Christina Anthony of Odlum Brown, the FWE

Christina Anthony clearly doesn’t spend a lot of time fretting over the balance between work and life. The two seem to mesh seamlessly in the office of the 33-year-old portfolio manager and director at Odlum Brown Ltd. Atop her desk a pair of monitors display an endless scroll of red and green market numbers. To the side sits a black nylon case that, she later informs me, contains a breast pump. Below the desk is a collapsible playpen, and pushed to the side behind a visitor’s chair is a fold-up stroller.

Indeed, it wasn’t any concern about the rights of women in the workplace that led Anthony to establish the Vancouver chapter of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE), a non-profit that offers mentorship and education programs specifically for women. “Everybody can benefit from mentorship and education,” Anthony explains. “I just think that women didn’t feel they had access to those programs.” It’s not that women were excluded, she says, but “it’s a perception of access and a comfort level.”

Anthony, a UBC commerce grad, established FWE Vancouver after her own career took her from an internship at Deutsche Asset Management in Frankfurt, back to Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management Ltd. here in Vancouver, then on to Goldman Sachs offices in New York and Seattle. When she returned to Vancouver in 2001, she felt compelled to fill that perceived gap in mentorship opportunities. As she reels off a list of FWE alumni today, it seems hard to believe Vancouver ever suffered a deficit of women entrepreneurs. The list includes such award winners and media darlings as Caterina Fake, co-founder of the Flickr photo-sharing website; Cybele Negris, founder of Inc.; Linda Hipp, founder of LIJA leisure wear (formerly Hipp Golf); Marla Kott, founder and CEO of Imprint Plus Inc.; and Nancy Hill, president and co-owner of fashion retailer Blue Ruby Jewellery.

Though never an entrepreneur herself, Anthony sees a natural parallel between getting your own company off the ground and making investment decisions involving billion-dollar public companies. The portfolio manager and the entrepreneur, she explains, face the same questions: How does the company make money? How is it going to dominate its market? Does it have good management?  When she founded FWE Vancouver seven years ago, the project demanded a big chunk of her time, “including driving my husband nuts printing name tags at 11 at night,” Anthony recalls with a laugh. Today a staff of three looks after day-to-day operations, freeing Anthony to provide strategic direction. “It was always a non-profit run off the corner of my desk,” she explains. “It just used to take up a bigger corner.”

While family, work and directing FWE are her top priorities, Anthony still manages to carve out time for her personal passion: poker. She belongs to a women’s poker club, has played in Vegas “numerous times” and competed in the Canadian Poker Championship at River Rock Casino in 2007. Anthony likes to make the case that poker isn’t all that different from investing, and indeed life: “I learn a lot from poker that might apply in looking at the psychology of the market,” she says. “It’s all about how you bet, understanding how much you’re betting relative to what’s in the pot and what kind of risk you’re willing to take for the right amount of reward. And you know what? That’s what life is about: risk and reward and the decisions you make every day.”

However philosophical she may wax about the game of life, though, Anthony has no trouble drawing the line between managing multimillion-dollar portfolios and sitting down at the poker table. “I certainly wouldn’t try to make a living at it,” she says of her hobby.