Assomeone who had mastered four languages, Bella Caridade-Ferreira could have taken her linguistic skill set to any number of jobs. The founder of Fundscape concedes she almost “fell” into the world of finance, but hasn’t looked back ever since.
“I went into investment banking for about five years which was bloody hard work,” Bella says, reflecting upon her tough introduction to the industry. “You might get paid a lot of money but you work such long hours that when you work out your hourly fee you only earn £2 or £3 extra with all the weekends you give up!”
Unsatisfied with how little time she was able to spend with her family, Bella managed to find a “more sedate and sensible job” in asset management. Although she didn’t know it at the time, it would be the last job she ever applied for.
Having built up her small asset management firm she sold it to Lipper FMI, part of Thomson Reuters, and quickly went from being an underdog to part of a massive corporation. “It’s a little bit like the EU!” she jokes. “You’re trying to keep everybody happy and always trying to put square pegs in round holes. It doesn’t always work and that can be frustrating, and I actually hated that corporate culture.”
Fed up with the bureaucracy of corporate life, Bella negotiated her exit and setup Fundscape. Nine years on, and she is still revelling in the challenges of forging her own path.
“I would never go back to working for a big company or not being my own boss because I think I’m unmanageable actually!”
Fundscape focuses on the research and analysis of the UK fund industry, an industry which dominates the European market. Having published European and Asian Data Digests during her time with Lipper FMI, Bella has had plenty of international experience and an insight into the differences in advice from country-to-country. She notes that, compared to the UK, advice “in Europe is very much the preserve of the wealthy and it’s bank driven, I wouldn’t call it advice. It’s the same in Asia, it’s not really advice it’s about sales rather than advice in the true sense of the word.”
This honest and critical eye over the financial industry made her a perfect fit for her role as a judge on the Professional Adviser Awards panel. Alongside other carefully selected industry experts Bella must narrow down entries for various categories like the Adviser Firm of the Year award.
“I’m quite a tough marker,” Bella admits. “If question one says give us 200 words on why you should win and you write 400 words on something totally different it’s gonna be a big fat zero, so that helps you reduce the shortlist very quickly!” Future applicants have been warned.
“It’s a little bit like being on a jury! You’re trying to convince the others why someone should be selected or why they shouldn’t be selected, and some people have some very interesting views. Although we’re all quite experienced, we all have different angles we’re approaching it from.”
Turning to the future of the financial sector, Bella believes technology is evidently going to leave its indelible mark.
“Technology frees people up to focus on things that matter,” she explains.
Citing Compare the Platform, a platform comparison site, Bella believes digital is also helping to democratize the industry. As well as saving time entering data into spreadsheets, Citing Compare empowers Fundscape to be more strategic and focus on providing the best service for their clients.
Bella believes we can go one better than embracing technology in the financial world and actually use it to predict and prevent future catastrophes. If there was a way that technology could be used to predict the next global financial crisis, then she suggests we could hopefully avoid the pitfalls of 2008 that brought the whole industry to its knees. If more time and money were invested in software that could detect trends and predict future outcomes, then we would be in a better place.
Despite the influx of new startup challengers, the shifting landscape of robo-advice, and the important role of regulations in 2019, Bella believes there will always be a place for good, sound, face-to-face human advice.
“At the end of the day everyone needs to save for retirement. That’s not going away. I suppose it’s a bit like being an undertaker! People grow old and they die. People need to save and put money aside for their future and the short term, fundamentally, it’s not going to go away.”