By day, Michelina Chindiya (BSc Banking & Finance 2013) is a wealth advisor in Zimbabwe where she helps families plan for their futures. Outside of work, she uses her personal brand and social media influence to educate young professionals on her two passions – finance and fitness. 

Tell us about your time at Essex

I decided to attend the University of Essex because I wanted a degree that would be recognised by employers worldwide. I also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to study in a country and university with high standards. 

The University itself has a diverse student population – I had the chance to learn about different cultures, different ways of life and understand different perspectives from the ones I knew. I knew I’d be able to build strong international networks which would help me once I graduated, personally as well as professionally. 

I studied Banking and Finance because I enjoyed working with numbers and aspired to work in the financial sector just like my mother – she’s my role model in life. For the most part I lived on campus (in the South Courts and then the Quays in my final year). I made some amazing friendships and created long-lasting bonds with friends that have become family.  

Michelina on a black background, her hand touching her hair

Where did life take you after you graduated?

I was nervous about coming back to Zimbabwe due to the economic situation and the lack of job prospects, but I knew I needed to return to try to make some change. Four months after graduating I got a job with one of the fastest growing financial advisory firms on the African continent, Carrick Wealth, and I have never looked back. 

I started off as a junior assistant to a financial advisor and now I am working as a private wealth manager at the firm. 

What does this role entail?

As a private wealth manager, I specialize in guiding high net-worth individuals through bespoke wealth solutions to strengthen their financial journey. I provide offshore holistic financial planning services through the likes of institutions such as JP Morgan, Investec, Credit Suisse just to name a few.

I love the fact that I get to meet new people, hear their stories and help them achieve their future goals and dreams. I love having the opportunity to walk their financial journey with them. I’m in the business of helping people protect, preserve and grow their wealth, so that’s a mission I find very satisfying. It can be quite overwhelming and even intimidating but I am quite honoured to have the privilege of holding their hand every step of the way. Their success becomes my success, and for me this is very fulfilling.

How did Essex help to prepare you for your career?

Essex prepared me by giving me the exposure I needed to deal with clients who come from all walks of life and a range of cultural backgrounds – local Zimbabweans, expats, Africans from all over the continent etc. I am able to communicate effectively regardless of whom I am in front of, with confidence and an open mind because of the exposure I had at Essex.

You’ve also been called upon quite regularly to share your financial advice in the media, is that right?

Yes, I’ve been an economic contributor for BBC UK, BBC Africa and I’ve even been quoted by Bloomberg. 

In 2018 I was invited to share analysis and insight on the Annual National Budget, the first ever national budget after Robert Mugabe’s reign, on BBC’s flag ship show Focus in Africa in a live interview. I’ve also been interviewed on various local and international radio stations.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My day consists of lots of client meetings. These range from introductory meetings, in-depth consultations, or proposal meetings with prospective investors and clients. If I’m not in meetings then I’m busy doing market research and putting together client investment proposals that pose solutions to my client's financial needs.

 Finding a healthy/work life balance comes down to planning and having a set routine. I am a firm believer in the saying ‘if you fail to plan then you plan to fail’. I like to plan out all my days down to the hour - my weekly planner is my best friend!

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

  I would say appearing on BBC’s live show Focus on Africa.

  When I received the call asking to be interviewed to discuss such a crucial document during a time of political change and upheaval in Zimbabwe, on one of the biggest broadcasters in the world, I was extremely anxious and nervous. I had a few hours to prepare, I’d just graduated, and I had little experience in my field. I was so close to declining the opportunity because I was scared and doubted myself - I was afraid of embarrassing myself in front of millions of viewers on live television! But I am so glad I overcame my fears. It went so well and just proves if you believe in yourself, you will succeed.

Finance isn’t your only passion though – can you tell us about how you manage to balance finance and fitness within your personal brand?

As a private wealth manager, I have dedicated myself to helping women put their ‘wealth to work’ and providing hard-working women with the financial guidance and protection they need and deserve. I do this through my social media platforms and by collaborating with established financial institutions. I have built up a social media brand as a fitness and lifestyle influencer. I want to use my own journey to inspire young women like myself to take control of their health and wellness.

I have worked with blue-chip brands such as national medical aid provider, CIMAS, as an ambassador for their ground-breaking iGo wellness campaign. I also had the incredible opportunity of working with Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet for the 2020 edition of their Vic Falls Marathon, which was held virtually for the first time.

On the finance side, I have leveraged my personal brand which has opened opportunities and conversations I’ve always dreamt of. I’ve worked with institutions such as Old Mutual and the Securities Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe to educate the public on investing their money and managing their personal finances, and I’ve recently embarked on a partnership with Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe on a show that addresses both physical and financial fitness and helps viewers to educate themselves on both aspects of their lives.

What has been the biggest challenge for you to overcome?

 As a woman I have had to work hard to dispel stereotypes and prove myself. The biases and micro-aggressions take various forms, needing to provide evidence of competence and skills, being questioned in my area of expertise, being addressed in a less-than-professional way, or being subjected to demeaning remarks, and being told what I can and cannot do 'as a woman' or how my body should look 'as a woman’. I feel as though I still needed to put in extra effort to be taken seriously.

This type of bias makes it tougher for women to voice their opinions openly and be taken seriously, particularly in male-dominant industries such as finance and fitness. It can have a detrimental impact if you’re not strong willed, it can really put you off pursuing your dreams and I’ve had to develop a lot of mental toughness and grit to get through it.

What advice would you offer to students looking to get into the financial industry?

Be ready and prepared to adapt to change. If life gives you lemons make lemonade! Nothing will ever be straight forward and very rarely will things go as planned. Rather than sit and cry about it, wipe away your tears, get up and keep going. Find a way to make things work for you, because if there’s one thing I have learnt, it’s that the world will not wait for anyone.

Adapt and evolve because the more you resist change, the tougher life becomes. We are surrounded by change and it is the one thing that has a huge impact on our lives. There is no avoiding it, it will find us, challenge us and force us to reconsider how to live our lives.  If we ignore or hide away from the challenge of change, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.

What’s next for you?

Currently I am studying to become an ACE-certified personal trainer because I want to start boot camps for women and girls - the end goal is to start a health and wealth wellness centre for women.