Spotlight: Trading floor manager has a taste for adventure

Kai Petainen loves a good adventure. Whether it's swimming in the Arctic Ocean or hiking mountains in the Yukon, you can count him in.

Petainen, the trading floor manager of the Tozzi Finance Center at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, takes annual trips with his wife to places that most people only dream of visiting. Last year they took a month-long road trip through the Northwest Territory, across northern Canada and into Alaska. "Each day we drove between two and 17 hours," he says. "We stopped for five days and hiked along the Chilkoot trail from Alaska into Canada."

This year, Petainen hiked a total of 131 miles across Isle Royale and around Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. "After that, we went to Ottawa and met the (Canadian) prime minister during Canada Day," he recalls.
(Photo by Kai Petainen)

His trips are so incredible that the last three adventures he's taken have made it into the news; his foray into Alaska was featured on CNN.

When not exploring the North American wilderness, Petainen pursues his other passion — photography. "When I was 8, my dad passed away and left me his cameras," he says. These Hasselblad cameras inspired him to take pictures throughout his childhood, making his life "a 'photographic diary' of sorts."

Petainen seriously considered becoming a professional photographer. "I wanted to pursue a career at National Geographic or Vogue," he recalls. "I felt (it) was too competitive, stressful and paparazzi-ish."

Instead, he followed a different career path. Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Petainen studied computer and math science at Lake Superior State University. At the time, he wasn't concentrating on business or stocks, and was not actively pursuing a career in the stock markets.

Petainen moved to Ann Arbor and started working for the university at the Tozzi Finance Center. "The (trading floor) lab is one of the largest academic trading labs in the world," he says. Students can participate in both real and simulated trading floor environments — they use real trading software to either manage real money and stocks, or participate in virtual trading games, making virtual stock portfolios. More than 500 students visit the lab weekly, and have access to powerful equity software that Petainen helps them use.

The best part about working in the lab, Petainen says, is interacting with students. In a typical day, he leads workshops on different aspects of business, from portfolio management to risk analysis. "When I started working in the lab, we were in a small room with no windows, a few visitors and a couple PCs," he remembers.

At the Tozzi Finance Center, Petainen has access to amazing resources, he says. "I have sat through every class, every workshop and nearly every club that has met in the lab," he says. "My education comes from the professors, but even more importantly, from the students."

While Petainen loves his job, he is unsure what the future will bring. He would like to get an MBA, and perhaps become a teacher or professor. But for now, he says, "I'm extremely thankful for the job I have and the students, the professors and the staff that I interact with."

Whether helping students to think critically about stocks, taking adventures into the middle of nowhere or photographing the world around him, Petainen is passionate about everything he does. "Have passion in what you do," he says. "Money is everything in business, but money isn't everything in life."

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the University. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.