Zoe - Aviva Group, Finance

Spending time in Poland allowed Zoe to build her confidence and focus her career development.

I know if I had not taken the role I would have spent my life wondering ‘what if?'
Zoe, Group Finance, Aviva

I graduated from the UEA with a Masters in Economics in 2002 and joined Aviva in September that year. My first role was in the debt market providing small scale loans to build GP surgeries. In 2005 I studied for an MBA and I really enjoyed the strategic focus and tried to bring these skills into my role wherever possible. As the market developed, the transactions I worked on become more complex, progressing into government-led initiatives such as NHS LIFT (Healthcare Properties) and Building Schools for the Future (Education Developments). I had the opportunity to lead the first significant Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes and to develop the PFI portfolio to over £1.5bn. From 2011 we expanded into new asset classes such as student accommodation. Working primarily on social infrastructure projects I delivered government quality long term assets to match the annuity liabilities for Aviva. As my career progressed I led a number of different teams and found that part of the role particularly rewarding watching my team grow and develop.

I worked within the social infrastructure market for almost 15 years and progressed to a relatively senior role within the team. This was initially within the Insurance business and from 2014, within Aviva Investors. I really enjoyed my role – it provided huge variety, and gave me the opportunity to understand and negotiate complex financial and legal projects. The assets I funded fulfilled great social need – schools, hospitals etc, so I felt good making a real difference to society. However, I knew that this was a really niche area and opportunities to progress further were limited. Then I was lucky enough to be chosen to join an Aviva Accelerating Leadership programme at the start of 2017 and after a three-day workshop in Poland I came back to work brimming with confidence, a new resolve to focus on my career development and to spread my wings out of the infrastructure market.

My return to work coincided with the release of an advert for a Business Manager role to support Mark Wilson. One of my mentors encouraged me to apply and this, coupled with my refreshed confidence from the course, spurred me on.  Applied and got down to the last two candidates. I didn’t get offered the role, but the interview process gave me exposure to a number of senior people and I was offered another role – Business Manager to Tom Stoddard. The opportunity came out of the blue, and despite it being a step into the unknown (and completely terrifying!) I accepted the offer.

The learning curve was immense but I am convinced I made the right decision. I know if I had not taken the role I would have spent my life wondering ‘what if?’.