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Richard Nesbitt (MBA '85): a Rotman grad who helps others achieve more

August 6, 2019

Photo of Richard NesbittA decade ago, while serving as chief operating officer at CIBC, Richard Nesbitt (MBA '85) was already thinking about life after banking.

By that point, Nesbitt had amassed years of experience leading financial institutions. Hoping to put his knowledge and connections to use, he returned to the Rotman School, his alma mater, to see if there were ways he could contribute when he eventually retired.

“I quickly learned that you can’t wait for someday in the future to make a difference. You have to start right away,” recalls Nesbitt.

Once he saw the potential partnerships he could build on the School’s behalf and the ways he could lend a hand to students, he rolled up his sleeves and got started.

Today, there are few places at Rotman where Nesbitt hasn’t had an impact. He’s chaired and sat on several boards that have helped shaped the School’s academic programs and strategic directions, including the Financial Services Advisory Board, the Master of Financial Risk Management Board and the Dean’s Advisory Board. He’s also a founding advisor for the Mind-Brain Behaviour Hive.

Notably, alumni who graduated years ago still remember what they learned in his class How Banks Work, as well as the numerous connections he helped facilitate and the guidance he provided as their mentor.

These and other contributions make him the clear choice for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented at the upcoming Alumni Awards Gala on October 3, 2019. More than that, this award recognizes Nesbitt’s talent for getting faculty, students and alumni to strive for — and achieve — more.

“To everything, he brings a refreshing intellectual curiosity combined with astute business acumen and a drive for results. This shows up in his classroom, at the Dean’s Advisory Board and in the many students Richard has mentored,” explains Dean Tiff Macklem. “Richard helps everyone get results, including me.”

Building connections to the business world

While many business schools might struggle to understand and keep pace with technological advances, regulatory changes and emerging trends that impact business, the Rotman School has been lucky to rely on Nesbitt as an advisor.

In his long career, Nesbitt has seen and experienced nearly everything. He served as CEO for the TSX group (now called the TMX group), where he oversaw the consolidation of local exchanges across Canada. Later, he joined CIBC as their COO, leading a number of business areas including technology and operations, strategy and corporate development, and international operations. More recently, he served as CEO of the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services, and he coauthored the book Results at the Top, which explores the role of male business leaders in supporting women in the workplace and promoting women to the C-Suite.

One of his first projects at Rotman focused on strengthening the School’s connection to the industry. He established and chaired the Financial Services Advisory Board, which was successful in bringing business professionals on campus and raising the School’s profile on Bay Street.

“You can’t wait for someday in the future to make a difference. You have to start right away.”

—Richard Nesbitt, MBA '85

The School’s link to the business community remains strong today. It is now standard for students to step out of the classroom and take on consulting engagements with organizations as part of their learning experience. And many organizations now seek out faculty and research centres for opportunities to partner on projects.

“Richard has not only helped establish the Rotman School’s reputation in the industry, he has also helped to elevate our alumni programming,” says Cathy Vitkauskas, executive director of Advancement at the Rotman School. “From his active participation as an alumni mentor to the creation and execution of our annual Alumni Awards Gala, now in its fifth sold-out year, Richard has definitely created a remarkable legacy of excellence across every dimension of the School.”

Working with students

In recent years, Nesbitt has focused on engaging with students directly and supporting the effort to update the School’s academic offerings.

Having worked through the 2008 financial crisis, Nesbitt recognized the importance of covering financial risk into focus at Rotman. He supported the design and successful launch of the new Master of Financial Risk Management (MFRM), by chairing the MFRM Advisory Board, later bringing in experts in the field to speak at events at the School.

Through the alumni mentorship program at Rotman, he mentors 20 students every year (10 first-year students and 10 second year-students from the MBA and MFin programs), connecting them to professionals in the industry and offering career advice throughout their time at the School.

Additionally, Nesbitt, who is an adjunct professor at the School, has also stepped into the classroom, teaching How Banks Work, a popular second-year elective that Nesbitt, with his years of experience working in and overseeing almost all areas of banking, is uniquely qualified to teach.

Richard Nesbitt interacts with students during an orientation event for the Master of Financial Risk Management class of 2018.

“Richard’s course gave us a true ringside view, from the eyes of a practitioner, into the world of finance that no textbook can provide,” says former student Satwik Sharma (MBA ’16), who is now an investment banking associate at TD Bank.

“Richard also has some unique traits that make him an excellent mentor — empathy, foresight and an innate ability to nurture. I strongly believe that Richard has played a pivotal role in setting me up for success in my professional and personal endeavours.”

This has been the real driving force behind all his work with the School.

“We know that Rotman students eventually go on to lead banks and major organizations,” explains Nesbitt. “My major contribution is drawing on the tough lessons I learned, using my connections and pushing them to keep up with changes in the industry to make their path to success smoother.”

He’s certainly done that for many stakeholders at the School.

From all of us at the Rotman School — thank you, Richard!

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »