Money Health with Samar McHeileh
Samar McHeileh says there are two things you don’t mess with; your health and your wealth.
After graduating from RMIT University, she travelled to London where she worked as a media sales executive at The Hedge Fund Journal. Her job was to sell advertising space which saw her rubbing shoulders with the wealthy while she attended functions at esteemed establishments like Bank Of New York Mellon and Goldman Sachs.
“It was like a real-life monopoly play,” she exclaimed. “This was pre-GFC (Global Financial Crisis), so hedge funds were massive. We even organised a hedge fund awards night at the Natural Museum of History.”
Only 25-years-old at the time, Samar was inspired by these long-standing and prestigious investment firms. The exceptional work ethic and ambition possessed by the people who worked in the industry was also something she deeply admired. This exposure and experience to the world of wealth management in London motivated her to pursue a career in the industry upon returning to Melbourne.
“It’s less about being calculated and more about picking something,” she explained.
“That was where I was strategic, in terms of telling everyone that this is what I want to do, even though I didn’t know for sure.”
However, the post-GFC job climate meant that Samar had to wait six months before getting her foot in the door. A friend who worked in recruitment connected her to a job opening at JBWere, where she hit it off with her interviewer.
“One thing I love is meeting new people,” she said. “I find it easy to talk to people and love to find something in common with them.”
Thanks to this rapport, the interviewer offered her a newly opened, unadvertised full-time position despite the fact that Samar was interviewing for a short-term role.
That was 10 years ago.
Starting as an assistant analyst, Samar has climbed her way up the corporate ladder and has since landed in her current role as an executive director. She works closely with the JBWere CEO and the executive leadership team. Playing the role of chief of staff, she works on a plethora of focus areas such as the company strategy and contributing to a dynamic working culture. Her job is to be in the know about all things new and innovative and to infiltrate what is important and relevant into their office agenda.
Safe to say, this was not an easy journey. The odds were against Samar as a young woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and particularly beginning in this field on the cusp of the economic downturn of 2008. Not long after Samar started at JBWere, Goldman Sachs decided to sell 80 percent of the wealth management company to NAB.
Today, NAB fully owns JBWere.
If there is one thing Samar knows, it is resilience. She stayed committed to her decision to work in wealth management and has stuck to her guns.
“I try to put my hand up for everything,” she said. “I always stay positive, love to learn new things and to meet new people. Mostly, I think I’m quite resilient - there were a lot of setbacks early on and it would have been easy to give up so many times.”
“I saw opportunities and went full on, due to that commitment I had people who realised I wanted to do the best I could and chose to sponsor me.”
Although her grit is an innate quality, Samar thanks her mother for instilling in her a drive and determination for success.
“Childhood is such a short time of your life, but it really shapes you,” she said.
“I was really fortunate to have a mother who always said to me: it’s the effort you put in over your innate ability. There’s nothing in your makeup that makes you better or worse than anyone else. And there’s nothing that will stop you from getting what you want.”
She taught me that being independent and not relying on anyone else will get me the furthest in life than anything else will.”
However, Samar’s biggest strength was also her biggest undoing. Not everyone appreciated her “take no prisoners” approach at work.
“Sometimes I take on too much, and because [back then] I was very eager to learn and be the best in my field, I did get offside with some people,” she admitted.
Samar chooses to take an appreciative disposition towards alternative working styles.
“You need to understand that everyone has a story and that sometimes, the person they bring to work isn’t their full self,” she said. “I really struggled with that. I can understand why people are the way they are now.”
As she continues to thrive at work, Samar also channels her abundant energy into causes she is passionate about. She sits on the board of feminist advocacy agency YWCA Victoria, where she pursues her passion for empowering women and solving the affordable housing epidemic.
Samar is also connected to the startup world where she has discovered a strong appreciation for business founders.
“I love the way they think,” she said. “They took a chance, made a choice and are committed. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out you know?”
“It’s all about high performance and all the things which are really important to me.”
Another thing Samar has in common with the startup community is her belief that success cannot be defined by money alone. She is also a big believer and advocate in specialised client services and putting the client at the front and centre of everything.
Given her conviction for ethical practices in the financial world, Samar has plans to enter the world of fintech which will help make financial services more affordable and accessible.
“I really believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and behavioral science is the key to transforming the financial services industry in order to make it more affordable and accessible,” she said.
“But how do you make sure you have that trust? What are you providing me that I can’t work out myself? If a platform can provide everything, and combine that face to face element, that will be what [the future] will look like.”
For students who want to work in the world of finance, Samar insists that your grades are paramount in getting you a foot in the door. However, Samar also thinks it is important to question the reasons for wanting to work in this cut-throat industry.
“Is it because it’s sexy?” she challenged. “It’s long hours. You’re going from doing a couple of hours here and there a week at university, to doing 15 to 16 hour days and weekends. Investment banking is full on.”
Nevertheless, Samar is living proof that no matter how tough it gets, perseverance and hard work will get you to where you want to be.