Interview with Helen Bradley, Programme Manager, Future Asset

Helen Bradley is Programme Manager at Future Asset. Her background is very much in education and the charity sector, not finance.

She worked for The Prince’s Trust, Scotland for nine years on education programmes, and at a number of universities, encouraging students from all backgrounds to enter Higher Education. 

Can you tell us a little bit about Future Asset?

Future Asset is a programme run by Didasko Education, a small charity supported by investment firms in Scotland.

Future Asset tells girls in high school about careers in investment – something that is much-needed. because, while there are lots of women working in the wider financial services, according to the CityWire Alpha Female 2018 report, only 1 in 10 fund managers are female.

Investment research firm Morningstar put it quite starkly in 2019: More Funds Run by Daves than Women. Their article explains that, of 1,496 UK funds, 108 are run by managers named David and 105 are run by women!

At Future Asset, we tell girls about the interesting and fulfilling careers in investment, running workshops, conferences and competitions and introducing them to inspiring women who work in the sector. 

Why do you feel it’s important that girls in Scotland look at the world of investment? 

Financial services in Scotland employs over 160,000 people and the investment sector is an important part of that, providing lots of interesting and well-paid jobs. 

Asset Management is about investing people’s savings and pensions for the long term, ensuring that they will have a safe, secure retirement. Fund managers and analysts have highly responsible jobs, with people’s hopes and dreams for the future in their hands.

They need to research, analyse, and compare the very best long-term investments. It sets them at the heart of global events, assessing everything from political events to technology, climate change to pandemics and how they will affect their investments. This makes it a fascinating and rewarding environment. 

The sector also needs more diversity. Having lots of people from similar backgrounds can create groupthink and can lead to opportunities being missed. Drawing in women and people from different backgrounds brings in different ideas and perspectives, giving better balance and improving decision-making.

Even if they do not want to work in the sector, it is really important for girls to understand more about the financial world and how they can make it work for them.

Women live longer but tend to earn less over their lifetimes and they invest much less, affecting their choices, freedom and financial stability in later life. By the age of 60-64 women in the UK have an average pension wealth one quarter of the amount held by men. We want girls to learn something about investing now so they can make plans for their own futures. 

Why do you feel the world of investment is under-represented when it comes to schoolgirls making career choices? 

Many girls are simply unaware of the opportunities in investment and others are put off by what seems an exclusive, male-dominated  environment. 

When girls think of investors, they tend to think ‘rich, posh men’ and ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ rather than ordinary people like their own parents, saving for the future. They also think finance means banks, spreadsheets and maths which, for many, is far from enticing! 

To be interested in a career, you need to know it exists, so we reach out to tell girls what investment actually is, why it matters and that jobs in the sector are varied with opportunities for many skills and interests. 

What’s next for Growing Future Assets?

In 2019 we ran roadshows around the country where girls met women who work in investment, networked and took on the role of  fund managers and analysts, managing a £100 million portfolio in our Investment Board Game.

We also held a conference for 350 girls and 60 teachers from across Scotland where they listened to inspiring speakers like former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and BBC journalist Laura Maciver, networked with professionals and got a taste of executive coaching to boost their confidence. 

This year we launched our first Growing Future Assets Competition, challenging teams of girls to research and pitch a company that they felt would be a good long-term investment.

We were blown away by the fantastic pitches we received from girls across Scotland on companies from ASOS to Greggs and L’Occitane en Provence! The online finals saw four teams of girls from Eyemouth, Edinburgh and East Ayrshire deliver live pitches and answer questions from a panel of investment professionals.

The winning team from Auchinleck stunned the judges with their presentation of San Diego based life sciences company Illumna Inc, winning £1,000 for their school and £200 in vouchers of their choice for each of the girls.

In addition to the prizes the girls gained an invaluable insight into a professional world, the chance to develop skills in research, analysis and presentation and a great addition to their CVs.

Covid 19 and social distancing means this year will be different, but we plan to develop our investment insights online with webinars and investment masterclasses focused on different areas of the business and the impact of world events at this unprecedented time.

There is so much to learn about how interlinked the world is, and this is the perfect time to get girls involved!

You can find out more about Future Asset on their website.