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Investing in tomorrow’s leaders with Simona Paravani-Mellinghoff

With two decades’ experience in senior roles, Simona Paravani-Mellinghoff (Global Chief Investment Officer of Solutions, BlackRock) is an established name in the fast-paced world of asset management.

Gower Street and University Street signage.

26 January 2023

Yet despite her busy work schedule, she dedicates significant time to those looking to follow in her footsteps.

Since re-entering academia as an Industrial Professor at the UCL Institute of Finance and Technology (IFT) in 2019, Simona has only strengthened her longstanding commitment to inclusion in financial education – and beginning in 2022/23, she will fund a full MSc scholarship within the tnstitute.

The power of education

Simona was born in Italy to a working-class family for whom education was not a given. Her grandmother was illiterate, and Simona saw from an early age the impact on her day-to-day life.

Academically gifted and relentlessly driven, Simona’s outstanding performance at school earned her a combination of partial scholarships to study at the University of Cambridge. As the first member of her family to enter higher education, Simona has no doubt about their value.

My experience gave me a deeply personal understanding of the power of education to improve lives, and I realised that a student’s financial situation should not be a barrier to their success.

After graduation, Simona’s early career saw her take on roles in London, Hong Kong, and New York, before she was appointed to her current position in BlackRock’s Multi-Asset Strategies & Solutions group in 2015.

All the while, she had been looking for ways to give back. She became a founding member of BlackRock’s Financial Inclusion Team network and a board member of Mybnk, a charity focused on monetary education. She also authored The Kids’ Pocket Guide to the World (2015), which presented complex themes like migration, economic disparity and globalisation for young readers.

But it was Simona’s return to university – where her journey began – that inspired her next step.

The UCL opportunity

In 2019, Simona was approached by Professor Francesca Medda, Director of the IFT, to bring her real-world expertise to UCL. She accepted the role and led a hugely popular module on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applied to finance.

Her return to campus led Simona to consider how she could support students who were facing similar circumstances to her own.

“IFT students know how fortunate they are, as the places on their MSc programmes are in high demand,” she says. “Every time I stood up to teach, I was acutely aware of the talent and application that was sitting in front of me.”

“But on top of an intensive workload, the reality is that many students from less prosperous backgrounds will experience real financial hardship.”

Simona hopes to lessen that burden. Launching this year, the ‘IFT Scholarship supported by Simona Paravani-Mellinghoff’ will be awarded – based on financial need – to an MSc student to pursue a postgraduate degree within the Institute.

“We are delighted to announce Simona’s scholarship,” said Professor Medda. “Diversity of thought and experience is crucial in our field, and Simona’s generosity has the potential for a wider range of voices to be heard among our student body.”

Inspiring others

Simona’s commitment has been marked a growing list of accolades. In 2021, she was named Role Model of the Year by Investment Week’s Women in Investing Awards – and this year, she was awarded Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic for her commitment to promoting inclusion and social mobility through education and financial literacy.

But for all the recognition, it is the power to create positive change for students and society alike that Simona has found most satisfying.

“Having met and taught such bright minds through my association with UCL, I know that many will go on to be future leaders. We need to support all minds capable of great things, and I hope this scholarship will go some way to doing just that,” she said.

“It’s an amazing thing, to be able to have an immediate and lasting impact on someone’s life.”

If you've been inspired by Simona’s story, you can learn more about providing scholarships and bursaries at UCL.

Learn more about supporting scholarships


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