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INN Conversation with Maria 'Minnie' Driver

In the latest INN Conversation, we speak with Maria Driver, Director and Co-Head of PCFM, Sales at Numis, and hear about her journey from law school to investment banking, being a working mother and how Numis has changed in the 15 years since she first arrived at the business.

Maria D article image

On graduation from law school, how did you find yourself entering the world of investment banking?

Where I grew up there was a bit of a template, a narrow path to follow. That is, you work hard at school, go to university, study a so-called ‘traditional’ subject and then follow the career path of that degree – and mine just happened to be law. It wasn’t until I finished law school that I properly took stock of things and thought “Do I actually want to practice law?”.
And I didn’t….

So how did you find your way to Numis?

I was unsure as to what I wanted to do after law school and I had a friend who worked here, and she suggested that it was a good opportunity. I joined in the corporate finance/corporate broking team, as it was known then, and my career has progressed from there.

And did you know instantly that this was the industry for you?

Not specifically, no. What I did know was that I really liked the people, the environment and the buzz, and I could see there was lots to learn. So, in that sense, it was the ingredients of banking that I liked rather than banking itself.

During your time at Numis, you have worked across different teams, how has that been?

I feel very fortunate that I’ve been allowed the opportunity to progress and develop, and work in different areas. When I worked in investor relations, I learned a lot and from there was approached by a former colleague to go and work with her in the Private Client Fund Management (PCFM) team. Then there were some internal changes and, luckily for us, Ross brought us out into equities to work under him and Nick Stockman – they immediately supported myself and Maurice Franks to build the team and develop the PCFM offering into what it is today.

It's interesting you use the words ‘allowed’ and ‘luckily’ when describing your success. Could you explain why that may be?

At Numis, I have always had support and it has provided me with the platform to progress, but that is not always a given in this industry. I do think that women in financial services face different battles and hurdles to overcome than men do. However, at Numis, I have always had such support, irrespective of gender. 

Interesting, so when you first entered financial services, did you feel ‘put off’ at all, or nervous, because you were female?

Honestly, no. I mean, at that age, I imagine everyone is a bit nervous, but it was nothing to do with my gender. It was just because I was young and still learning in a new environment. I remember early on quite often being the only female in a room or at a table in a meeting, and sometimes that can feel intimidating. Not necessarily because of someone’s behaviour, but as a woman it can feel like there is an increased level of judgment. For anyone, though, it takes time to find your voice, whether you’re male or female, and with that voice comes confidence and you naturally start speaking up anyway. 

When you first joined, was there any official support, or were there individuals who helped you?

There were certainly individuals who were just fantastic teachers – and there still are. But there wasn’t an official network or programme. That came after me, with the development of the internship, graduate and mentoring programmes, as well as the formation of INN (the Inclusive Numis Network) of course, , and this has been very positive. 

Is there anything that you’ve worked out for yourself that you would make sure females entering the industry now know?

The situation has improved a lot, but for me I would give my younger self the advice to ‘pick your battles’. There are times where it can be frustrating, such as when someone, whether junior or senior , automatically defers to a male colleague. Or when someone hands you printing to do, because unconsciously (hopefully not consciously) they just assume it’s something you can /will do because you’re female. Trust your own abilities and don’t let these incidents dent your confidence. I have been so lucky with the overwhelming majority of people I’ve worked with at Numis, all of whom have helped me progress. In fact, a stand-out example would be the support for my career alongside becoming a mum.  

Tell us about that

I was promoted to Director and Co-Head of the PCFM team shortly after returning from my first maternity leave. It demonstrated that becoming a mum had no impact on my opportunities or suitability to perform in this role. But unfortunately,, from speaking with many friends in the industry working at companies other than Numis, this is a rarity. 

But has becoming a mum changed things?

Absolutely – it’s changed everything! It’s intense, but I’m very lucky that Numis has supported me in being flexible with the way I work. And actually, this whole subject goes back to the very beginning of these discussions as to why I have stayed at Numis for 15 years – the people.
The same is important when you become a parent. People, their attitudes and general work ethic, is what makes the difference. Everyone is dealing with ‘life’ and parenting throws up its own special challenges, but there could be other challenges that colleagues are dealing with for a whole host of reasons. It is up to the team to offer support when someone needs it, understand when things don’t go to plan and, ultimately, look after each other. In the PFCM team, I really feel we have that and it goes a long way to making Numis such a supportive place to work, not only for parents, but for everyone.

In terms of advice, is there anything you would say to would-be mums or new mums coming back to work?

Be kind to yourself. It’s hard, but it’s made harder by stacking stress on top of guilt, which is normal for all of us. You may think that by being both – mum and employee – you’re not doing either at 100%, but you are! Have a little faith in yourself. I think that’s the hardest part of being a parent and coming back to work, making sure you give yourself credit – you are always your own harshest critic.

What do you value most about Numis/your role?

Easily my team. I work with brilliant people who are passionate about what we do and have fun doing it. Also, the exposure you get both internally and externally with clients/investors, who are some of the brightest minds in the industry. Meeting and advising, but also learning from CEOs of leading UK companies, or founders of game-changing tech businesses. It’s amazing and I will never get tired of that.

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