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In July last year, Bravura launched its graduate programme aimed specifically at Black female graduates. In keeping with Bravura’s talent acquisition strategy, the benchmark was set high for applicants, requiring top academic performance, a hunger to learn about business and transactions, and that special X-factor which sets them apart from their peers.

Zodwa Mabena and Fatima Solwa, Bravura’s two selected graduates, both have what it takes. Apart from excellent academic achievements, these young women demonstrated strong leadership abilities and an eagerness to ‘go the extra mile’ early on in their studies.

Now in their second month at the company, Bravura interviewed Zodwa and Fatima to gain their first impressions.

Zodwa has a B. Com cum laude and a post-graduate degree with a specialisation in investment management from the University of Johannesburg. At the end of last year she was one of the students representing the University of Johannesburg in the 2018 CFA research challenge held in the United States. This is an annual global competition that provides university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics

Fatima Solwa has a Bachelor of Business Science, specialising in finance and accounting from the University of Cape Town. Last year, she was part of a duo representing the University of Cape Town in the JSE Investment Challenge. The pair subsequently won the challenge and, as part of the prize for the best-performing team, visited the New York Stock Exchange with Nicky Newton-King, the CEO of the JSE.

Head of Corporate Finance, Soria Hay, says that Bravura supports active learning and training to ensure that the requisite skills and practical knowledge lay a solid foundation on which the graduates can build a career path.

This year, both Fatima and Zodwa will undertake the Supervisory Development Programme (SDP) and write the exam, with the aim of furthering their CFA qualifications next year. Hay says, “The key now is for Zodwa and Fatima to integrate into the team. Already they have hit the ground running on live deals and are eager to take on everything at once. However, it is up to us as mentors to guide and pace them. It is very difficult for non-CAs from different academic backgrounds to break into the Corporate Finance market the CF. The Bravura graduate intern programme aims to bridge this gap and provide the opportunities for talented, driven youngsters from slightly different academic backgrounds to move into the mainstream investment banking space.”

Zodwa and Fatima share their insights below.

You’ve been at Bravura for two months. Has there been a steep learning curve?

Zodwa: Yes. The exposure to different transactions together with the training provide an opportunity to learn a lot in a short space of time.

Fatima: The past few weeks have definitely been a steep learning curve and a major realisation of the gap between the skills I acquired at university and what is actually expected at the job. With every day and every deal there has been a new learning opportunity for me.

What have been your key responsibilities thus far?

Zodwa: I’ve been working on a sell-side transaction, as well as doing research for both live and potential transactions.

Fatima: I’m working on two projects, namely a sell-side M&A transaction and a capital raise. In addition, I have also been conducting research on midmarket-cap JSE companies.

What skills and personality traits do you think have helped you the most?

Zodwa: I am result-orientated and I have an ability to work in a fast-paced environment.

Fatima: I have a strong work ethic and am also able to work under pressure to meet deadlines.

How have you experienced the Bravura team?

Zodwa: While the onus is on me to ask for guidance, everyone is always ready and happy to help, and constantly following up.

Fatima: My main interactions have been with the analysts who have been very patient and helpful, and are always willing to assist.

What aspects have you found to be the most challenging?

Zodwa: The transition from university to work is generally not an easy one. The time management requirements and getting used to a new routine have been the most challenging aspect. In terms of the actual work, the level of challenge is just about right thanks to the support network and mentoring.

Fatima: The longer hours are definitely a major adjustment for me after my years as a student. In the university environment I was always given a lot of direction and guidance on a task, but now I have to figure out a lot of things by myself as I go along. However, the analysts have been a huge help whenever I have needed clarification or assistance.

What has been the most exciting aspect of working at Bravura?

Zodwa: The most exciting aspect is the opportunity to make a genuine impact and being given responsibility rather than doing mundane tasks.

Fatima: One of the biggest surprises for me is how included I’ve been in the team from day one. Despite my limited knowledge and experience, it’s been so interesting to be able to attend client meetings and really understand how the deal progresses.

Fatima and Zodwa are bright stars that show enormous potential to make their mark not only at Bravura, but within the wider investment banking space. Hay says “If Zodwa and Fatima are a small indication of the calibre of young Black female graduates out there, then there is little doubt that we each have a role to play in developing a pipeline that will enable them to thrive in their careers, while at the same time diversifying and adding value to our industry.”