Feb. 27, 2015
In this spotlight of the 2014 Alumni Tribute Award recipients, we feature Jane Rowe, B.Comm.(Hons.)(Co-op.)’81. As the Alumna of the Year, Ms. Rowe has received the highest honour bestowed on a Memorial graduate. Currently the head of private equity and long-term equities groups with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, she oversees an $18-billion portfolio. One of this country’s top financial leaders, Ms. Rowe was recognized in 2012 by the Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s most powerful women. Talking with contributor David Penney, she reflects on her career and the role that Memorial has played in her success.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
Jane: I was born in St. John’s but I grew up in Carbonear. My father worked as a physician there, and we stayed until I was about 12 years old before moving back to St. John’s. I have so many fond memories from my childhood. The people and the community were wonderful.
How did you discover your interest in business and finance? Did you know early on that it was what you wanted to do?
Jane: We were so young starting university back then. We only went to Grade 11 in high school, so I think it was even more difficult to really figure out what you wanted to do. Fortunately, business was a great choice for me. That first course I did in university with Tony Noonan – that’s when it really took hold. I’ve been hooked on finance ever since.
What advice would you give to students who are just starting out and trying to navigate their own career path?
Jane: I put my career philosophy into three buckets. The three Ps: People Performance and Passion. My experience at Memorial and growing up in Newfoundland really informed that philosophy. In terms of the first one, I learned at an early age to treat everyone as an equal and with respect. I always remind myself that it’s less about me, and more about the team I’m working with. The second P is performance. In my first year in the business faculty, a fairly large cohort was admitted to the program – I recall over 200 students. But at the end of the year I believe close to half of those students failed out. I learned that only those that work hard and meet a high standard would move forward. And of course the third part is passion. That passion I have for finance and investments was first ignited in me at Memorial.
How have you maintained that passion for your work?
Jane: If you genuinely like something, it feels less like a job. And in my mind I have one of the coolest jobs in Canada. I get to run the private equity arm of Canada’s largest single profession pension plan and work with an amazing team every day. We have an ownership position, some minority and some majority, in over 40 companies that span the globe. Part of my job involves working with their management teams to help them prosper and grow, and that is extremely rewarding.
Despite your busy schedule, you’ve found time to give back to your community. Why is that important?
Jane: It keeps me motivated and I firmly believe it’s the right thing to do. I work with a number of charities here in Toronto. I’ve spent time working on the board of the YWCA and I’m on the board of the United Way. I’m also on the investment committee of the Toronto Community Foundation and have had opportunities to work on advisory boards for the faculty of business at Memorial and at Schulich at York University. Whether it’s supporting education or helping those less fortunate than we are, it’s about caring for the village that you live in. That to me is very much like Newfoundland. Growing up in Carbonear, it was very much a town that cared about its people and the community. That’s part of why, still to this day, I do the kinds of things that I do.
How does it feel to be receiving the Alumna of the Year Award from Memorial?
Jane: I was absolutely surprised. I had no idea that my name had been put forward. I haven’t lived in Newfoundland for quite a while. So for people back home to even think about me and to nominate me for something like this – it’s a huge honour and I’m really humbled by it. Things like career successes don't happen in isolation. I think success happens in large part because we have the right support. For me this includes the teams I have worked with, my family, my friends and most importantly my partner Tammy McBrien.