, something that’s never been done before, so a lot of it is developing solutions to technical, business, and people problems that we haven’t dealt with before in order to accomplish the business goals.

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your professional life?

Murray Dalgleish: I think what keeps me going every day is the opportunity to work with people, hear their insights and see if there’s some way I can support them. I think earlier on in my career, I would have been much more goal or bottom-line focused, maybe more interested in accomplishing commercial goals, but now what really motivates me is at the personal level. 

What’s one thing you’re excited about in your personal life?

My wife and I are very fortunate that in the last four years, we’ve welcomed six new grandchildren into our family. And for me, that means I’m thinking a lot more about spending time and supporting my daughters and their husbands and being of help to my grandchildren. And that’s been very exciting to me.

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