Morgan Stanley Investment Management managing director Laura Bottega was recognised at the Women in Pensions Awards. She tells Stephanie Baxter what has been key to her success.
What does winning the Investment Manager of the Year accolade at the Women in Pensions Awards 2018 mean to you?
I'm really delighted the industry is recognising strong female talent in the field of investment management. Representing Morgan Stanley Investment Management's (MSIM's) international equity team has allowed me many happy years bringing world-class solutions to pension clients around the world. After nine years of a bull market, we find clients increasingly demand defensive high-quality global equity strategies including global franchise, global quality and most recently global sustain - a carbon-light, environmental, social and governance integrated strategy that builds on the team's long history of company engagement.
What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
Articulate your ambitions and keep going until you achieve them. Many people have reservations about leading. If you believe you have the communication skills to express a vision, the strategic clarity to see through challenges to the solution, the energy to lead by example, and the self-awareness and humility to staff against your weaknesses, you can lead. Success, as so well described in Angela Duckworth's best-seller Grit, is about perseverance and passion, and hiring people who share those traits.
The Women in Pensions Awards Winners Series
What has been your greatest achievement, or one you are most proud of?
Apart from my three daughters, I'm really proud to represent MSIM with clients around the world. Through the firm's Step In Step Up (SISU) Programme, I have presented for the last several years the possibilities of a career in financial services and pensions to girls both at leading independent girls' schools in London and mixed academies - the industry needs more of our brightest young women. Many girls at this age have either not considered or would otherwise avoid careers in financial services, often believing the industry is incompatible with having a family. I show them this isn't the case.
Ultimately, pensions is a people business offering a highly interesting and fulfilling career for those that put themselves into the game and choose to go the distance. Programmes like SISU inspire young women to apply their skills to an industry that needs more diversity to address the needs of our more diverse, increasingly socially conscious clients.
What has been your experience working as a woman in pensions investment?
I have been lucky to work for two decades at firms that encouraged a culture of meritocracy. I started in institutional marketing, writing about all asset classes, having spent some time on the sell-side researching luxury goods - both spaces were more commonly staffed by talented women. Working on distilling complex pensions research into meaningful jargon-free messages for institutional clients helped me realise the importance of keeping it simple.
This training has served me well throughout my career. At a point where I wanted to get closer to the decision-making, I had established a reputation for being reliable and straight-shooting, and was invited to senior level meetings as a chief administration officer across our London equity teams, which allowed me a good macro picture of the industry. Since 2009, I have kept clients informed and helped drive business for the international equity team, one of MSIM's flagship global equity teams. The role has always demanded passion for the markets, confidence in our team's active high-quality approach, teamwork to cover the globe and leadership to address the opportunity efficiently and successfully. Increasingly it demands strategic and technological thinking for a more digital future, deeper engagement with our responsibly minded clients and broader cultural sensitivity as we take our long-term quality philosophy to new markets.
What is your top tip for women looking to progress or start a career in pensions investment?
Be informed, decisive and visible. Produce excellent work and be able to articulate what is excellent about it. Assert your opinion and your right to have one. Drive forward with your focus and surprise with your warmth. Pension investment should be transparent and accessible to the trustee and the pensioner. Never forget it is all about satisfying your client.
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