Changing the narrative around women in portfolio management is one hardworking and goal driven Michelle Bester. Having started her career wet behind the ears and fresh from university, Michelle leaped into the financial world through a graduate programme at Sasfin.
It has been nearly 20 years with the JSE listed company and Michelle hasn’t looked back, read a glimpse of how it has been for her ‘Growing Up at Sasfin’.
“From an early age I held an interest in business and finance, I found the workings of world economies fascinating. Achieving success for my clients, I find, is the most rewarding aspect of my job.”
According to the ‘Diversity in Asset Management’ report focused on the experience of female investment professionals in South Africa, women account for just 17.2% of portfolio management professionals in South Africa. Women are making strides and there is room for growth. As much as investment management is a male-dominated industry, this should not deter any aspiring female portfolio manager. Starting out in the portfolio management industry Michelle says, “believe in yourself, chase those goals and never give up, success takes time!”
With this kind of passion for the industry Michelle makes effort to keep empowering herself. “Every moment is a learning curve and an opportunity, each day brings a challenge, solution, and something new to learn. I am a strong believer that knowledge is power, so I equip myself as best as possible and read, read, read! (Audio books are an alternative too).”
In the words of Warren Buffet, "Never invest in a business you can't understand."
Apart from absorbing the plethora of company and economic research, Michelle takes us through her risk management approach when making investment decisions, and steps to mitigate risk.
“For me the most important questions to pose are what your time horizon for investment is followed by your general appetite for risk – these as well as further specific questions pertaining to need for liquidity/ income, age, ability to stomach volatility are all covered in our risk profile we ask clients to complete before starting with an investment process. Client situations change, it is therefore prudent to repeatedly ask clients, when engaging with them, if anything in their personal circumstances have changed that could impact how risk within their respective investment is viewed. I find a balanced approach that relates well to the risk profile of each client reduces risk.”
One cannot help but notice that a key component to portfolio management for Michelle is communication and strong client relationships. Michelle believes, “It is paramount to build relationships on trust, mutual respect and to manage expectations”. She enjoys personal interaction with clients, inviting clients to webinars and functions or sharing research or interesting information on a specific holding pertinent to their account.
For instance, Michelle contributed to the USD Multi Asset Class Quarterly Report Q2 2023, which looked at the first six months of year, the insightful full report is available here. ” Our process of choosing investment options is extremely well thought out through various forums we constantly discuss the portfolios solutions offered to clients.”
So, what else is there to know about Michelle? Currently on her playlist, “I have George Ezra …… with personal favourites “Green Green Grass” & “Tiger Lily.” I very recently attended his live concert in Cape Town, and boy can he put on a show! I am also quite a fan of Afrikaans music and enjoy the 80’s.”
With a banging playlist, how else would one manage work-life as markets are currently more volatile than before and can impact immensely on portfolio managers. Being in a position to manage client's wealth comes with the realisation of great responsibility. This fact can become stressful at times.
“I work hard and play hard! So, I make it a habit to play some tennis, mountain biking, watch sports and spend quality time with family and friends, these are some of my go-to remedies of a work-life balance. Since I have moved to the Western Cape, I have challenged myself to visit a new wine farm and read up about each one’s history every month.”
Who knows, Michelle might trade portfolio management to become a Sommelier. Topped with her favourite dish to make - “Anything braai related and a good healthy salad, as well as a karaoke hit” she might just be.
Top tips Michelle shares on balancing long-term investment goals with short-term market fluctuations and economic uncertainties.
Parting words, not only to aspiring Portfolio Managers but to everyone; “Take regular breaks – go on leave, take that long awaited trip (if you can still afford it). Enjoy nature by going out for a walk or a ride on your mountain bike and appreciate the fresh air!”
As Michelle Bester continues to inspire us with her strategic insights, seize the opportunity to enhance your portfolio management skills. Explore more on Sasfin's website and embark on your journey to empowered investing.