A few months ago, we spoke to Mehnaz Ahmed and Adebola Ajao-Taiwo, BSc Mathematics with Actuarial Science (Class of 2021) who represented Queen Mary in Majedie Asset Management’s Next Generation Investor competition. The competition ran from 1 January to 30 June 2021 and gave each team a notional £25,000 to invest in listed global equities to trade as they wished, with guidance and training along the way. Although Mehnaz and Adebola did not win the competition, they learned quite a lot throughout their journey and we had a conversation with them to find out more about the challenges encountered and their plans for the future.
Could you please tell us some of the key things you have learned from taking part in the Next Generation Investor competition?
We learned to not react too fast! Whenever you hear bad or good news, it is human nature to react in a fight or flight kind of way. It is innate for us to do that. However, from this experience, we have learned that the power of waiting it out is far more advantageous than being so reactive. Sometimes good news does not appear as such after a few days because it is a publicity stunt to hype up a company, or sometimes bad news can be considered as an overreaction from a source that was not entirely credible. Finding the right balance is always necessary! Routine is key: it helps us know what to do at the right time. However, life happens and there are events and situations that take place, which can break your time allocation. Having contingency plans for such events is crucial. It does not have to be too complicated – it can be as simple as having a free afternoon every week so that, if something happens, the team can regroup.
Could you please tell us more about your journey throughout the competition, the milestones achieved and the challenges you have encountered?
We both had a solid plan that we were following during the competition, but when the ‘unknown’ hits you, which can range from supply chain disruptions to delays in contract approval, it is not at all surprising that stock prices would fluctuate. There was one month when particular news about chip shortages happened, where all our ‘green’ stocks had been negatively influenced, causing our portfolio to decrease quite a lot. It is times like these when we had to decide for ourselves if our strategies were really working and if changing was the only route. For this situation, we changed some of our parameters to make up for the losses as well as looking into sectors that were not affected by the chip shortages for the time being. We saw some great improvement! There was a time when we had gained over £2000 from one of our new stocks and that was made possible by just changing our strategy. It was from this point, where we built some momentum and got a buzz from altering things that no longer worked in our favour.
Despite not winning the competition, you were awarded £500 for UNICEF UK, which is amazing. Could you tell us why you have chosen this charity?
We can both confidently say that we speak from privilege. We have both been lucky enough to be born in a time and place where we have had the chance to flourish and take a hold of our path in life. But there are so many children who have been robbed of their opportunity to learn and grow and live a peaceful life. This affects their adulthood and then, their own family, which creates a never-ending cycle of disparity. We know that life is not fair, that the notion of true equality can never really be met but there are so many charities who are trying to change the lives of everyday people across the globe. They are each trying to make life a little better, a little livelier and a little easier. We greatly encourage everyone to support a charity to make this world a better place to live in for someone less fortunate. UNICEF UK's work is near and dear to our hearts, and we chose it to help tackle the crisis of a generation. We can say with conviction that we will continue to support its cause into the future.
What are your plans for the future?
This year has been our last year of university. As they say, as one journey ends another begins. Right now, we are actively spending the next year experimenting by taking part in long-term internships and opportunities. This allows us to have a more realistic idea of the financial services sector and the workplace in general. The competition has taught us many aspects that we were unaware of previously, and we can imagine that there is a lot more out there to discover. Given the current climate, we hope that everyone can have a happy and meaningful future. The journey is long, but once you find the right place, it is well worth the wait and struggle.
What is your piece of advice for all the young women out there who would like to pursue a career in financial services?
As boring as it may sound, spend the summer, or winter holidays or any free time, you may have, doing some research. It does not have to be some well-thought-out thesis; it can be as simple as reading an article about something you are interested in. Look into advice given by career websites and look at roles that best align with either your current skill set or your goals. Be clear about what you are looking for but at the same time do not be afraid of exploring completely new avenues within the financial services. The sector is so large and there are so many niche and specialised areas being created on a regular basis. It is always great to get your toes a little wet with experience. We recommend applying for summer internships to see if a career in financial services is right for you. Look at a company’s profile, how they treat women in the workplace and observe reviews posted online. If you are lucky enough to get an internship, really immerse yourself. Some companies may have their own way of dealing with specific situations, so if you have a bad experience in one company, it does not necessarily mean that all companies are the same. If you are not able to obtain an internship, spend your summer doing something meaningful that may help your career journey. This can range from reading books to working on a project you are passionate about. Keep your head up, not getting an internship is not the end of the world; create your own opportunity. Good luck to everyone!