From graduate to portfolio manager: Sajjaad Ahmed’s growth journey at Prescient

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Youth Month provides a platform to celebrate the potential of tomorrow’s leaders. Sajjaad Ahmed, a Rondebosch local and alumnus of Westerford High School, exemplifies this potential through his impressive career trajectory at Prescient. His journey from a recent graduate to a Portfolio Manager underscores the opportunities available to young professionals in the financial services industry.

Reflecting on his experience, Sajjaad offers valuable advice to graduates aspiring to enter the financial sector: “The financial services industry is dynamic and constantly evolving. Attend industry-related events, connect with mentors and peers, and remain curious to seize the endless opportunities available to those who embrace them”.

His journey at Prescient began in January 2020 when he joined the group’s two-year Graduate Programme. His ascent within the company exemplifies the effectiveness and success of this programme, designed to cultivate top-tier talent in the finance industry. Sajjaad’s initial rotation was with Prescient Analytics, the risk and compliance monitoring function, where he gained invaluable insights into South Africa’s intricate regulatory landscape governing investments.

The Graduate Programme’s structure and opportunities played a pivotal role in Sajjaad’s career development. The comprehensive exposure to various facets of financial services, including fund administration services and investment management, allowed him to discover his strengths and interests. “When you’re fresh out of university, you often don’t know exactly what you want to specialise in,” Sajjaad explains. “The programme at Prescient offers the freedom to explore different areas, which is crucial in finding your best fit and also understanding how the various pieces of the industry fit together.”

After his initial role, Sajjaad’s career trajectory took a significant turn as he moved to the position of Quantitative Analyst within Prescient Investment Management’s credit team. Here, he was instrumental in developing quantitative tools and conducting rigorous research to guide the team’s investment strategies. His contributions and leadership potential were soon recognised, leading to his promotion to Portfolio Manager in April 2024. This rapid progression underscores the efficiency of Prescient’s Graduate Programme in nurturing and accelerating talent.

With a Bachelor of Business Science degree in Actuarial Science, focusing on Quantitative Finance, from the University of Cape Town under his belt, Sajjaad is also a CFA® charterholder, and is working toward obtaining Fellow membership of the Actuarial Society of South Africa. Further to this, he has completed his Class of Business and RE5 exams, which is an essential component of maintaining high standards and integrity in the South African financial services industry, ensuring that representatives are knowledgeable, compliant, and capable of serving their clients effectively.

Sajjaad attributes much of his success to the Prescient culture and mentorship, integral to the Graduate Programme. “Having a good mentor who is invested in your career is a game-changer. My mentors along the way were instrumental in guiding my development, both professionally and on the personal front. These individuals were sounding boards for various opportunities and ideas and helped me navigate the corporate landscape.”

“The amount of responsibility I was exposed to early on at Prescient was substantial. Despite starting just before the pandemic, I received excellent mentoring and support, which was crucial while working remotely with limited experience. Furthermore, it has allowed me to “own my career” while knowing that there is always time for meaningful conversations and direction.”

The programme’s success is also reflected in Prescient’s size and culture, which strike a perfect balance—not too large to become impersonal, yet not too small to lack resources. “The growth opportunities and the chance to learn here are immense. At a larger company, you wouldn’t be exposed to as much. The team’s camaraderie and the supportive environment are significant factors in why I enjoy working here.”

Sajjaad appreciates the open-door policy and flat structure at Prescient, which fosters a collaborative and inclusive atmosphere. “The ability to approach anyone, including the CIO & CEO at Prescient Investment Management, as well as the Group CEO, is invaluable and empowering. It’s a very open environment, which significantly enhances learning and growth.”

Looking ahead, Sajjaad is enthusiastic about the future. “It’s been a positive and enriching experience. I’ve built excellent contacts within Prescient and the industry. The journey so far has been incredibly rewarding, and I look forward to what lies ahead.”

Sajjaad Ahmed’s story is a testament to the success of the Prescient Graduate Programme. His rapid progression and the supportive, opportunity-rich environment at Prescient highlight the programme’s effectiveness in developing future leaders in the financial services industry.