Get to know the 50 Most Influential: Barbara-Ann King of Investec W&I

News Team, 16/03/2021

Barbara-Ann King is chief commercial officer at Investec Wealth and Investment (IW&I) in the UK.

She is an executive board member of IW&I and leads over 1300 people in client management, research, product and marketing across 15 offices nationally.

Ms King is the executive sponsor for 'belonging, inclusion and diversity' and sustainability, and is passionate about gender equality in particular and has won many accolades over the years for both her contribution to the industry and her work on gender parity, including the prestigious Woman of The Year.

She holds a Master’s degree in intellectual property and competition Law and is a senior associate at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge and chair of the Global Institute for Gender Research and Investment, a body she co-founded in 2020 to centralise global efforts in furthering women’s economic rights.

What team or personal achievement over the past year are you most proud of?

I joined Investec in October 2020 and so it has to be taking on an executive role during a pandemic.

Walking in to a hive of activity and positivity as colleagues in all areas of the business are  striving to keep giving the best possible service to clients was heartening and confirmed my choice. This really is a very tough challenge for everyone as wealth management is so personal, we are a people business, but it is incredible to see how creative we can be and how good we get at adapting to each other’s life circumstances.

We used to use the term 'life/work balance' a lot in the industry and I was never a fan, I always held the view that work is part of life and it’s all a balance. This environment has proven that and I feel we have gotten to know each other better. 

Whether it is children interrupting calls, barking dogs or the need to alter diaries to accommodate caring for relatives, it makes you feel part of a much bigger picture. It has emphasised the importance of kindness, consideration and working through the screen in many ways is a great leveller.

However, it is also tough and we pay particular attention to the wellbeing of our staff, mental health is top of our agenda. I am very proud of the way the Investec has focussed on that, we have all learned a lot. This EQ will help diversity, inclusion and belonging on all fronts and that has to be a win out of so much loss.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

The same advice I give today and to others – but it takes a while sometimes to learn it! EE Cummings, American poet and playwright, said “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” and this is so true. Authenticity is absolutely key to success but you often find at younger stages of your career a feeling of needing to fit in.

Many professions have traditionally been very prescriptive – dark suits, long meetings, conservative branding and disproportionately white male.  It can feel like you don’t fit in if this is not part of your natural make-up, it is classic minority status. Then comes imposter syndrome if you try, which is fragile and I feel a possible cause of a lot of stress and mental challenges for so many.

As you develop, you begin to really understand that self-worth comes from being you, not another version of you, just yourself. This authenticity is then both magnetic and influential. It is a vital trait for building trusted relationships with clients and colleagues. It is vital for building diverse teams. I remember meeting a friend, a brilliant artist, in the lobby of a corporate building. Tess had pink hair and definitely not the corporate image. She said to me “why does everyone look the same, and they are all dressed in black?!” She was right and it highlighted the point.

Be yourself, you are enough and your difference is what will build value.

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

I am a change agent and a problem solver. Choosing a leadership path for me is about fixing and building. Both business and people – and it is the latter that make the former. Motivating and inspiring colleagues, developing talent and watching people act on their own ideas and achieve is what gets me out of bed every day.

I think you are only successful as a leader if you have empowered others, you walk beside them and encourage and advise. The impact then on clients is another barometer of that growth and it is enjoyable to see entire families benefit from the skills, plan for their lifestyle and future generations, protecting their wealth to provide a future.

What challenges do you see your firm/clients facing in 2021?

As we emerge from this pandemic, I think there is a lot of unknown. We do not really know yet the impact on mental health.

A colleague shared with me some observations he had heard from a therapist who was studying this and there are concerns that the youngest generation skip a few years to teenage and the old to senility. This could present social challenges. That is vital for us to learn about and observe as we deal with generations of clients and our eldest plan and provide for our youngest. The impact of families, on businesses and building back is therefore at the front of our minds and we are planning our engagement to cater for what might be.

Staying connected and reconnecting will be a priority and we need to be flexible for our people and our colleagues. I think the impact will be different for everyone and we need to be mindful of that, adjusting our working practices to accommodate staff and clients.

Many of my amazing colleagues have been busy creating options for this as we look at what a future state might be. I am also particularly focussed on the communities we operate in. We are a national business and each area has its own characteristics.

As a responsible company, and a critical part of the eco-system, Investec focus on sustainability which includes our communities and charity bodies. As an executive sponsor for this and diversity and inclusion, I will spend a lot of time in the coming months looking at what more we can do to ensure as much as possible we help others thrive.

If you couldn’t work in wealth management/private banking, what other career appeals?

I started out in law and knowing what I now know about myself and my passions there are two very different options. The first would be an international human rights lawyer, focussed on women’s rights and the second is as an Olympic equestrian. However I did not (although I would not rule out a second career in the former), so I will continue to admire those that did.

What luxury item would you want with you on a desert island?

I will assume there is plenty of green and clean water and take my horses. I would never be lonely and always amused.

What’s a valued hobby or interest outside work and how did you get into it?

I first sat in the saddle on a retired Irish racehorse at three months old and my love of horses, and animals, remains.

I am very fortunate to have them at home with a motley crew of rehomed dogs, sheep and anything else that needs rescuing. I ride or train every day – even in the cold, wet weather of late and it keeps me positive and fit.

It has been a very difficult time for all aspects of the sport and I am currently fundraising for an event to help support a local riding school to stay in business. They do a lot with children with special needs and disability and it would be terrible to lose that facility. Horses are great for communication skills and building confidence

What’s a cheesy pop song that you love?

I don’t know if it qualifies as cheesy but another passion I have is dance and you can’t beat a workout to Irene Cara’s 'What a Feeling' from the movie Flashdance!

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