‘Competition was fierce but I wanted London’
By Laura Miller -
Right about now in the Before Time when we could still do things other than work huddled in a corner of our sofas laptop balanced on knee like go on holiday, skiers would be planning their winter trips. For six glorious months, now underwriter at Market Financial Solutions Jemima Hayes was among them.
“After I graduated I went to the French Alps, to Courchevel, doing a ski season as a chalet host,” Hayes recalls, “being able to ski everyday was the best experience, I will cherish those memories for the rest of my life”.
Chucking yourself down a mountain on sticks isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but Hayes did spend three years studying marketing and management at university in Newcastle, “the best three years” she says but a city which even on a nice day can give the cold of a frozen piste a run for its money.
Born in London, she and her family left for Jersey, home of low taxes, legendary TV detective Bergerac – and oddly still pound notes. Teenage years were in Surrey, also known as the Stockbroker Belt, and aptly as Hayes entered finance third generation.
“Mum and grandad worked for Lloyd’s of London,” she says, with Hayes following her grandad’s footsteps – “an underwriter for 30 years” – and even more impressively her mum, a broker for 18 years at the notoriously male dominated insurer (which only hired its first female CEO in its 328 year history in 2013) before she left to raise a family.
“My father also worked in banking and asset management so when I was trying to decide what career path to choose it seemed very fitting to follow in my family’s footsteps,” says Hayes.
Her journey started in 2017 as an administrator at a Surrey mortgage firm. She made such an impression she got the job after the first interview. “Competition is fierce, there are so many young professionals trying to start their career,” she says.
Hayes learnt fast, becoming case manager in a year. But her sights were set on the capital. “Jobs in London had so much competition which is why I started off working for a small lender near my hometown,” she says, “but once I had built up experience I was ready to tackle London.”
Being a small fish in a much bigger pond has, judging by her meteoric rise at MFS from assistant underwriter to junior underwriter in just 18 months, given Hayes exactly the space she needed to grow.
Sadly for Hayes, like the rest of us, her favourite city attractions are temporarily out of bounds. “I love working in Mayfair. There are so many wonderful restaurants and bars to try with my friends,” she says.
MFS has just launched a £60m Covid-19 recovery fund, for residential and commercial property investors and businesses with urgent bridging needs. The move, Hayes says, reflects “a time where many are at risk of being pulled under by property chains collapsing, so fast funding couldn’t be more crucial”.
Applicants considering the sector in the current climate need confidence, a willingness to learn and “a positive can-do attitude to address the challenges you can face with bridging,” she says.
Oh and she’s an identical twin, who, according to the Yoruba people of Nigeria, can bring either fortune or misfortune to their families and communities. So probably don’t upset her.
Laura Miller is a freelance journalist who writes about money and business. She regularly appears in UK national and trade newspapers and magazines, and has previously worked for ITV News and the Telegraph among others. Find her on twitter @thatlaurawrites