Bonita Choi

​Former Head of Marketing, Atlantis Investment Management
Cofounder, CATCH

A Letter to Future Religious Studies Students

"Why do you want to work in finance with a religious studies degree?"

I was 24. Three years of "irrelevant" work experience to take on the role of an equity analyst servicing hedge funds. I felt a slight sweat in my underarms as I sat in the interview room. I had spent the last three years in financial communications and investor relations, with a short stint working for a hedge fund as a hybrid role of investor relations and investment analyst for 9 months. However, subprime had just started to unravel and the fund had not covered one of its biggest positions. Half the team was let go, and as the most junior person there, I was one of the lucky bunch.

Bonita Choi

Jobless and hungry, I was determined to pursue my then goal as an equity analyst.

Here we go again. I had spent the majority of my university life justifying and explaining to every person around me why I had chosen a religious studies degree; at every internship and job interview, to every relative, and curious friends. I had gone to Queen's as an English major and switched to RELS as soon as 9/11 happened in the first few weeks of school.

Yes, that was the start of my relationship with Religious Studies. I found world religions fascinating in understanding human behaviour, sociology, psychology, art, culture, politics, history, philosophy—it was all religion. I found joy in classes like Daoism, Buddhism, and Religion and Literature. Religious Studies gave me the skills to think critically, to examine issues from different angles, to explore and question everything. Religious Studies was a philosophy of thinking.

And so, I write this love letter to religious studies sixteen years later, hoping that my experience gives you the confidence to choose this degree. I have had a colourful career so far; in finance, I have worked in corporate communications, financial communications, investor relations, journalism, investment and equity analysis, and before I left corporate in January this year to set up my own company, I was running the sales and marketing department for a US$1 billion asset management firm.

In January this year, I left my corporate job to work full-time in the company that my business partner and I had set up one year ago, in the wellness and spa industry. We are figuring out ways to solve the gap in this market. Has my degree helped? Most definitely.

I want to end this short note with another facet that religious studies has given me. In conversations, I found that many of my friends and family take on a personal view in religion, meaning that religion and spirituality becomes increasingly important as we mature and grow as people. Having those early years of training in this subject has helped me put meaning in my life, and I hope that it would help you too.

P.S. I got the offer that day.

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