Rumbi Munyaradzi enjoyed an investment banking career operating across Sub-Saharan Africa, and is well-travelled, believing that a global perspective alongside local innovation can create unique solutions. Her career vision is to help build a brighter and more inclusive future for Africa. Rumbi is currently on sabbatical, during which she has completed a Masters in Digital Transformation and Innovation, and has been writing about her experiences on her personal blog. She’s also passionate about youth mentorship, and has written an e-book for teenage girls. These are her reflections on aspects of the investment banking industry and nature of work she particularly enjoyed, and her tips for success:
“In my 12-year investment banking career, I benefited from a wealth of experiences that have shaped my worldview. For most of that time, I focused on covering Sub-Saharan Africa Debt Capital Markets for J.P. Morgan in Johannesburg, South Africa. My role included originating, executing and conducting liability management on hard currency bonds for sovereigns, corporates and banks across the region. As I was promoted along sequential ranks from Analyst to Executive Director within the same team, there was a lot to learn about the evolution of my role and how to be an effective team player. In sharing my personal journey in the investment banking world, I’ll touch on what I enjoyed and what I learnt about succeeding in this environment. For fellow banking professionals, or others considering this career path, I hope it yields some helpful insights.
What I enjoyed most
Investment banking is a curious combination of complex financial systems, structured processes, microscopic details alongside macroscopic strategising all while using creativity and technology to generate competitive advantages. With so many functions and teams in this type of environment, I chose to work in African Debt Capital Markets to combine my passion for finance with a desire to work on impactful transactions across the continent.
This exposure helped me to identify and flex certain personal strengths that are well-suited to the banking environment. Once I had mastered the technical skills, I shifted focus to gain what I now refer to as power skills rather than soft skills (more on that in this Forbes article). This was the hardest part for me, but also the most rewarding. Four main areas stood out for me:
> Execution and Dynamic Project Management
Part of thriving in a product team requires an appetite to drive a process, communicate proactively, understand what it takes to succeed and to get it done collaboratively and effectively. Although at times it was overwhelming to be in the weeds of several live transactions simultaneously, the variety of sectors and geographies I dealt with stretched me in a positive way.
> Relationship Building
Transaction origination and execution is a team sport where relationships matter. Internally, I had to coordinate multidisciplinary deal teams that were split across 2-3 continents. Externally, client relationships were essential to win and retain business in highly competitive markets. I also interacted with international investors and industry peers: maintaining good relationships was key to being effective in the job as well as keeping options open for future mobility. This taught me how to identify the key messages relevant to different stakeholders and how to approach dialogue with a mindset of creating mutual value. As an extroverted introvert, the requirement for thoughtful written and verbal communication to build relationships was a great fit.
> Strategic Thinking
Articulating a compelling investment thesis to raise multi-million-dollar financing requires a deep understanding of what drives each economy or institution. I had to develop a pan-African perspective across the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities the continent has to offer. As a result, I realised I enjoy operating in an environment that requires large scale thinking and drawing insights from several sources of data
> Global Outlook
The interconnectivity of economies and capital markets has reached epic global proportions. Thinking through how a currency crisis in Argentina or geopolitical challenge in Turkey affects capital issuances for African governments and corporates kept me on my toes! Given how volatile financial markets have been over the past decade, interdependencies caused a lot of difficulty in deciding how to proceed with a deal. I learnt a lot about thinking globally, but also dealing with pressure and quick decision-making.
Many fond memories, and many not-so-enjoyable late nights at my desk, are attached to the growth curve I experienced. Overall, I appreciate the process that led me to these outcomes especially as the workload intensity required me to be intentional about my career strategy early on.
What I learnt about succeeding in investment banking
Here’s what I would say to a junior to middle-level investment banking professional:
There are many ways to build and manage an investment banking career depending on your objectives and opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to work in a stimulating environment where the art of the possible was as broad as can be. I gained strong technical and power skills that cross over into different industries. Like everyone else living through these times of digital transformation, it’s important to gauge how best to leverage that going forward. I’m currently on a career break and you can read more of my detailed thoughts about that on my personal website www.rumbimunyaradzi.com.”