05 Mar 2019

Harnessing the power of change

Investec’s Farieza Essop explains why challenges are opportunities, and how her varied career in law and structured finance has helped her learn and grow.

Fast facts

Education

BA Law, LLB, HDip Tax, Admitted Attorney

Joined Investec

September 2008

Current position

Investment Executive, Khulasande Capital

After matriculating in Durban, Farieza studied and qualified as an attorney, before completing a Higher Diploma in Taxation. Her varied career has taken her from law to structured finance, back to law and now to investments, and she believes that it’s vital for women to change things up. To her, moving out of your comfort zone is the quickest way to grow, learn and succeed.

 

What do you do at Investec?

I assess, negotiate and manage investments in Khulasande, a black-owned and controlled private equity and investment vehicle, backed by Investec. I manage investments from a shareholder level and as a director on the boards of these companies, if required.

 

How did your career begin?

I started at Standard Bank as a legal advisor and was fortunate to be identified as an employee with potential to play a meaningful role in Standard Bank, because I was successful as a legal advisor but was also really good with people, plus I had commercial acumen. As a result, I was offered an opportunity in structured finance. So that’s where I headed: the only lawyer and female in a team of CAs, starting from the bottom up doing financial models.

 

How did your role at Investec evolve?

I joined Investec as a Legal Advisor and then spent nine years working very closely with a Private Capital team in the Private Banking Division. This team evolved from doing debt transactions to playing in the equity space as well, and I ended up evolving too. When the Khulasande opportunity came up, the business thought I would be a great fit because I had the commercial acumen, a legal background, equity transaction experience and I was also a black woman.

Farieza Essop
Farieza Essop, investment executive, Khulasande Capital

It’s vital to change things up and grasp every opportunity that comes your way.

What challenges have you encountered along the way?

I don’t like to use the word challenges because everything is a learning experience. However, it was very common walking into boardrooms, while negotiating and closing transactions, to find that I was the only female and the only non-white person. But I think that the mindset of corporate South Africa has evolved a lot since 15 years ago. Now people look at that one woman in the room and say, ‘let’s hear what she can bring to the table’, because they know we can offer a fresh perspective.

 

Who are your mentors?

My parents were my biggest mentors. They’ve always held a principle that you must show up, you must make your mark, and you should always try be the best that you can be. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by strong women in my family who were successful in the workplace and at home. For me, it was a norm to rise up and be counted. In the work space, my first manager Rodney Nielson from Standard Bank was a huge mentor, while at Investec, the leaders of Private Bank Ryan Tholet, Dion Katz [who left in 2018] and Ciaran Whelan have all given me amazing support, as well as insights into what a true leader should be.

 

How do you mentor others?

If I can identify that someone is struggling, I stop and ask them to tell me about it, which provides context into their behaviour or actions. I also give positive feedback to people’s managers when I’m working with them on transactions, and guidance on where they could improve. It’s not necessarily women that I’m mentoring, it’s men or women, new to the organisation or seasoned colleagues. It is all about helping colleagues to make a change or create a mark and challenging them to think out the box.

 

What do you hope to achieve in future?

You have to take every opportunity that comes your way, and you don’t have to be in the same space you thought you’d always be in - you can chop and change and move around. Ultimately, I’d like to try and make a bigger impact in our organisation from a leadership perspective, whichever way that my journey gets me there. 

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