Social investment with an impact: Roshana’s story

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Throughout her entire career, Roshana Arasaratnam has been on a mission to help financial professionals move money for good. That has meant working with both private and public sector organisations on investments that could positively impact the world – and she wasn’t the only one with this desire to change the way we think about finance.

That’s why after more than a decade in the corporate space, she decided to branch out and help educate and mentor others who want to invest in sustainable economic activities and projects. 

We spoke to Roshana to find out how our Catapult course and networking opportunities allowed her to break down boundaries and join the dots across sectors. Take a look at how she’s inspiring others to think differently about finance.

We’d love to hear about your background. What were you doing before you started your portfolio career?

I’m a sustainable finance director and I’ve always had a squiggly career through the public and private sector, focusing mainly on ways to move money towards social investments.

What’s your favourite thing about what you do at the moment?

Probably the flexibility. I’m pivoting between different roles, but the core focus is my teaching. I’m a tutor for an online course at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership on sustainable finance. I’m on my fourth cohort, and every time I’ve had about 400 people sign up for the course. It’s very action-oriented and I’m actually helping them go through the sustainable finance journey. At the moment, that’s what I call my work.

Then I do several pieces of ad hoc consultancy for a few people and I’m involved in a lot of not-for-profit mentoring on a couple of boards. It’s a real mix of things and I like to find the links within that mix.

Social investment with an impact: Roshana’s story
Afonso Pereira @ The Portfolio Collective

That’s a really fascinating array of projects. Would you be able to talk a bit more about sustainable finance and what that means for people who may not be familiar with the concept?

To me, sustainable finance is just moving money for good. I don’t think it’s anything necessarily new. Because my background is in public finance, I see sustainable finance as part of that wider industry. It’s all the same thing.

Before beginning your portfolio career, did you have any idea of what you wanted to do?

I took the Catapult course in March 2021 and that really got me thinking. It made me realise that I probably already had a portfolio career, but in non-consecutive pieces rather than all together. At the time, I was in a full-time corporate role and the course actually prompted me to take on a side hustle, which was teaching. That provided stability and allowed me the flexibility to move between different things. 

Being part of The Portfolio Collective opened up a lot of opportunities to mentor startups. I’m now a mentor at Cass Business School (which was renamed Bayes Business School). I’m also doing some other mentoring around diversity.

In October I left my main job and since then I’ve been trying to find ad hoc projects to go alongside the teaching.

You recently went through our branding masterclass. Would you be happy to share your ‘why’ statement and your story?

My ‘why’ statement is that I break down boundaries between disciplines and sectors in order to move money for good. The driving force behind what I do has always been the question: how can we make social investment that has impact? 

I’m quite inspired by a quote from Steve Jobs that says: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”.

At the time, I didn’t know I was doing this sort of thing by moving between the public and private sector in the finance field. I realised there was a way to make sense of it and bring everything together using that backwards-forward mentality.

Social investment with an impact: Roshana’s story
Afonso Pereira @ The Portfolio Collective

It sounds like you recently started trying a lot of new things, like working with startups. Is there anything else you’re looking to do for the first time? What are the next steps for your career?

There are lots of different things I still want to explore. I’d be really interested in a CFO role in a startup that was focused on sustainable finance. I’d like to get into the tech space too. This is my second attempt to do a class on technology, so I’m trying to skill up on blockchain to prepare for that. I’m also looking at non-exec director roles between the public and private sectors.

I’m very open to things at the moment and seeing what takes off.

What would be your main piece of advice to someone who is looking to start their own portfolio career?

Be brave. If there are things holding you back, address those barriers. If it’s about finances, go and see a financial planner. If it’s about timing and flexibility, make sure you really safeguard the things that matter to you.

Just keep in mind that it is an identity shift. You’ll need to meet new people to gain different perspectives as you move forward.

Feeling inspired by Roshana’s story? Or maybe you just want to learn more about sustainable finance. 

Feel free to reach out to her and the thousands of other portfolio professionals in our community who are using their portfolio careers to change lives (and change the world). You never know what you might discover!

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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