What was your pathway into a career in the investment industry? Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?
I always envisaged myself working in the finance industry in some way or another. I suppose I’m rather unoriginal in that both my parents worked in the sector so it was an area I was familiar with growing up and therefore seemed within reach for me. The stories of glamourous business trips abroad may have also had some influence. However, I was ambivalent as to what area of the industry to go into so decided to keep my options open and work it out as I went. I opted for a joint honours degree, reading Politics and Economics – eventually the realisation that I didn’t have a thick enough skin for the former confirmed my decision to go down the finance route.
My first job out of University was working on an independent remediation project for a major UK bank, resolving legacy issues dating back to the Great Financial Crisis. It was a huge reality check regarding the continued existence of gender disparity in the workplace. Having attended an all-girls school I’d been raised on ‘girl power’ and naively considered gender inequality a thing of the past. Boy (or should I say girl) was I wrong! The old boy’s culture was rife and at one point there were more men called Dave than there were women on the project.
Whilst the remediation work was interesting, I didn’t see a clear path for career progression and I began to think more and more about what my next steps might be. By this point I had determined that investment management was the area I wanted to work in and I decided the best way in was for me to undertake a professional qualification of some sort that would allow me to make the career move away from remediation and towards investment management. I opted for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme, the gold standard of investment analysis qualifications, and self-funded my way through the Level I and II exams whilst still working a full-time job. The knowledge I garnered during these studies helped me land an Investment Analyst role at One Four Nine where I have been ever since.
In truth, the business trips are not as glamourous as I’d once dreamed of but the work is fascinating and far more engaging than I’d ever imagined.
Why did you choose investment – what is it about the sector that excites you?
My early experience in remediation offered me an unfiltered insight into how the financial industry truly impacts the day-to-day lives of individuals. I was working with investors facing adverse consequences from market events that had largely occurred whilst I was still at school and I am grateful for the important lessons I learned during that time. It highlighted to me the importance of diversification in one’s portfolio and sparked an interest in how different asset classes can work together to balance out risk. I’ve always been into puzzles and consider effective investment management a never-ending problem to try and solve. The interaction between the macro and micro fascinates the latent economist within me and the complexity of financial markets means that the more I learn, the more I appreciate there is still so much I don’t know – providing an evergreen opportunity to broaden and expand my knowledge, particularly within sustainable investment which is evolving at a rapid pace.
What is the best piece of advice you have received so far? What advice would you have for women considering this industry?
Imposter syndrome is rife in this day and age, and whilst it can affect everyone there is a disproportionate skew towards women being more likely to experience it than their male counterparts. Some of the best pieces of advice I’ve encountered thus far relate to combatting imposter syndrome. Firstly, it’s easier said than done but know that you are good enough. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have made it this far, you would not have been asked to speak at that conference, you would not have been approached for that task, you would not be writing this article!
Additionally, when experiencing self-doubt about a piece of work or a contribution to a meeting, I often remember another mantra a colleague of mine recites frequently: “No one is thinking about you, they’re all thinking about themselves, just like you.” This serves as a good leveller and nudge out of one’s own head and back to reality and the bigger picture.
Finally, a more practical piece of advice to follow is to always take your lunch break. Whether its 5 minutes or 50, time away from your desk gives your brain (and stomach) a chance to digest, reduces stress and helps you to avoid burnout. Some distance can often stimulate fresh ideas or even solutions to challenges you’re experiencing. Moreover, if you’ve had a disastrous morning for whatever reason, stepping physically away from your workspace affords you an opportunity to reset and return to your desk with a fresh perspective, rather than allowing the disagreeable morning to cloud over the rest of your day.
What is the one thing you would change about the investment world if you could?
I head up One Four Nine Portfolio Management’s Sustainable research and the one thing I would change about the investment world is the belief that investing sustainably means sacrificing financial returns. The investment environment of 2022 provided fuel to such views due to the overwhelming strength of the energy markets which sustainable mandates were not able to benefit from, however this was a short-term phenomenon driven by idiosyncratic macro circumstances. I truly believe that over the long-term, companies that invest more time and resources into sustainability and ESG initiatives will run more efficiently and enjoy a lower cost of capital. In turn, these companies will be better placed to maximise profit and minimise risk, benefitting from a durability of earnings compared to those companies that do not take ESG factors into consideration and are therefore at a higher risk of business disruption, finding themselves on the wrong end of regulation and litigation.
Article published by IFA Magazine, Brandon Russell.
Rosie Cook, Investment Analyst, One Four Nine Group
Find out more about Rosie here.