Annamaria Koerling is Head of Wealth Management at private bank C Hoare and Co. She is married with two girls aged 19 and 15.
What do you do day-to-day?
Wealth management, so long term investing, dealing with individuals rather than companies. I like it because I get to combine my language skills with the financial side and I still love dealing with clients – I find it endlessly fascinating and challenging.
A lot of Power Mums seem to have quite driven mothers. Tell us about yours:
I was born to slightly older parents, my mother was Italian and 40 – which in the mid 60s was old to have your first child. When I came along she gave up work. She was always very caring, but she also didn’t give me much freedom at all – I don’t think I was allowed to walk to the village alone until I was 16! So in that way I didn’t get many opportunities to develop socially and, being an only child, my world was books and reading.
How did you get into finance?
A lot of my generation of Cambridge graduates went into consulting or accountancy firms. I decided pretty quickly that I couldn’t face the thought of qualifying as a chartered accountant. So I went to Morgan Stanley, which was great because at the time American banks were way ahead and I learnt a new way of working.
Were there many women around?
Not at all. I was in a 90s testosterone-charged trading environment – it was not always easy. When you find out the traders are running a book on whether or not your wearing underwear that day, how do you deal with that when you’re 25? In those days it was very much a question of just dealing with it, it didn’t feel like there were any ways to complain.
Did you feel disadvantaged?
I don’t think I’ve ever been paid less because I’m a woman or passed over for promotion but I have had issues. In one job I had a manager who insisted on holding team meetings at 7am which was just impossible when I had small children. He wasn’t going to change so I I realised I had to get a new job.
How old were you when you had your kids?
I was 30 when I had my first daughter, and 34 when I had my second. I was working at Schroders at the time – I’d left Morgan Stanley because I’d met my husband. He is also a trader and there was a definite rule that you couldn’t both work in the same department, and an even more definite rule that if between you, you could control the process from beginning to end then that’s a dangerous thing for a firm. We realised one of us needed to move, so I did.
How was it when the kids were small?
It wasn’t a great time when I had my first daughter, I came back to work far too soon. I asked myself why I was doing it. But it was always a partnership between me and my husband. He now works for himself so he’s largely based from home. I’m really grateful for his support.
Have you always worked full time?
Yes. It is a difficult decision; you always feel that you’re missing out on something. But I was lucky we found a wonderful nanny – she was always there, always flexible and always understanding and we always treated her as a member of the family. I think a lot of people worry that their kids will become more attached to the nanny than they are to them, but I don’t think that happens.
Did you have friends at the school gates?
I never really built relationships with the other mothers, my nanny was my eyes and ears. But perhaps at junior school it was a good thing, because you didn’t get sucked in then to the politics. What I saw was lots of mums who had given up their jobs, were under-stimulated and compensated by being over-anxious about their kids. I opted out of all of that. But in these later years it’s improved – with technology you’re able to have better contact about school-related things.
Why did you decide to send the girls to boarding school at secondary level?
It was my daughter who chose, she’s one of those kids who likes academics and sports and music and she said "I fancy looking at some boarding schools".
My husband – being German – was hugely resistant. But she did her research and I have to say the experience has been fantastic. What we found is that they’re both very much in touch with us and that time that you spend with them is focused on them – it’s definitely worked for us as a family.
Our younger daughter did have a major wobble and said "I don’t want to go, it’s not for me". I basically made her go, I said "it’s a trial and if you’re deeply unhappy we will make other arrangements". I knew that if she got over that initial bit it would be great for her and it has – it’s been a really good experience for her.
What advice do you give your daughters about careers?
It’s a marathon not a sprint. Don’t assume people notice how difficult it is because they don’t.
Don’t be afraid to ask and put yourself forward: if you’re 80% of the way there go ahead and ask, I might have risen quicker if I had.
What have you learnt about how very wealthy people think and behave?
Having wealth is a huge responsibility. Inevitably some people deal with it very well and some less well. Those who see wealth as an opportunity to make a contribution to society are generally people who are happy in their own skins and feel fulfilled.
Should the government or employers do more to help mums?
The tax breaks for child care aren’t great, are they? You have to jump through all these hoops and, being in finance, I should be able to get my head around it but even I find it complicated – there has to be an easier way. In the end unlocking the untapped economic contribution of women is down to childcare provision.
But also I see a lot of my colleagues dealing with elderly parents who are ill and again there is no tax deduction to allow for care provision for them either. A lot of people are caught between their kids, their elderly parents and having a demanding job.
Are you happy with your decisions?
Yes. I think the secret of a happy marriage is understanding what you need to be fulfilled. The secret of feeling comfortable in your own skin - for me - is being busy.