‘I’d like to say it was by design, but it wasn’t’

When Harriet Steel was in her late 20s she was warned off a career in asset management.

She recalls now that at a job interview conducted by the chief executive of an asset management company he told her he would offer her a job “tomorrow” but that moving into asset management at that stage in her career would bore her.

While she heeded his words at the time, Ms Steel eventually came round to the idea.

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She started out in the City in 1991 at American financial firm Bankers Trust, which was later acquired by Deutsche Bank.

“Bankers Trust at the time was one of the big proprietary trading houses and everyone who joined started out by learning how to trade. I ended up on the currency options desk. The currency markets were really active at the time,” she says.

The banking group’s initiative to build a client business off the back of its expertise in trading derivatives was in “full swing”, according to Ms Steel.

“So anyone that they perceived as being able to speak to clients… was encouraged to be involved in that side of the business, so that’s how I got into sales,” she explains.

“I was basically involved in currency, fixed income and derivative sales to corporate clients and what we sold to them was balance-sheet hedging solutions for their currency and interest rate risk, as well as overlay trading-type positions. I did that and ran a client franchise at Bankers Trust and then went on to do that at Morgan Stanley.”

After eight years of being involved in investment banking and capital markets, she grew curious about fund management, although her encounter at the now infamous job interview deterred her from making the transition.

“But it was obviously something that had come onto my radar given the longer term nature of it and the investment time frames. I thought it just seemed interesting,” she recalls. “But that wasn’t the next thing I did.”

Instead, Ms Steel married, became pregnant with her first child and relocated to Monaco for her husband’s job, prompting her to rethink her career.

She remembers: “I had to go and resign from my job at Morgan Stanley. To me that felt premature, I didn’t really want to do that, I was making great progress there. So we moved abroad and I found myself in a situation where it wasn’t easy for me to work, so I just decided to surrender to the whole family thing and go on and have three children. In fact, I took a good five years out from my mainstream career, albeit I was still active.”

She goes on: “My husband was involved in private equity and he was part of an investment syndicate, so was investing as a principal but also doing friends and family fundraisings around those investments, and I kept my oar in as a principal investor, working with him on some of the friends and family fundraisings.”