A Q&A with Leah Keys, Mercer Investment Analyst

Introducing Leah Keys, a Mercer Investment Analyst. Check out our Q&A where Leah shares her journey into investment - and how you can get started, too.

What does your role at Mercer involve?

I am currently an Investment Analyst and my day-to-day involves a combination of portfolio management and sustainable investment. This mostly means looking at how we can mitigate risks within the funds. The sustainable investment side also brings in non-financial risks like climate change and we look at how we can mitigate potential risks posed by climate-induced events.

What’s the best part about your job?

I like that almost every day is different. Being part of a big machine means that there’s always something new going on and there’s always someone that would appreciate a hand, which means I can put my hand up to learn something new when opportunities come about. This is how my role started tilting to sustainable investing, which is my (somewhat) newly discovered passion. And of course the people – the people I work with are pretty awesome.

How did you get into your role?

I was fortunate to start with Mercer straight out of university. I studied a Bachelor of Business at AUT majoring in Finance and Economics. There’s a lot I learned at university that I apply from both portions of my degree but there’s also a lot I learned on the job.

What are your thoughts on the current position of women in finance - is it changing?

It’s quite interesting – it feels like there’s the same amount of women graduating university with relevant degrees, but not enough women getting positions in this field. I believe the mix is definitely changing though – as the importance of diversity continues to grow, one of Mercer’s objectives is to push for more women in finance, and we are letting our stakeholders know this is something we expect them to partake in too. Because things take time it will take a while for this to come through, but I’m optimistic that change is occurring.

What are some of your personal highlights and lowlights with investing and financial wellness?

I wasn’t taught to invest growing up, very typical of the “women are taught to save” mentality. I started investing small amounts throughout university and succumbed to what’s called behavioural finance - and locked in my losses by selling an investment at a loss. This is to date one of my biggest regrets. But I’ve taken it on the chin because there’s no point in dwelling. In terms of highlights – I recently liquidated all my investments to purchase a house. Now I’m in the process of rebuilding my equity investments, which involves setting a small amount of money aside each week and investing it in a couple of exchange-traded funds until I have the funds to invest in a managed fund.

Which area do you think people struggle the most with when it comes to finance?

I think people struggle with a few things: one is selecting appropriate investments for the time frame they wish to invest. The second is market volatility, where markets move up and down. And the third, and most important, is trust (or even a bit of ego). When you’ve got your life savings in your pocket it’s hard to put it into an institution, but it’s extremely difficult to pick our own select number of investments that outperform the markets.

What would be your #1 piece of advice to women looking to start a journey into financial wellness?

Choose a fund that suits your investment time horizon. Managed funds are designed to satisfy clients needs over different time horizons. Once you pick a fund, be prepared for ups and downs BUT when markets start dipping, hold on. Selling out locks in your losses and is one of the largest mistakes anyone can make (hindsight). If you need help picking an investment or just want to ask a few questions, call one of Mercer’s financial advisers, they’re not commission-based so won’t try and push anything on you.

Thanks so much Leah for pulling up a seat at the table and sharing your journey with us!

Fun fact about Leah: People and nature are important to her: she enjoys time with family and friends, her cats and her garden.

Leah’s quick tip for beginners looking to set up a healthier financial future: Start investing as early as you can, with as much as you can afford. Whether that’s $10 or $20 a week or even a month, putting something aside is important. If you don’t know how to do this – find someone qualified who does.