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Heidi Ridley is the Global Chief Executive Officer of AXA Investment Managers’ Rosenberg Equities, a fund manager in charge of over 19 billion euros. The money problems she saw her parents struggle with as a child has led Heidi to dedicate her career to helping others achieve financial freedom. A resilient and authentic leader, Heidi talks to Catherine Robson in this week’s Success Stories episode about the childhood financial trauma that shaped her career, juggling family life as a CEO and why failure is not an option.
The daughter of an Iranian father and US mother, Heidi lived between the US and Iran as a child. The family moved permanently to the US after her father lost everything during the Iranian revolution.
Rebuilding their lives in California, her parent’s financial devastation left them unable to fund Heidi’s education, so she put herself through college.
“Being able to go to college was an amazing experience and one that I’ll never forget but coming out of it, I definitely knew I was going to have to support myself and I was very eager to work” says Heidi.
When she graduated and got a job at an investment banking firm in San Francisco, she was also working as a waitress at night and as a front desk manager on the weekends.
“That was a difficult period, holding down three jobs, but it also was really gratifying because I felt very independent, I was taking care of myself” she says.
Her family’s financial troubles instilled an unshakeable resilience in Heidi and a deep affinity for helping others achieve financial security through her work with Rosenberg Equities.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life and I wouldn’t change a day of it, even the hardships, because it really creates the mosaic of who you are and how you approach things.” says Heidi.
“My personal motto is failure is not an option. I think if you have that in your mindset and you just think about those words it really allows you to tap into something much deeper when you need to” she says.
“Coming into asset management, the idea of helping people achieve financial security is very motivating for me. It hits a personal chord” she says.
Appointed global CEO in March 2017 and with two sons still at home, she’s often challenged in balancing the demands of her role with family life.
“You miss little milestones and I try to do what I can to manage around that but I want to make sure I’m very, very present in their lives even though I have a demanding career that I care deeply about as well.” says Heidi.
Although she’s ruthlessly efficient with her time, it’s her mindset, rather than an abundance of productivity tools that help Heidi achieve balance where she can.
“My state of mind is always optimistic and opportunistic”.
“I always feel like there is going to be something positive on the other side if I just focus and get the task at hand done” she says.
The rich diversity of the AXA Investment Managers culture is something Heidi works hard to protect and she’s extremely motivated by developing people. It’s clear she cares about trying to tap into what really makes people tick, what they love and how that can connect to their career.
“I think if you can find that connection, it can be very, very powerful for a business.” she says.
“I barely look at resumes when I’m interviewing people. I just want to know about who they actually are, what makes them tick and what can they bring to the table; is it different?”
“Women, in particular, really want to make sure we have every ‘I’ dotted and every ‘T’ crossed and sometimes question whether we’re where we need to be for a particular opportunity or role. I just feel like you need to tap into that inner confidence and use that as your compass” she says.
Heidi has dedicated her career in asset management to help others achieve true financial freedom but believes learning money management is what can really make the biggest impact.
“I think you absolutely have to teach it early on.” she says.
“I had teacher at a very early age who gave us a project where we drew a job and a salary out of a hat and then we had to, at that time, look through the newspaper to find an apartment and research how much utilities cost and try to figure out if we could live on this salary. It was just such a powerful project and I don’t think we do enough these days with the younger generation around financial security”.