Meet Ifeoma (Ify) Ezike: The Science Graduate Who Pivoted to Become a Leader in Finance

Geöffnetes Buch Lesedauer: 4 min

As BlackRock’s Global Head of Pricing Operations, Ifeoma (Ify) Ezike leads a dynamic team dedicated to ensuring clients can assess how investments align with their goals.

Ify began her career with a focus on science, studying medical engineering at Queen Mary University of London. “I always thought I’d end up working in the sciences, but when I graduated, I found it difficult to get a job in that field,” said Ify. “I switched to financial services and started off at American Express, then moved to Fidelity Investments. I joined BlackRock as an Associate in 2011, and since then, I’ve been promoted three times at the firm, most recently to Managing Director.”

Accelerating in the financial sector is no easy feat, but Ify’s distinguished career is a testament to her dedication, work ethic and ingenuity. Harnessing lessons from her expansive career, Ify has emerged as a leader welcoming the next generation of Black professionals.

What motivated you to decide to pursue a career in finance despite studying medical engineering?

After graduating, I struggled to find a role in the industry. This led me to explore roles in other industries. I knew I enjoyed working with numbers and solving problems, so the finance industry seemed like it would be a possible good fit – and it was! I held roles at American Express and Fidelity Investments before moving to BlackRock in 2011 as an Associate. My primary objective upon joining was to establish and build a Pricing Team in Europe.

Can you tell us a bit more about your role as Global Head of Pricing Operations at BlackRock?

For all the investments BlackRock makes, my team and I are responsible for ensuring they have the right value assigned to them, so that when clients receive their periodic reports, they have a better idea of what their investments are worth.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you navigate them to become successful?

One big challenge I’ve experienced while working in financial services is not being invited into the rooms where decisions are being made. In that scenario, I look to see if there is someone else in the room I can approach as an ally to help me pull the right strings to get an invitation or be that voice in the room. It’s one of the reasons making connections and cultivating relationships at work is so important.

Another challenge I’ve encountered is having to deal with rejections or being told ‘No,’ for one reason or another – including the time I was told I just didn’t have enough gravitas. But every problem has a solution – whether that solution is currently in your control or not. Try to understand how you can work towards that solution and plan for it.

Did you receive any support from mentors or senior leadership when you were in a more junior role?

I’ve been fortunate to have supportive people throughout my career, but early on, I didn’t have what I would describe as a mentor. That changed about eight years ago, and I’ve benefited greatly from my mentor, who has often served as a sounding board and source of advice for me.

Does BlackRock have any strategies to increase representation among senior roles within the firm?

Yes, we have some great Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs in place, with strategies that address different levels across the organization. In the last couple of years we have run a number of programs including; PROPEL (Professional Preparation for Elevated Leadership), an 18-month program for high-performing Vice Presidents who voluntarily self-identify as Black; and our Career Fiduciary program, which is for Vice Presidents and Directors who self-identify as Black, and aims to help eliminate systemic barriers that Black leaders face, increase internal mobility opportunities, and further deepen our leadership bench, especially for succession planning. We also have dedicated programs for colleagues who are in the earlier stages of their careers, like Amplify, which is a 6-month career development initiative for Administrative Assistants, Analysts, and Associates across EMEA. Amplify provides its cohorts with career growth strategies, networking opportunities, greater access to senior leadership, and valuable insight into showing up more authentically in the workplace.

Of course, we have a robust set of employee networks at BlackRock, including our Black Professionals and Allies Network (BPN), where I serve as a mentor. BPN helps foster meaningful opportunities for Black colleagues to develop and advance their careers, share their experiences, and network with members at all levels of the firm.

Why do you think it’s important to have Black role model visibility in the workplace?

If you’re able to see people who look like you – who are achieving success at the top of their game – it gives you hope that you can do it too.

Do you have a personal quote or mantra that you use in your career?

I flip between two phrases. The first is, “Nothing worth having is easy.” Whenever you work hard for something, and it’s an effort to obtain it, you cherish it more than if it were handed to you. The second is, “Lead by example” – and for me, that means I don’t start what I can’t finish.