Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser heads up the Alexander Forbes Research Institute – an initiative that looks at the full spectrum of issues that confront the savings and investment issues for South Africa in particular and Africa in general. Prior to that she was an asset manager and CIO for 32 years, managing pension fund assets in North America, Japan, the UK, Europe and South Africa. In 1994, she pioneered the development of the multi-manager management approach of pension fund management that has become the hallmark of that industry today.
A Key Talent | In truth, I never chose the financial services industry, it chose me. I am an anthropologist by training and have zero financial background. As such, in theory, I should be a complete misfit to the industry.. I never trusted the industry, I was appalled with the way it engaged with its clients and ultimately prospered off their client’s money. From the start, the business model for the industry just seemed like an upside-down value chain – the wrong people won and the right people lost in the model.
That said, I have been in this industry for 35 years….every second of which has been devoted to finding ways to change that model and change that outcome. The great irony is that it was the fact that I had such strong views about how the industry was going wrong that ultimately made me so valuable. There is an important lesson there for people who think they have to pick jobs that “they are passionate about” – You may find that just the opposite is your most valuable card to play. As such, I never say I have a career in financial services, I say I have a vocation to fix it. Vocations are far more enduring and rewarding than careers. The rewards come not from what you are able to earn, they are much more far-reaching. They come from what you can give back.
The tricky thing about vocations, though, is that they are rarely something you set out to find. You stumble on them when it finally dawns on you in the middle of your career what it is that gives meaning to your work. Bottom line, even the most menial-seeming careers can turn into vocations with the right insights and inspirations. So keep your mind open, open, open to whatever job you might be currently employed in. If you hate it – then what would it take to make that a great job for someone to find worth their while?
The moment you can move beyond the: “what’s in it for me?”, “how does this activity improve my brand or image?”, “how much more money can I make if I do this?” kinds of mindsets is the moment when you will know that you have reached that sweet spot of transition from career to vocation. And when you reach that point, you are good to go on to great things.
Principles I Live By | When business outcomes become more important than the value your clients are getting – then you are probably in the wrong line of work if you want to be pursuing something meaningful.
How I Use My Mind | When you graduate from university, that’s when the learning really starts. Successful people are autodidacts: they know how to continually teach themselves on their own about the things that they need. Going to school does not necessarily improve you – learning does. An employer is going to find you far more valuable if they know that for every challenge you face, you have the initiative to go out and figure out the answer (without them having to send you off on an MBA program). You will need this skill set because as you move through life, the scope of your work will be constantly changing.
Lessons I Have Learnt | If it’s right for your clients, it’s right for your business. Any other principle is flawed.
Dealing With Doubt | I’m not sure if there is ever a time when you don’t feel a bit like a fraud. I never ever stepped into a job that I thought I was qualified for. But that’s why it is critical for you to control what the job needs to be (and not the other way around). Then the job can evolve as you evolve.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | Read everything. Great fiction is just as important as non-fiction for helping you understand what being human is really all about. The more you understand that, the more effective you will be in any capacity (note I said great fiction – not just easy reading). Read history, sociology, philosophy – those also build up your ability to understand how the world comes together (or falls apart.)
Advice On Building Wealth | If that’s your starting point, then you are probably doomed to a particularly ungratifying life.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Dramatically change the business models that underpin the financial services industry. Return it to being a profession – not just a business.