Don’t try to put Brian Menges in a box. The president and CEO of Edmonton-based Caplink Financial Corporation simply defies classification. Mortgage industry leader, entrepreneur, lifelong learner, volunteer, husband, father, fraternity member, dirt biker, jet skier… the list goes on.
According to Menges (’86 BA, ’13 MBA), a diversity of interests and a well-rounded education have not only served him well in life, they have been key to his success. Menges explains that a liberal arts education exposes students to a broad range of experiences than those with more specialized backgrounds. And when it comes to being an entrepreneur — which is how Menges primarily sees himself — he feels that a generalist education is an advantage, as those with other backgrounds may have been trained to be more risk averse.
He speaks from experience. Menges himself started out in science, planning to go to medical school. But in his first year he took an economics course as an option and, in his words, “found the Holy Grail.”
“It flipped a switch in my head,” he remembers of the moment that changed the course of his career.
After completing his BA in Economics at the U of A, he entered the mortgage industry with Fidelity Edmonton Management Company. Things clicked. It was not a career he had been seeking, but one for which he found he had an aptitude. In 1997 he left Fidelity to co-found Caplink, a private mortgage lending company that creates cash flow for investors.
“One of the values of an arts degree is that you learn to think. You’re flexible. You’re not in a box.”
– Brian Menges
“My degree came in handy in finance and real estate acquisition,” he explains. “Everything I do requires forward thinking. Every day we’re evaluating what a property could be worth 10 years from now. So a rooting in economics and a general appreciation for how the market works has been beneficial in what I do.”
Fast forward some 30 years and Menges now manages a private mortgage lending company, administers two investment funds, is in the midst of acquiring another fund and is looking into expanding into other markets. He also finds time for dirt biking and jet skiing with his family, mentoring UAlberta students and helping to make his community a better place as a member of Food for Thought, a non-profit program that provides food for elementary school children who often go hungry. And just in case you thought he was getting too comfortable in the mortgage industry, he’s also participating in a business focused on a new environmental technology — a field that would be a complete departure for him.
So what drives him? “We’ve created income for our investors — people are now retired on the income that Caplink is making for them,” he explains with pride. “That becomes an enormous responsibility. And I like the challenge. The potential for growth keeps me going.”
“One of the values of an arts degree is that you learn to think,” he says. “You learn to solve problems and you bring depth and experience to the transactions in which you’re engaged. So when you show up at my business looking for a job, you may not know anything about my industry, but if you come armed with a liberal arts degree, I can teach you. You have demonstrated intellect and discipline and you’re flexible. You’re not in a box.”
Want to hear more about the potential of your Arts degree in the real estate/mortgage industry? Join Menges and others at the Careers in Real Estate for Arts Students speaker series on Tuesday, November 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. Click here for more information and to register for this free event.
Arts students can also learn more about career development opportunities at the ArtsWORKS conference on Saturday, October 29. Click here for more information and to register.