Tuesday 04 September 2018 by Sophie Kessler At FIIG

Introducing Asmita Kulkarni, our Director of Investment Strategy Group

A self-confessed nerd, with an affinity for numbers and symmetry, Asmita can punch out more than numbers for her clients, with a black belt in Taekwondo. But it’s not her only hidden talent, her openness and enthusiasm means she has mastered an array of interests from piano to cooking to the painting seen below. Asmita’s wisdom extends to her views on what it’s like working as a successful woman in finance and how to get the most out of each day.

asmitaimage

Asmita, can you tell us about the path that took you to fixed income and to FIIG?

I have to confess, I am a nerd.

I like numbers, patterns, symmetry – they all just make sense to me. At school I liked maths, physics and chemistry. That’s why I always wanted to be a doctor. But when I filled in my University application I changed my mind and ended up putting down actuarial studies and finance as my first preference. I did get into medicine, but my boyfriend back then, now my husband, persuaded me that three years was definitely a more attractive timeframe to study! I’m glad I made that decision. That doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in medicine though, I have always thought that I might do a nursing degree on the side one day. It just interests me. 

After I graduated, I got an offer from the fixed income team at Macquarie Funds Group. I completed my CFA qualifications and following some years working at various domestic and offshore investment banks, I landed at FIIG! 

With your current role in the Investment Strategy Group, what are you most excited about?

I love client contact, I enjoy being able to speak with people and hear their stories. I came to FIIG because I am really passionate about fixed income and I appreciate the risks involved with different asset classes. At the time I was approached for this role, I looked up FIIG and thought - you are making bonds accessible outside of investing in a fund and that’s exactly what we need. We’re an ageing population; we need people to invest in securities that are not as risky as hybrids, equity or property. Most people only think of deposits as defensive assets but there’s this huge range of bonds that are defensive as well.   Whether it’s through seminars, webinars or pieces that we write, I thoroughly enjoy helping our clients. 

Asmita_KulkarniDo you find it exciting that we are largely responsible for increasing the awareness of the Australian bond market?

Absolutely, I think that was one of the biggest things that attracted me to FIIG. And I am directly involved in identifying trade opportunities, helping the relationship managers come up with ideas for their clients. A large part of my role focuses on residential mortgage backed securities known as RMBS - educating, analysing, pricing.

The team is growing and we have a whole lot of new RMBS.I will be hosting a webinar on 27 September for our wholesale clients on the topic. I’m really looking forward to it.

And what about your family, you’re a Sydney girl aren’t you?

Yes, I have lived in Sydney since childhood. I’m a mum, a wife and I’m a daughter. My parents are Indian by heritage and we live fairly close. We have a really tight relationship, especially as I’m an only child. 

I also have two little boys aged six and four. We have just embarked on the schooling journey with our older son starting Kindy this year. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. 

I know you have a lot of interests and give everything a go, how do you factor everything in?

You know what; you can’t do everything especially when you are a mother. Can I do everything? No. Can I have everything? Yes, but not at the same time.  

The other thing is making time, I buy groceries online. I also rely heavily on my phone calendar. It’s funny I even wrote down the other day “Pick mum and dad up from the airport”, don’t want to miss that one. 

And you also need to wind down. I am very much into mindfulness and meditation. If I don’t have time, I will meditate on the bus. I would recommend the App Headspace. It was started by a British Tibetan Buddhist monk. The app sets you up with lots of different great tools. 

What other hobbies do you have then to wind down?

I enjoy reading contemporary fiction. Liane Moriarty – Big Little Lies is one of my favourites. Right now, I’m reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, it’s really enjoyable. 

I find painting therapeutic, but I need inspiration. I might work on something for three months and then not do anything. You can see my work in the image of this article. Being an analyst, when I paint I use a protractor and a compass to get all my angles correct. I also like colouring in, including those meditation colour-in books.

The other outlet for me is cooking, it’s something I enjoy doing with my boys.  

That reminds me, if you could eat anything in the world right now, what would you choose?

Nachos! I am definitely more of a savory than sweet person. But you know, it changes, I am open to everything.

I know you also like music, if you could listen to one song on repeat, what would it be?

September Song by Agnes Obel. It’s not mainstream, which I usually like but the piano in that piece is just so beautiful. My son is actually learning to play the piano, he is amazing. I enjoyed watching him learn so much that I started to learn how to play the piano too!

I’m interested, tell me a bit about your experiences as a successful woman in finance?

Do you know what, I have never had a female boss, having said that my male bosses have been supportive and wonderful mentors I think we need to do more to empower women. It’s a generational change. 

Finance is a male dominated industry, absolutely. However, things are rapidly changing. Just look at FIIG, we have women working across various functions in the business and we actively support flexible working arrangements.

What do you think are the top three challenges for women in the workforce?

1. Competing priorities, especially the idea of balancing your roles as a mother and a professional worker. 
2. Younger women being unable to see enough role models. At university there were more girls than boys but that is not reflected in the workforce, where did they all go? 
3. Women need both male and female champions, the industry is mindful of this and is actively supporting the move.

What is your overall mantra that gets you up each day?

I have a quote on my desk by Ralph Waldo Emerson saying – Be silly. Be honest. Be kind. 

Why can’t we be like that? Why shouldn’t we respect different opinions? That’s why we are here after all. Being kind, compassionate and respectful might not get you to the highest jobs. 

But when you are late in your life and you tell your story, a story of virtue will be a much better story. 

Note: Article Image is Asmita's own artwork

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