Amritsha Chatargoon didn’t think she would end up with a career in the financial industry. Her passion is in marketing and event planning, so when she was choosing what to study, she chose a BCom in business management and marketing. While studying, she discovered she had a natural flair for IT and took on information systems and technology as her second major.
After graduating, she got her first breakthrough working as an assistant employee benefits consultant at Crystal Retirement Benefits, and so her career in the financial industry began. There she reported to a woman who would become her main mentor, inspiring the attention to detail and passion for her work that she still has today. “She was so fierce, bold and passionate about her job that she exuded that to everybody she worked with. If you made a mistake, she came down so hard on you that you could not make that mistake again.” While that was sometimes intimidating, in the long run, Amritsha says, it made a positive impact on her and has contributed to the way she works and her own success.
From that first role, she moved on to Hollard and, in 2008, joined Sasfin in the Financial Advisory Services as a compliance officer. There, she met another mentor, Gavin Came, who guided her during the early days of compliance, which involved a lot of learning on the job. During her time as a compliance officer, she had a pivotal moment in her career when she discovered an individual involved with fraudulent activity and had to lead the investigation that led them to be debarred. “It fundamentally shaped my career and taught me not to be afraid. Getting somebody debarred is not an easy thing; there are so many emotions involved, but I had to hold my head high and be steady about it.”
Three-and-a-half years later, she moved to the Asset Consulting Division as the head of administration. Looking for a challenge, she then relocated to Cape Town, where she took a position at Citadel as an operations team leader. She would find her way back to Sasfin two years later, after moving back to KZN to be near her ageing parents. She now works as a securities trader and client liaison.
She’s been at Sasfin for a total of 12 years and says Sasfin has become like a family, showing warmth and care for their people. “From the top right to the bottom, people know who you are. You're not just a number in this company. They recognise your work. They appreciate you. I haven't seen this culture in the other companies that I've worked for and I think that's what's keeping me here. The people I work with are fantastic.”
“From the top right to the bottom, people know who you are. You're not just a number in this company.”
While she’s had many mentors, both the people she’s worked under and those she’s worked with, the two people who have made the biggest impact in her life are her husband and her mother. “I'm so lucky to have married my best friend. He's my greatest strength and my support structure. He's my go-to person for everything.”
Her mom, a jack of all trades, is her role model. “She has faced a lot of adversity in her life and she has taught me invaluable lessons. I'm truly grateful for her.” With the two of them, she says, she believes she can overcome anything.
And this is a good thing because Amritsha loves a challenge. “I can't sit and do the same thing for a long period of time. When I reach a limit and it becomes mundane for me, I want to do something new. I’m always looking for something challenging where I can grow.”
She’s been able to do that over her 12 years at Sasfin, moving from one division to the next, always learning and always growing into her next position. One of her most exciting roles at Sasfin – moving into trading – was also one of her most challenging. “I never knew I would be able to do it.” It involved taking an exam, which she failed four times, passing on her fifth try, proving the old adage that if you don’t succeed, try again. “One of the best jobs I've ever had is to be a trader. It is extremely exciting for me. It's risky and it takes a lot of commitment.”
It’s overcoming challenges like this one that can be used to your advantage and lead to success. They also make achievements so much sweeter, Amritsha says. “When you overcome a challenge, that's when you feel empowered, you feel motivated, you gain self-confidence and self-esteem. In the process, you also build your character in so many ways, whether it be problem-solving, leadership or self-discipline.”
“When you overcome a challenge, that's when you feel empowered, you feel motivated, you gain self-confidence and self-esteem.”
While Amritsha thrives on challenges, it is her passion and competitive nature that drive her. “I'm passionate about what I do and that is why I do it well. I hate losing, so my desire to be the best is a huge driving force. That feeling of pride and accomplishment when I’m chasing my dreams and fulfilling my goals is what I'm hungry for and what I yearn for.”
This extends to her passion project and side hustle, an event planning company she started, called AC Events. Her husband is in the entertainment industry working as a DJ and she is passionate about event planning, so it’s something they share. She started AC Events just before Covid hit, and her first event was a Bollywood event called a Bhangra. It was a smash hit, with 1 000 people attending; but Covid put a pause on that. She’s now working on it again to get more gigs going and says spending time event planning and liaising with international artists is her “me time” and fills her cup. It allows her to turn a vision into a reality and she is driven by progress and that sense of accomplishment.
While Amritsha is always on the move and doing something, every morning she makes sure that she pauses to pray. “I don't ever skip my prayer. I believe it's good and it gives you discipline. It puts your mind at ease and gives you a good start to the day.”
When it comes to the concept of balance, Amritsha acknowledges that while her work-focused life may not look like balance for others, it’s what works for her. “That's just the way I am and I like it that way. I wouldn't want to change it. For me, I am living a well-balanced life.”
It’s part of what she defines as success, along with financial stability, respect and striving to do better than yesterday. In addition: “Being recognised for your efforts is very important because you do so much and you want to know if you're doing the right thing.”
The key to success, she says, is education. “It’s the advice that I've been given and the advice I’d give others.” It’s not only about formal degrees, although those are important. It’s also self-learning, reading up on your industry, looking to see how you can improve and talking to people like mentors or people you look up to. “We need to always be cognisant of the fact that there's a lot to learn and it never stops. You have to continuously be ahead to know what's going on.”
“We need to always be cognisant of the fact that there's a lot to learn and it never stops. You have to continuously be ahead to know what's going on.”
It’s also knowing that you can’t have it all and you should be grateful with what you have, something, she says, is very difficult for high achieving people to accept. Her focus is on long-term fulfilment rather than short-term success, which is why you’ll find her working hard now to achieve her long-term goals of growing in the financial industry while pursuing her passion projects and event planning business.
Amritsha’s following her own advice to be courageous and take the risk, because, as she says, you never know what will come out of it. It can be moving into a leadership position, running big events or even becoming a Bollywood star.