Meagan Prins is an investment analyst within International Finance Corp., part of World Bank Group, in Washington.
Both of my parents worked in the non-profit sector, with my mom working for an NGO [non-governmental organization] that often took her to sub-Saharan Africa. This influenced my decision to pursue a career at the intersection of economic development and finance.
I spent some time overseas when I was younger, and I remember thinking a lot about economic development. I saw first-hand both failed development projects as well as successful ones, and wanted to better understand the differentiating factors. I noticed a pattern in the use of financial tools, such as saving vehicles or risk management products, to successfully spur economic growth and quickly realized that there was a lot I wanted to learn about finance’s role in development.
Rather than studying development at McGill [University in Montreal], I went into the honours investment management (HIM) program after trying a few finance courses. And the more I learned about it, the more interested I became. There was something fascinating about a program that was quantitatively rigorous but also immediately applicable to the world.
I co-founded a microfinance non-profit in 2015 with another McGill student, and we partnered with an organization in the sub-Saharan to offer insurance to female farmers in two rural Zambian communities. We provide agricultural microinsurance to help farmers deal with weather-related risks, such as floods and droughts, which have become increasingly prevalent with climate change.
After HIM, I moved to New York to work for Goldman Sachs. Investment banking is known for the incredible training ground it provides, particularly for students coming out of undergrad. It often gives entry level employees an unparalleled amount of exposure to senior executives and key decision makers. I don’t think there are many other industries that provide you with the same learning opportunities so early in your career.
At Goldman Sachs, I also learned far more soft skills than I initially expected to. Being in an environment where there are never enough hours in the day pushes you to refine your time management skills and to become a more effective communicator. I can’t think of a better place to have started my career.
Since December, 2018, I’ve been working as an investment analyst at World Bank Group, specifically for a subsidiary of International Finance Corp. (IFC). IFC is focused on fuelling development through investments in the private sector.
Innovation and finance in emerging markets have already transformed a number of countries, with many successful examples in the sub-Saharan. You’re seeing opportunities emerge in fintech [financial technology] that were absolutely impossible just a handful of years ago. The prevalence of technology enables some of those who have lived in previously unpenetrated areas to now participate in financial markets. Financial technology has opened up an unprecedented number of opportunities for businesses.
I’m really grateful for having the opportunity to travel when I was younger, as it sparked my interest in emerging markets. As I grew up, I spent a lot of time reflecting on those experiences. Being able to meet certain people and, a year or two later, visit the same individuals who, for instance, benefited from the programs of my mom’s NGO, was incredibly inspiring.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to be “intentional,” and take the time to think hard about the role you want to play in the world. It’s so easy to find yourself stuck in a routine, working in a job that doesn’t put you on track to achieve your long-term goals. It’s important to think about and define your values to understand what you want to accomplish in the long run.
I am introverted. My introverted tendencies to listen and observe have enabled me to be more culturally conscious, build stronger relationships and better understand local issues while working overseas. In general, I’ve learned that taking the time to read the room and listen to the conversations happening around you makes the things you do and say, and the times that you stand as a leader, that much more valuable.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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