by Sofia S. 09 Aug, 2017

Today, 9th of August 2017, marks ten years since the beginning of the financial crisis which had devastating effects in the life of thousands and thousands of people around the world and filled the pockets (even more) of a few privileged people.

Back in 2007 I was about to become a freshman at University as classes were about to start in a few weeks’ time. I was 23 years old, determined to give my absolute best, focused and motivated.

I went to University a bit later than most people do but life happened that way for me and that’s fine. What matters is that despite all the adversity, I went and I graduated.

In July 2007 I was partying hard in Ibiza with three of my friends and we had the best time together. Memories I will cherish forever. 

However, I don’t recall having heard anything about a financial crisis, all I knew was something about a Wall Street crash back in 1920-something and obviously, that subject was completely outside of my radar. Investments? Banks? Nah. Not a subject for me. It wasn't until Lehman Brothers collapsed that I remember the general panic and that things really started to look bad. Or maybe I was just not paying attention before.

I completed High School with a Diploma in Pottery and Ceramics. At University, studied Marketing, Advertising and PR because at 23 years old I finally decided I wanted to be a copywriter.

I wanted to be the person that writes ads and creates content; I wanted to surrender myself to my artistic vein, to allow for my creativity to fully blossom and develop. I had come to the conclusion that my path was an artistic one and it was time to embrace my future. I had it all figured out. Even when I got pregnant with my daughter during the second semester at Uni, I carried on.

I took a gap year (school year of 2008/2009) because birth was scheduled for December so I couldn’t attend the January exams relating to courses beginning in September. It was the wise thing to do.

When I returned to Uni for my second year (2009/2010) my motivation was stronger than ever. I now had the cutest tiny little human who would be looking up to me and to everything I’d do, she depended on me and it was my duty to ensure all her needs were taken care of. I started to do everything with her in mind and solely having her best interests at heart. And that’s when things changed.

Things were not good at home and that’s as far as I will go in relation to exposing that part of my life. The only thing I’ll say is this: the worst things got, the stronger my motivation to succeed would get.

As part of my course, I needed to attend a Business class. It was only one semester but that Professor gave us two separate classes so in some ways they were linked. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I had two business classes the same semester.

A few lessons into the class and I felt like I had seen God. What on Earth had I been doing studying arts all my life because that was so not the right path for me.

I landed a job at a Bank shortly after that and from there on, I became determined to learn as much as I could on my own because switching courses to Business or Economics was not an option. I didn’t had the funds and didn’t want to feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life. Especially when I had to take into consideration that I went to Uni later than usual.

I did countless online courses on platforms like Coursera and some of them were so daunting and full of jargon – not to mention the fact they were all in English – so I actually had to repeat a few of them until I could grasp what they were on about.

I started reading the Financial Times so I could understand what was happening in the financial world. I took advantage of a few colleagues that were much more knowledgeable than me to ask questions and learn from them. I became an avid reader of a Portuguese Business newspaper and slowly things started to fall into place and words I had no idea what they meant before, I now recognized and understand them.

I did all of this while looking after a new born, whilst working and whilst attending University. Talk about will power. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did it nonetheless.

I have been working in this industry for nearly 10 years now. I have seen people come and people go. I am blessed to be able to work in an industry that I genuinely love. There is not a single day that goes like the previous one. Everything changes at an incredible pace and if you stop, you become obsolete.

Ten years on since the beginning of the financial crisis, have we learned anything?

I hope so. I see firms committed to give the example from the top; there is more regulation; there is more awareness.

Do I believe that it will happen again? Unfortunately yes but maybe not as the ones we’ve seen before. The financial services industry business is the money business and the goal is to make even more money using someone else’s money. It’s called an “investment” and it can go right or wrong. You risk what you can afford to lose.

The problem with that statement is that the majority of people that cannot afford to lose are usually the ones that end up losing everything even though they have never placed a penny in an investment.

It starts with a family member losing its job. Then, one bill gets left behind, then another and by the time you realise you’re receiving a letter from the Bank saying you’re facing your home is being repossessed.

It’s scary to witness how the financial crisis has long been forgotten by the industry and yet it’s the complete opposite for consumers. People  that ten years on, on a daily basis still worry about a new potential crash and what effect will it have – again – on their families and how will they cope.

It’s a cruel business the money business so I guess it’s totally legitimate for people to ask me why am I in it? How can I associate myself with such practices? The answer is simple. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. No matter how small. I believe in fairness and in righteousness. I believe in doing the right thing so I don’t mind being associated with such industry because if more of us believe in the same thing as me, maybe one day, thinking about a financial crisis where people are left to starve and homeless for no fault of their own will sound surreal and impossible.  

Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this. I have met so many great people, so many professionals that are a tribute to this industry and profession.

I act in a way I know I will never have to bow my head in shame and in a way that it won’t disappoint my family and have their values judged by others due to my actions. I will never act in a way that will make Diana ashamed of being my daughter. I will always do what my heart tells me is the right thing to do. 

One can dream and, so far, all my dreams have come true.

Like I said. Motivation.


More posts

Working in the UK - My story

  • by Sofia S.
  • 06 Jun, 2016
The last time I wrote on this blog was just over two years ago. So much has happened since then. So many changes, so many people have crossed my path that left as quickly as they entered. Not for any specific reason, only because that’s the way life sometimes works.

I have been in the UK nearly three years now and every time I think about it I get slightly stunned because it doesn’t feel like three years at all. In some ways it feels longer and in others, it feels less. 

When I last wrote I was working for an insurance company. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I didn’t like the job and it was miles away from my house; considering I didn’t had a car at the time, took me absolute ages to get there and get back. However, the people I worked with were absolutely amazing and I am still quite close with a few of them. We went from being colleagues to being actual friends.

From there – via my manager at the time – I had the chance to leave that job and get back to my industry – financial services. He knew how unhappy I was working in Insurance and when he was told about a project closer to home and within my expertise, he put my name forward and I was invited to attend in interview. I got the job but unfortunately that project was relocated to London just a few months later and as I wasn’t keen on leaving Bristol (like everyone else in my team), we were all made redundant. 

From there I proceed to work for one of the biggest banks in the world where I stayed for 1 year and a half, before leaving and join a SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) that specialises in a very niche area of financial services. I did it for two reasons:
1.       Working for a Bank that big, your work gets unnoticed, there is no way you can make a difference (I tried, it didn’t end well) and there were too many egos around from people whose only purpose in life is to feed their ego by mistreating staff members. I can’t cope with that and I was getting more depressed by the day;
2.       Working for that SME would give me the rare opportunity of working for a niche market where there is not a great deal of information around and therefore I would be able to enhance my skills and gain that knowledge.

Unfortunately – as I came to realise – people with big egos and small minds can show up no matter how big or small a firm is and that SME ended up being a disappointment. I worked countless hours without asking for overtime because I genuinely felt that the point was to take pride in my work ethics and ensuring the clients would receive the best outcome possible considering the amount of fees charged by the firm. How stupid was I? I know but hey, you live and you learn. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like coming home, laying your head on your pillow and feeling good about yourself. Knowing that you’ve done for someone what you would like for someone do for you (if it was the other way around) is priceless. There’s no price tag on that. It’s your own pride. 

But anyway, having work ethics doesn’t take you far if you work with big egos and small minds and I left that company 6 months after joining. Worth mentioning that people with big egos were not even a hand full. Nonetheless, the detrimental effect that people like that can cause on the long term, is substantial.

I am currently working for another SME in the same industry as the previous (with some differences especially in relation to the type and nature of investments the client can obtain but I’m not going to get into the technical details and financial jargon as there is no point) and I am so happy. I work with people who are all committed with the client, who are all committed in working together; building the firm together and most importantly, they care about their staff members. 

Never ever I was verbally abused here, never ever was I ever made feel that my opinion and ideas are useless and that the effort I put in my work is unnoticed. On the contrary, just a couple of months after joining I completed two sets of training for staff, I have a career plan designed by my line manager and the way he conducts the team subsequently has a positive effect throughout the business. All departments work together with the same goal in mind: the customer.

Everything happens for a reason. And I feel so blessed to be where I am now.
There’s a well-known expression that goes like this “Had to kiss a lot of frogs before finding my prince charming”; well, I believe the same could be applicable to my current work status.
I sometimes think how my career was boosted in less than three years. It’s light years away from what it could ever be boosted in Portugal unless I knew person, X, Y or Z. Well, not weird really. Here, if you work hard, you will be rewarded – unless you work with people with big egos and small minds! Then you’ll probably face a lot of challenges and brick walls and doors slamming in your face. I would advise you to leave, if you’re in that situation. It’s a waste of your dedication and energy. 

The UK (in relation to work) it’s a bit like America (land of the free and land of opportunities) but in a European style. Probably a bit classier. Oh and with tea. An awful lot of tea!

At this point in time, I am saving to buy a house. I have a part-time on the weekends as in order to get a mortgage in the UK, you need – in average – about 10% of the value of the house in cash to give as a deposit. I started my first shift this weekend and oh boy, do I have stories already! But I’ll leave those stories for another day.
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