She might not be known that much locally. However, in the hallowed corporate halls of the United Kingdom, her name is a ticket to riches. Neo Mooki is one of the most sought after investment solution providers in Europe who has given credence to her reputation with record breaking deals. She was among top guests at the recent Global Expo where she brought a team of investors under the banner – Investment Battlefield – to hear pitches from start-up promoters, offering possibility of funding exciting ideas. KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO reports
While there is debate surrounding whether greatness is born or made, Neo Mooki, – the 38-year-old Motswana financial guru based in the United Kingdom – easily ticks all those boxes and disrupts the debate altogether.
Mooki is no stranger to trailblazing. Growing up she was a star student in all respects. She graduated top of her class at Junior Secondary School; attaining a merit, the only two to be attained by her school that year. She proceeded to Mater Spei College for her senior secondary education, but was soon snatched by Maruapula School who offered her a scholarship.
“The scholarship was offered to high performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose parents couldn’t afford the cost of private education,” she said.
Growing up she was always involved in community work, volunteering for HIV/AIDS awareness to education and advocating for and getting support for orphans from corporate organisations as well as from government.
As fate would have it her philanthropic work landed her at the UNICEF office where she got to work and collaborate with them on a number of projects. As the relationship grew she was later to work with UNICEF’s education Officer, who was not only intrigued by Mooki’s talent but pledged to mentor her together with one other young volunteer.
Mentored by President Masisi
“He created a space for us at his desk, provided us with all resources needed and mentored us,” said Mooki.
That Education Officer is none other than the current President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi. She attributes her early successes, road to success and her current blow to Masisi’s mentorship. So intense was Masisi’s mentorship and support that at 16, Mooki was later to be used by UNICEF as their girl child representative.
“That is why even today I believe so much in mentorship and tries by all means to mentor others, especially the girl child. Masisi pushed me to work hard so much that I excelled and ended up being known throughout the UNICEF circles as the African Girl Child,” she said.
“The African Girl child” has grown. She is now a trailblazing corporate leader of note with over a decade of investments and financial markets experience. She currently serves as the Investment Director at Aberdeen Standard Life Investments (listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index, with assets under management (‘AUM’) of over USD530 billion).
She is responsible for the growth and development of the Insurance asset management business within Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) and for the delivery investment solutions for ASI’s biggest insurance clients which constitute more than half of the firm’s total AUM.
Trusted for investment solutions
Mooki provides insight into institutional investor requirements and drives the design of innovative investment solutions across asset classes including private markets. She has delivered some of the best asset management industry’s ground breaking asset solutions, including recently spearheading the launch of a short-dated product in the private equity space. This made national news as it was the first of its kind in the institutional space, attracting over GBP500million of capital since launch in July 2018.
She has recently leveraged her strong investment innovation background and passion for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship to found ASI’s Private Markets Impact Investing platform. This investment strategy aims to leverage private markets access routes to actively place capital in businesses and funds across the world that generate social and/or environmental good and that can genuinely address UN’s sustainable development goals, while generating attractive financial returns to investors. Since inception of the strategy in mid-2018, the fund has already secured GBP150millin of capital, with several hundred million in the pipeline from institutional investors across Europe.
Loved tomato sauce
She, however, tells an honest and funny story about her thoughts and ambitions as a small child. Her dream was to become her aunt’s maid/helper when she grew up; reason being that at the time she loved tomato sauce so much and every time she visited her aunt’s place in Serowe she got to eat it limitlessly, unlike at her mother’s house where the delicacy was reserved for Sunday lunches.
Well those innocent thoughts would later change when the young Neo progressed and got to discover that there is more to life than tomato sauce and that being a maid could in fact be career limiting to her. She then decided that she wanted to be a doctor; the reason being that she wanted to help other people and give her family a good life.
“We grow up under poverty. Though we were not extreme we didn’t have everything that we wanted and I wanted to make sure that my education helps elevate my family to a certain level, particularly having been brought up under a single parented family,” she said.
As fate would have it, she would later be posted to Princess Marina Hospital for her national service after she graduated from high school. At Marina, she job shadowed doctors to get a feel of what being a doctor entailed.
She points out that it was tough at the time because it was a period when the HIV/AIDS scourge had hard hit Sub Saharan African and she would spent a good time of her stay at the male surgical ward where she was stationed, filling in death certificates. The hands-on experience at Marina gave her the perspective she was looking for.
Why Actuarial Science choice
Combining the Marina and the UNICEF experience, she realised that her grand plan of eventually using this to eventually contribute to policy change wasn’t going to work.
“The plan was to be a doctor and do public health and then come back and do policy work for the likes of UNICEF, the World Bank and others,” she said.
She realised that what Africa needed was more than people who were doing aid work but rather people who were able to influence investment into the continent who can be able to pump more than just aid but other resources that would boost change and growth. And that is when she chose to do actuarial sciences.
“I realised at that stage that there can only be so much that aid organisations can be able to do. Aid actually doesn’t always help in my opinion; so I reached that conclusion at a very young age and that is when I decided to change my career choice and be an actuary instead,” she said.
She then got government sponsorship to study Actuarial Sciences at the University of Wales Swansea where she attained a BSc (Hons) Degree in Actuarial Science. The world has been her oyster since.
Prior to joining ASI in 2013, Neo served as an Actuarial and Investment consultant within a multi-billion international consulting firm in the City of London. She held several leadership roles within the business and was highly successful, working across multiple practice areas and geographies, providing actuarial and investment advice to the company’s largest clients. She also served as a Director of Aon Trust Corporation, sitting on several Trustee Boards as a Corporate Trustee to some of the UK’s largest pension funds.
She has an Executive MBA from the University of Oxford, is an Associate of the Faculty & Institute of Actuaries; and holds the Investment Management Certificate.
Being a product of public education, and government sponsorship in the bulk of her education, Mooki is only glad that she now has a chance to give back. She was recently a guest speaker at the Botswana Global Expo, where she brought along investors to consider investing in local businesses especially youth-owned startups that do not only have potential to disrupt markets but are founded on community goodwill.