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INN conversation with Daniella McDonnell and Sarah de la Fuente

For our latest INN Conversation interview, we spoke with Daniella McDonnell and Sarah de la Fuente, Co-Heads of Investor Relations (IR) at Numis, about the challenges and opportunities of co-leadership and why they have chosen to build their long-term careers at Numis.

Danielle and Sarah

Can you tell us about the IR team and the work you do for clients?

Daniella: The team provides a comprehensive range of services to market our corporate broking clients to investors in the most effective way possible. We provide a really varied service to our clients - on any given day, we could be doing everything from liaising with a client on their IR programme, producing focussed institutional targeting, executing roadshows or events and attaining institutional feedback. We strive to consistently deliver a professional and faultless service and don’t want to just do the same as other banks – we want to go one step further and always be best in class.

Sarah: As a team, we’re very driven and are constantly challenging ourselves and each other. We collaborate closely with our colleagues in research, sales and investment banking and the in-depth market insights from our teams at Numis is a real differentiator for us. We have a huge amount of useful data in-house which we ensure is utilised for the benefit of our clients. We also spend time with our clients and the investor community, allowing us to build upon both our relationships and depth of knowledge. 

What were your career paths to working in IR, and how did you end up working at Numis?

Daniella: I actually trained as a professional dancer. After having spent some time performing in a couple of musicals and a professional ballet company, I decided it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted long term and I went to university to study for a BSc degree in Geography & Environmental Science. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating, so decided to send out my CV to a number of companies that sounded interesting and was offered a role with Evolution Securities in their investor relations team. Two-and-a-half years later, I got a phone call from James Black (recently-retired Co-Head of Healthcare Investment Banking at Numis), who asked if I would be interested in setting up an IR function at Numis – that was 17 years ago and I’m still here!  

Sarah: I joined Numis in 2007, initially on reception but moving soon afterwards into the IR team under the guidance of Daniella. From the get-go I thoroughly enjoyed my role within the IR department and knew that I wanted to establish a career in this field. In 2014 I spent a year at Clinigen on secondment working as their in-house IR which provided an invaluable insight into both their business and the IR service requirements from a client’s perspective. This experience gave me a greater appreciation of what it is that our clients want, having lived it first-hand. 

Why do you think you’ve stayed at Numis – and on the investor relations team – for that length of time? 

Daniella: We’d both give exactly the same answer: the people. Everyone here is driven, brilliant at what they do and works together for the collective good of Numis rather than their individual successes. 

Sarah: I completely echo Daniella’s comments. The most satisfying thing about the job is the relationships we’ve built over time with both our colleagues and our clients and being able to share in their successes as all the hard work comes to fruition. We’ve got clients that we supported at IPO who are now in the FTSE 250, and we’ve been by their side every step of the way.

What’s your approach to working together?

Daniella: We have defined, clear roles and responsibilities – while we’re always there to help and assist each other, we’re very conscious that we don’t tread on each other’s toes or double up on anything unnecessarily. We have our own clients, but also divide up the tasks and projects that come with leading the team. 

Sarah: We’re both very hands-on with our clients and that’s not only because we really enjoy it, but also because we think it’s crucial to be involved with the nitty gritty of what’s going on with the markets and investor sentiment. We also feel it’s important to be involved in the same processes as the team in order to be able to provide them with the most informed advice.

What are some of the advantages (and perhaps some of the disadvantages that you’ve had to overcome) of being co-leaders? Do you have any advice to others in similar positions?

Sarah: Co-leadership can be incredibly powerful. You have a built-in sounding board for ideas and support, and we both feel as though we manage the team more effectively as a pair. It’s a great way of collaborating, especially in strategic decisions, with the other one often thinking of something you haven’t. In order for it to work well you have to be honest with each other and have open lines of communication. If we ever disagree (although, in our case, we almost never do!), we know that ultimately we both want the same outcome for our clients and the team, even if we might have a different idea of how to achieve it. 

Daniella: We have had to compromise at times, but we both realise there’s give and take. Overall, it is very balanced; we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and play to that. We feel that it works well for the team to have two people to go to for support and advice too. And, of course, co-leadership is something we all see the benefits of at Numis, as we have co-CEOs in Alex and Ross.

What are your interests outside of work?

Sarah: I enjoy outdoor hobbies and like to be active where possible. I love running, golf (albeit I’m pretty useless), skiing and country walks with my dog - when he hasn’t run off chasing after birds, that is!

Daniella: I have two young boys, aged nine and seven, and spend much of my free time bribing them to do their homework or standing on the side of various sports pitches watching them play. It’s a juggling act between work and family, but as long as everyone’s alive at the end of the day, it feels like a win!