Daria Lebert works as Manager Fund Sales at the renowned fund company Flossbach von Storch. Originally, she wanted to be a teacher, so she made a lateral move into the financial sector. She talks to Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski about how she sees the industry and what fascinates her about it.
Daria, you changed career to get in the finance industry. Can you tell us what your original training was and how you then got into the financial industry?
I studied to become a teacher of German and social sciences - a classic civil service career. During my studies in the social sciences, I realized how exciting economics can be. That's where I put my focus. Unfortunately, you learn very little about investing in general and how stock exchanges and securities transactions work in particular during your teacher training. I hadn't talked about these topics with my parents when I was growing up either, although my father - who is a controller - is very affine to numbers. To me, the field seemed very interesting, but I also worried and wondered, "What are you going to do when you're standing in front of the class and can't say anything about it?" I then "read into it"; my first book was actually "Stock Market for Dummies."
And how did you end up in the financial industry?
A friend of mine worked at Deutsche Bank in the construction financing department, where she supervised IFAs. One of these IFAs was looking for someone to do the filing. I took the job to finance my studies. After 3-4 months, I was hooked on the financial world. My boss at the time was a liability umbrella partner, so he also offered portfolio management with individual securities. This allowed me to gain practical experience right away.
And did you stay?
To the sorrow of my family, who would have been more comfortable with a civil service career for their daughter, yes. I completed my state teaching exam while I was already starting training to become a financial services consultant.
What was it about the financial industry that fascinated you so much?
Business is incredibly complex; so many unpredictable things happen, so many new things. And you work on your own responsibility, you're free. At school, on the other hand, the topics are always the same, even if the student body and teaching methods change - but the content remains largely the same. I'm a person who is open to the world, to new things, who likes to think about how structures change - and you might have to change yourself. I also like to be in charge of my retirement planning. I want to fall on my feet instead of someone else's feet.
You're young, how do your friends of the same age view the financial industry?
Actually, hardly anyone is interested in the topic of old-age provision. If they are, it's more likely to be men. Women would perhaps also like to learn about it, but the inhibition threshold is still very high.
When you entered the financial industry, how did you argue that you were the right person for the job? In other words, what do you think convinced your first employer in the financial industry about your resume?
It wasn't difficult at first, because it was just an organizing job. The boss will have thought, "Great, she's doing the work - and I have my peace!" Then it was more difficult to move from the B2C business to the B2B level. That's because I didn't want to work for an IFA again, but wanted to get a broader overview of the investment industry. I wanted to learn more, to develop myself further. That's how I ended up at Sauren Fonds-Service AG.
You are now Manager Fund Sales at the fund company Flossbach von Storch. Can you tell us what your work is like?
I actively support our distribution partners in the Western region, namely non-banks, i.e. independent investment advisors, pools and insurance companies. I "pitch" for our funds, develop existing business and build new business. In the process, I also advise on topics such as business development and modernization, e.g., how to make client advisory services more efficient by switching to asset management strategies. I usually travel a lot in the job, but in Corona times, most of it works digitally.
The financial industry is considered male-dominated. As a young woman, do you have the impression that this is still the case?
I have the feeling that these old structures have already broken down a bit - especially thanks to your generation, many thanks for that! But fundamental change takes time; the reservations about women are still there. Sometimes I'm asked more or less bluntly, "Great that you're doing this, but can you even do it?" Even though it may be easier for me to get into conversation with our sales partners as a woman, I then have more work because people don't assume I have the same competence as a man. Sometimes I'm also really put to the test. Fortunately, I'm more of an extrovert, because in my experience, reserved women still have a hard time in the financial industry.
You're going to be a mom soon... how did you plan your time off and then back in?
I will be returning to work full-time after seven months of parental leave. My husband and I are splitting the parental leave 50:50, taking one month together. After that, we'll have to see whether it's just me or my husband who goes back to work full-time. Then we'll also have to rely on the help of our social environment - in addition to the family, of course, a daycare center or a childminder. I'm a big fan of multi-generational parenting, and our parents and in-laws live nearby. A family network like that is very helpful, especially with a child.
How do your friends react to you going back full time after 7 months?
I don't sense any rejection, but most people react with astonishment. In Germany, it is unfortunately still not normal for a mother to return to work full-time just seven months after the birth of her child. Many of my friends are pregnant. Most of them take much longer parental leave than their husband; he often stays only 2 months. Most of the time it's related to salary. I read the other day that in only one percent of marriages does the wife earn more than her husband. That's why young families often opt for the classic division of roles: the wife stays at home, the husband brings home the money. That is a structural problem.
Do you feel like your maternity leave will affect your career opportunities?
No, I don't let anyone talk me into that either! It's perfectly okay for women - and mothers, too, of course - to want to have a career. I don't want to perpetuate the illusion that this stops with children or is not possible. Thank goodness there are now many employers who see things similarly.
How will you keep in touch with the industry during your maternity leave?
I will keep in touch with my colleagues, for example, continue to attend important meetings. Through Corona, we have learned that keeping in touch digitally works very well. I am well connected via LinkedIn, and I will continue to accompany one or the other important project.
How did you inform your distribution partners?
I have told them my exact return time partly by phone, partly by e-mail. I will be back in March! All in all it is only 9 months. This phase must be bridged, whereby I can rely on the support of my team colleagues. I think the customers will not forget me during this time.
What tips and advice would you like to give to young women who are interested in a career in finance?
It is helpful to gain as much professional experience as possible and to look for points of contact when questions arise. For example, I became a member of the Fondsfrauen when I was still working at the IFA; the exchange helped me a lot. Honestly, what you offer for women, especially the younger ones, is great! A super project that as many women as possible should take advantage of! It is very important to have a network and to maintain it.
What can the financial industry do better to make it easier for young women?
The image of the industry is still pretty dusty; it needs polishing. I graduated from high school in 2008, and until then I didn't even know how to take out liability insurance. The subject of finance is simply not covered in school - unfortunately! If you don't get any knowledge from your parents, you're just out of luck. The financial sector should do more to make economics a separate school subject. The Flossbach von Storch Foundation is doing a lot in this respect, and initiatives like the money teachers are also enriching. Ultimately, however, the responsibility still lies with everyone themselves to actively shape their retirement provision and asset accumulation.
Thank you, Daria! For now, we wish you an easy birth, and then lots of fun with your baby; and of course a good return to work!