Victoria Hasler interview: my best and worst investments are the same

The Square Mile director of research and consulting on making investing more accessible for the masses, getting serious about pensions, and Antarctic dreams.

Victoria Hasler is director, research and consulting at Square Mile Investment Consulting and Research. Previously she worked for Brewin Dolphin as a fund analyst, at Rothschild Private Bank as a fixed income investment manager, and for Merrill Lynch where she was a fixed income analyst.

Growing up, what did you learn about money?

I was extremely fortunate growing up as my parents were keen to teach me about budgeting and the value of money. I was taught that you can’t always have what you want, and that you often value and appreciate the things you save up for more than the things you get straight away. 

Who takes care of the money in your house?

Me. If you want something doing...

What was your first investment?

Cash. My father opened a savings account for me when I was about seven or eight and taught me to start saving. It was a great habit to get into, and I’m very grateful now for the lesson.

What was your best investment? And your worst? 

Cash. And cash. I do invest in other things, but I’m a cautious person by nature and try always to keep enough in cash to cover “rainy day” expenses. This is certainly my best investment as it gives me peace of mind, but I suppose it is also my worst. In markets which have raced away over the last 10 years or so, I could definitely have made more investing in other things with this pot of my savings. I don’t regret holding it in cash though – peace of mind is very valuable in my opinion.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing, by far, is meeting fund managers. It is such a privilege to go around talking to some of the best managers in the business, hearing their views and opinions and learning from them.

And the worst?

Probably the lack of time to stop and think. We are all so busy that it can be hard to step back and see the bigger picture.

If you could change only one thing about the industry you work in, what would it be?

I would want to put more of a focus on end investors and thinking what we can do to make investing more accessible to the masses. I think for the average person on the street, investing is still very remote. This is probably tied in with the question of diversity as well. The more accessible we can make the industry, both as a place to work and for the end clients, the better it has to be for everyone, and the more of a future we will have as an industry.

If you had to save money, what could you do without?

Most things. How much do we really need when it comes down to it? I think a lot of the time we end up spending money to keep up with others or because we think it will make our lives easier. If I really needed to then I could walk to work, turn the heating down, only buy second-hand and so on.

What financial advice would you give your younger self?

Take pensions seriously from when you first start work. Actually, someone did give me this advice soon after I started work, and I am so grateful. When you first start work, retirement seems such a long way off that it is easy to think that you can start saving later, but the habit of paying in, combined with the power of compounding returns, mean that meeting your goals are so much easier if you start early. It is an issue that our parents’ generation have not had to face as they were, mostly, fortunate enough to have defined benefit pension plans. For those of us on defined contribution schemes, however, it is more of an issue.

What do you do for fun?

I love to be outside, so going for long hikes with friends in the English countryside is always near the top of my list. Squelching through mud is all part of the fun, and a bit of rain never puts us off. Just to be clear though, I don’t say no to walks in the sunshine either.

Cross-country skiing is something I have discovered in the last few years. I have been a fan of downhill skiing since I learnt when I was at university, but cross-country skiing somehow allows you to appreciate the beauty of a frozen landscape even more than whizzing down a hill. And it has the added advantage that you never have to queue for a lift!

In another life I would be a…

Maybe an explorer. I always fancied working for the British Antarctic Survey. What an adventure that would be.

Read more Women in Finance interviews:
- Moira O’Neill interview
- Laura Foll interview

 

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