John Holt

Challenge to Change | From English teacher to VP Multinationals at HSBC

The UBC Master of Management gave John Holt the finance credibility and international mobility to land a demanding role in global banking with HSBC.


John Holt relishes adventure. The political science major, who was born in the UK and spent most of his young adulthood in Vancouver, found himself teaching English in Spain. But, while languages have long fascinated him, he didn’t want to make a career of teaching them.

As Holt contemplated his professional future, he felt the business world calling. Yet Holt faced one major hurdle; he didn’t have the business background to launch the career he aspired to.

“My political science degree gave me a good understanding of how the world works,” Holt says. “But it didn’t cover how the business world works.”

So Holt, who had completed his undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia, returned to his alma mater to earn a Master of Management (MM) at UBC Sauder.

“I liked how fast-paced and ambitious the curriculum was," says Holt. "To get a broad overview of business in such a condensed period of time was a challenge I was up for.”


Holt’s up-for-a-challenge mindset infuses every aspect of his academic, professional and even charitable endeavors. To raise funds for the Prince’s Trust and Water Aid, the avid outdoorsman has trekked across the Gobi Desert, Sahara Desert and the mountains in Mongolia.

“I love being in the mountains and trekking through different terrain,” Holt says. “It’s especially rewarding when doing it for a good cause.”

Holt’s keenness to explore the world is part of what drew him to UBC Sauder in the first place. The leading MM program in North America according to the Financial Times, the Master of Management, offered by UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, is distinguished for its international faculty and students, and the international mobility of its graduates.

“While I thought I might end up working in Vancouver, the further along I got, the more it was apparent I wanted to live and work in different cities as well,” Holt says. 

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Holt recognized early in the UBC Master of Management that no matter where in the world his career would end up taking him, his fellow candidates would be a huge asset to him.

“I realized my cohort is going to be infinitely valuable over the course of my career,” Holt says. “They’re the people I’m going to know in 20 years so the better I know them, the stronger my network will be.”

As president of the Master of Management Society, Holt prioritized networking outside of class. In class, he relished the opportunity to gain the business acumen he was seeking.

“The MM program gave me the fundamental building blocks of business,” he says. “It introduced me to balance sheets, income statements and all the practical elements of business that had been missing from my undergraduate studies.”


After graduation, Holt sought a position in a company that would allow him to be internationally mobile. He landed a coveted role at HSBC where he worked in global banking in their London, Paris and now Bangkok offices.

Now Vice President, Multinationals, Holt is responsible for managing the bank’s relationships with the biggest consumer brands and industrial goods companies. It’s fast-paced and demanding. Plus, it requires Holt to move cities every two years, which means he gets to immerse himself in new cultures and learn new languages.

“My Master of Management was a key part of the reason I got the job at HSBC,” Holt says. “It gave me the finance credibility that led to the career I have now.”