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Sonia Beneby wants to get to heart of the number

Not everyone will enjoy taking an onion and, layer by layer, peeling it back until its components are bare. For one young Chartered Financial Analyst(CFA)designation holder at Scotiatrust, however, financial’onions’are the order of the day, and most welcome.

“I like the idea of not just looking at something as a whole and taking it at face value, but dissecting it or peeling it back and looking at its various components,”Sonia Beneby, manager of fiduciary investment services at Scotiatrust toldGuardian Business.”When we do that we get a better picture of what something is made up of. That excites me.”

In her current capacity Beneby gives oversight to discretionary accounts, ensuring that they are consistent with their investment mandates and rebalancing portfolios that deviate from those mandates. Discretionary accounts allow their managers to buy and sell securities without the client’s consent for each trade, subject to any limitations spelt out in the mandate.

“I love the fact that I get to look at the return or performance on an incremental basis as opposed to looking at just one number. Looking at what makes up that return, you are better able to assess whether or not value is being added by those who may be managing these accounts,”Beneby said.

In her eighth year at Scotiatrust, Beneby said she always knew she wanted to be in finance, but prior to her CFA preparation was not always so sure about which area of finance she would settle in. She did know that the CFA exam was the’gold standard’for financial professionals, and if she wanted to be in that industry she would need to pursue it. She completed the CFA program in 2006.

“It’s a global standard and I wanted to have that sort of certification behind my name to prosper in the industry,”Beneby said.

In her case, the analytical competencies which come through preparation for the CFA designation fit in with her natural love for investigation and puzzle solving, but Beneby believes there are excellent employment opportunities for Bahamians who take the time to attain the designation. She said the demand for performance analysts is increasing. Due to pending changes in legislation in countries like the United States, where she said there is a movement toward greater transparency in financial products like hedge funds, demand for such analysts should continue to grow.

Beneby is now the president of the CFA Society of The Bahamas, which she has worked with for about five years. She also says she continues to do voluntary work with the CFA Institute-the global body which confers the CFA designation.

Beneby’s advice to anyone wanting to get into the field, whether as a financial analyst or in financial services generally, is,”Work hard, apply yourself, set attainable goals and really stick with them.”She said her field is truly gratifying, if it is the kind of work you like to do. She enjoys her work so much, in fact, she said the least favorite aspect of it is when she is pulled away to attend to ever-important, though not as beloved administrative tasks.

Beneby also said one area of the job that provides a particular challenge is getting buy-in to conclusions determined from her analysis. Who will manage a portfolio, for example, is much more complex than simply the added financial value a specific manager may bring. There are relationship issues, client preferences, and other matters to consider.

“I have to be ethical,”Beneby said.”My job is to disseminate my findings and after dissemination, if a decision is made that is contrary, I can feel comfortable about disagreeing without creating static.”

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