Herbert Fikkers (1983) ticks all the boxes applicable to financial talent: an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a burning ambition. At the same time he realises that he won’t get far without soft skills. So from time to time he draws a chance card in order to develop these.
“I am fascinated by the psychological and mathematical workings of our economy. I want to get to the bottom of complex financial connections. What are the choices and behaviour behind the numbers? When something fascinates me, I can really sink my teeth into it, as I did for example during my two university courses and my training as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). At the same time this talent to focus is my pitfall. ‘You have a tendency to avoid risk,’ as a psychologist said when I was applying to be a trainee at ING in 2007. At first I found this difficult to accept but then I grasped the opportunity to go and work in Bangkok for the then ING unit Nationale-Nederlanden. I was the first Dutchman to be posted out there and decided to do as many fun things as I could with my Thai colleagues. My people skills – soft skills – developed rapidly as a result. Once I had taken this step it became easier for me to embrace the unknown. For example, after seven years as a controller I became the personal assistant to senior manager Annerie Vreugdenhil. She encouraged me to make another unexpected transfer: to my current job as finance specialist on mid-corporate acquisitions.
“I’m a subject specialist rather than a manager. My goal is not to go into senior management, but I do want to perform at the peak of my ability as a finance professional. My current ambition is to grow into acquisitions in the corporate market, as these represent the most complex puzzles.
Resilience & Perseverance
“To perform at a high level you need to make sacrifices. I did my CFA training alongside my work, which meant that for three years running I had to do hours and hours of independent study in order to be able to sit exams each year in June. I managed to keep going because I found the course so interesting and because CFA gave me a much better understanding of how the financial world works. But it did mean putting my private life on the back burner; there was no room for outings, Friday drinks and holidays. This led to some lively discussions with my girlfriend, even though she fully supported my ambitions.
“I don’t have heroes, I draw my inspiration from those around me. My parents encouraged me to think carefully about choices, for example with regard to secondary school. They also encouraged me to do my very best. They told me: really put your back into something and make sure that you’re proud of the final result. I also want to be a source of inspiration to my son. That is not something you can take for granted: the danger of the mergers & acquisitions market is that it swallows you up, including your evenings and weekends.
“I want to continue to develop, both professionally and personally, with personal development being my priority. While the acquisitions market might appear transient at first glance, soft skills – building trust and negotiating – prove to be crucially important here, too. Working with colleagues and clients to solve the puzzle is what spurs me on. I’m not really interested in closing the biggest deal or creating the best model; I prefer to be complimented for my personal qualities. I hope that people see me as sensible, reliable and sociable. You are not remembered for a deal or a model, but for who you are.”