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Kim Deane is an Investment Specialist in the Personal Investments team at Coronation Fund Managers and has been part of the Coronation fam for close to 10 years. Here, she gives us an inside peek into her career… and dishes up some seriously useful advice along the way.

So, tell us a bit about what you do…

My current responsibilities include hosting our national report-backs to professional investors; positioning Coronation’s retail fund range to clients across South Africa; reporting and consulting on Coronation’s investment views; and assisting financial advisors, as well as corporate institutions and multi-managers with fund selection. I have a BSc (Hons) in economics and marketing and a CFP qualification.

What drew you to finance?

I’ve always been mathematically minded and was drawn to the financial services industry quite early on. Within that, I found that the culture of the asset management industry seemed to be a good fit with my personality.

My career in asset management started out in the newly piloted Graduate Programme at Coronation in the Client Servicing department. [Ed: Take note graduates!] In fact, I think I was the first hire in this new venture. I had envisaged that I would work towards joining the investment team. One of the benefits of starting where I did, however, is that it allows you to work and familiarise yourself with various parts of the business and the type of roles on offer.

In my first year, I was quite quickly drawn to the Personal Investments team: I enjoy working with clients; it’s a team of high energy, dynamic individuals; and there is ample room to grow and develop within the position.

One of the things I love about my current role and team is the culture of trust and agency. You can really take ownership of your client base and think creatively about how to support them in a way that best suits each business and relationship. There is an entrepreneurial feel to our approach and consistent encouragement to take on new responsibilities and challenge the status quo to ensure that we are servicing our clients in the best way we can.

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What are you most passionate about – and how is that reflected in your work?

I’ve always been passionate about personal financial independence. This means ensuring that I have a solid grasp of my financial position; where my risks and opportunities lie in planning for my future; and through this creating a structure that means I can always stand on my own two feet. A lot of the work we do focuses on creating this kind of financial literacy and freedom for others.

Investing shouldn’t be for the few, it should be accessible and understandable to all and hopefully our work assists in enabling people to gain access and more control over their financial future.

Through my studies at UCT I became very interested in consumer behaviour as well as the very broad and diverse world of economics, which is reflected in the two honours years that I completed firstly in Marketing and then in Economics. Fortunately, an enormous amount of what we discuss with clients, engagements with our investment team and the continuous research that we do to keep abreast with globally changing dynamics centre on these very themes.

How can a young girl get into your industry?

You definitely need mathematics. You also need to ensure that your marks are high enough to qualify you for the university degree you’d like to pursue. It’s important to know exactly what is required of you before your matric year so that you can position yourself for the path you want to take. If you are unsure of what that path is now, at least get a sense of the range of options that interest you and work towards these. The better you do, the more options you have!

I did a Bachelor of Busines Science at UCT, but there are a few avenues that you can take to get into our industry. Mostly it’s through a business degree of some sort, but some graduate in things like engineering and pivot back to investments. Either way, your degree will need to reflect that you are in some way numerically minded.

Once you have that base, it really depends on what role you would like to pursue. The qualifications and soft skills required to excel in an investment team are quite different to those responsible for client relationships and report backs, as an example.

A CFA qualification is highly valued in investment teams, and a CFP (certified financial planning) qualification is better suited to the client-facing team that I’m part of. Many businesses such as ours assist employees with further studies from both a financial and guidance perspective to ensure that you develop in a way that best suits your career path.

The best platforms to network or get info?

I’d recommend that you create a considered, professional profile on LinkedIn. It’s a great platform on which you can build, and leverage off, a network and search for job opportunities. Also consider financial recruitment agencies and online platforms such as Go Hustle [Ed: Thanks for the shoutout, Kim!] as you work to put yourself out there in a professional, accessible way.

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Honestly – what’s it like for a woman in your industry?

The industry is certainly changing and becoming more diverse. In fact, a full half of Coronation’s employees are female. However, there are areas in our industry with lower female participation, for example investment teams and financial advice.

But I think it is also important to consider the decisions being made by women in the lead up to looking for employment. Although I can’t comment on current stats, when I was studying Business Science at UCT there were far fewer female students than male. I fully support that everyone should study what they believe develops their specific passion and strengths, but there was definitely a gap.

These days, I don’t necessarily believe that women are specifically discriminated against in the hiring process. In fact, research shows (and many businesses have realised) that they are much stronger when diversity is embraced, but the talent pool that businesses hire from depends on who puts themselves forward with the appropriate qualifications and skill set.

In addition, we need to be sure that we aren’t limiting ourselves. Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) highlights this in her book, Lean In. Her comments resonated enormously with me, as I realised that regardless of how ambitious I always was, subconsciously I had been limiting myself for many years. For example: “That role requires a lot of travel, this may make having a family and pursuing this career path difficult to juggle.”

This may not be your self-talk, but it is for many women. Finding a role that allows a good work-family balance is not necessarily a bad thing; it could be exactly what you want, but it should be a conscious, active decision that you make rather than something that you fall into due to often outdated gender stereotypes.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced – and how have you overcome them?

My personality is such that I like to have a plan and a big challenge for me was that I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. In fact, I didn’t know what I could do. It also seemed that once I’d chosen a path and accepted an offer that I would be “stuck” in that position forever, which is of course very far from the truth – your career is a dynamic and evolving journey!

In starting out in my current role and taking on new responsibilities, I experienced a bit of what some term an “imposter syndrome”. Essentially you doubt your own capabilities and worry that soon someone may figure out that perhaps you aren’t quite right for the position. This, of course, is just negative self-talk. The trick is to notice it when it happens and try to rather focus on the things you are doing well. Where there are areas for improvement, work hard at improving rather than doubting your potential. This is particularly relevant when taking on new and daunting challenges. But the more challenges you tackle, the more you realise you are capable of, so don’t be afraid to put yourself forward, even if it feels daunting. Many people refer to this as “fake it ‘til you make it”. I prefer “fake it ‘til you become it!’” If you’re prepared to put in the time and energy, you have all that you need to succeed.

Being a woman in the financial services industry can still pose its challenges, particularly when dealing with teams or businesses that aren’t as diverse as the one I am part of. When starting out and working with new clients I found that at times I needed to work harder to prove myself and be taken seriously. Rather than being thrown by this, be prepared for it, and use it as an opportunity to eliminate any doubt and really cement your place.

If you could only share one money-saving tip, what would it be?

Start now! The power of compounding is often spoken about, but it’s very difficult for our minds to comprehend nonlinear growth. Start small but start right away, and try to increase that contribution whenever you feel you can. Whatever is in your bank account tends to disappear into a range of perceived necessities. But when that debit order is in place, you’ll be surprised how quickly you forget about it.

What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs?

Although the world is changing and you can truly make any dream your reality, women still face some big challenges. Every woman that you speak to will have a story. Listen, learn and prepare yourself. But the framing of these things is up to you – your reality is what you deem it to be. It is coloured and shaped by the lenses through which you choose to see the world. View challenges as an opportunity to show your worth – you will be so much stronger for it!

Your femininity is an asset, not a handbrake. The strength of teams and companies comes from diversity, not likeness. There are many things that women are naturally better at, and successful businesses require a plethora of skills and character traits. So be yourself, focus your energy and capitalise on the things that make you different and indispensable.

And, of course, show up! Make sure that you always put your best foot forward in everything that you do. Believe in yourself and your abilities and, importantly, support each other. And have fun. You are going to be spending a lot of your time with your colleagues and in your chosen place of work – make sure you enjoy it.

A book every young woman should read?

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg. This book is often the go-to when asked for suggestions, but it’s for very good reason. I found it incredibly helpful in a variety of areas, but particularly when it comes to subconscious, self-imposed limitations. Many times, I found myself thinking, Oh my gosh, I do that!, which enabled some very productive personal growth.

Drop The Ball – Tiffany Dufu. A must-read for those who think they have to do it all.

Lastly, how do you practice self-care?

I love to clear my mind through exercise. This includes running on the mountain, yoga, gym classes or simply walking my beautiful big dog.

I am learning to pause and celebrate my achievements rather than getting straight on to the next thing. And as my default is to try and squeeze everything in, self-care these days includes practicing saying no. This is a tough one for me, but it’s proving to be very valuable. Be it in work, social or home life, no one can be at their best and be fully productive and present if they are spread too thin. A little bit of breathing space goes a very long way.

[Ed: We couldn’t agree more!]

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