This month's OB of the month is Tosin Akinluyi (Fe. 1990-92), who is Global COO of Macro Research at Morgan Stanley and has over 20 years' experience in the financial services sector. Tosin spoke to us about how her time at Brighton College shaped her, and shared some good advice which will resonate with OBs at any stage of their career.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you grew-up?
I probably had more of an idea of what I didn't want to do! I knew I liked numbers, and analysis - and being useful, and I knew that I wanted to be in a corporate setting - I knew I liked the structure around that environment. So, whilst I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to do, I knew what I liked. Some people are razor-sharp and know what they want to do quite early on but I went more through a process of excluding things over time… I studied Economics at University which is quite a broad area of study and then did a Masters, and afterwards a graduate training programme in the energy sector.
- What are you now you've grown up?
I am not sure I am fully grown up yet :-) but right now, I am a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley. I am the global Chief Operating Officer in a division called Macro Research which is economics and fixed-income research. In Macro Research people analyse and monitor economies and markets across the world, then author research reports with forecasts, investment ideas and strategies and speak with our investor clients about these to help them make informed decisions. As the COO, my job is to make sure that everyone has what they need to carry out what I have described - technology, people, training, infrastructure etc. ... there are so many different aspects to it. I like my job because no two days are the same and there are lots of surprises!
- What is your best memory of school?
My best memory of school was when I was made a prefect, as I wasn't expecting it at all. I really felt "wow, this can't be going too bad" - it was a good feeling. Also, during my first year at the College, I started playing netball, having never played before in my life (it's not really played in Nigeria where I was born and raised). I thought I wasn't very good at it but then in my second year I was put on the second team! I was really chuffed with that. I also once did a volunteer day with some children with Down's syndrome - I remember being nervous but it ended up being the most wonderful, humbling, rewarding day and experience that has stayed with me until now.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
It's very easy to work through life almost ticking things off on a list - pass my A-levels, write this application, achieve this goal and so on. But someone once said to me, "it's very important to take a pause. When things happen, whether they're great successes or challenges, it's very important to sit back and take stock. All of these moments refine you as a person and there's always something to learn from those times". This was such useful advice, as it's so easy to rattle through life at top speed and not take that pause to pat yourself on the back or to reflect on things we would change.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is the fact that it is so reliant on what's going on across the world, so you have to be prepared for anything - whether that's an election outcome or natural disaster, as so many things can affect the markets. Bank regulation has also really changed in recent years, and it is important to keep up with these changes and ensure that they are being applied effectively across the globe. But I think that the challenging parts of my job are also the things that make me thrive - they're the most interesting. I think that if you really like your job, then the things that are challenging or daunting are the things that engage you and make you want to solve the problem.
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
The concept of giving back has always stayed with me from even before my time at Brighton College and I am very proud of the work I've done to encourage young women to explore the finance sector. For instance, at my firm, I set up the 'Step In, Step Up' programme, a school outreach program to encourage students to consider a career in finance through hearing from industry professionals directly, and the programme has been running for 10 years. It has been brilliant to see it grow in impact and breadth, and I can't wait to see it develop further. I have come to speak to students at Brighton College over the years about careers in finance. I am also proud to work at Morgan Stanley for over 17 years - It has a strong collaborative culture of excellence and giving back. It is also a firm that is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, like I am.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
More regular exercise - in the transition to working from home because of the pandemic, I lost that regimen. Honestly it used to feel like such a chore, but now I miss it.
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Something that plays a range of music, a Bible and Lego - you can't get bored with Lego!
- How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as humble, approachable, honest and nice and as setting a good example to others in all those things.
I was at Brighton College 30 years ago and I don't think I appreciated how great it was as a school at the time; I would really encourage all the pupils to make the most of their time there.