From a wealthy family with a promising TV career and PR company in Delhi, Ayesha Shamim fled India at the beginning of the new millennium with her now ex-husband to get away from the pressures of her influential and politically well-established in-laws.
Thinking they would land in London, they ended up not far from the capital – just around 170 miles away in Leeds. They decided to stay in the city and created a home for themselves in Oulton, a small village between the city and Wakefield.
Just after settling in the village, the couple’s bank mistakenly sent their paperwork back to India instead of their Yorkshire address, causing Ms Shamim’s in-laws to cut the young family off financially.
Frustrated at the bank’s carelessness, Ms Shamim told them they would need to help fix their situation by giving her a job so that she could help pay their bills.
It wasn’t as simple as being given a job on the spot, she still had to go through a several-stage interview process, prove her credentials, and sign the paperwork, but she eventually got as a high street personal banker, despite being over-qualified, completing an undergraduate degree from the prestigious Delhi University Gargi College and a masters from Hans Raj College and running her own business back home.
Today, Ms Shamim has worked as a financial advisor for over two decades providing independent personal and corporate financial guidance.
Her journey, however, has been fraught with obstacles, having to deal with stage four endometriosis, fertility issues, breast cancer, a relationship breakdown, and the economic collapse of 2008 that threw everyone working in the financial sector for a loop.
Despite this, she remained positive and is in remission from cancer. She conceived a son in 2011 and eventually began working for herself as an independent financial advisor and set up a community interest company, D Dance Theatre in December 2017, helping women over 50 in her village by bringing them together through dance and social activities.
Ms Shamim, said: “When we arrived in Leeds in 2000, we had a bit of savings but by mistake, the bank sent our paperwork back to India and my husband and I were cut off by his family. After this, I walked into the branch and told them it was their fault and that they needed to give me a job.
“The cashier thought I was crazy, but I secured an interview and got a job there as a personal banker. In India, I had a master’s degree and my own business, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.”
At HSBC, Ms Shamim became a senior manager and then became the head of the Northern region until one day, seven years into her career, she collapsed and was taken to hospital.
She said: “One day at work, I just collapsed. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and found out that I had stage 4 endometriosis. Before, I had pains, but I thought it was normal. I had doctors flown in from London and they managed to sew me up without adding a Stoma bag, I had survived.
“I spent two months at home recovering, with my parents flying in from India to help. I thought I should restart my life and I had applied for a higher position at Barclay’s Premier Banking division in 2008.”
At Barclay’s Premier, she was living the high life, with a flashy car, matching clothes and designer handbags. Managing to live with endometriosis – a condition that doesn’t go away until women hit menopause – Ms Shamim had gotten back on her feet until she checked her breasts for lumps, purely by chance on a business trip.
“I was so shocked that it happened to me again. They gave me eight months to live and my whole world crumbled. In December 2008, the financial system collapsed, and everyone was made redundant.”
She added: “At this job, I was living the high-flying life, I had footballers and movie stars on my books, I had a nice car, clothes, handbags but one day I was going to a conference from Leeds to Manchester and I saw a poster that said check your breasts for lumps and I did. To my surprise, I found a lump.
“The next day, I went to the GP and immediately she called an ambulance, and I was shipped off to LGI with a friend from the village who was a doctor. I had a biopsy and was told that I had cancer in my breast and that it needed to be operated on.
“I was so shocked that it happened to me again. They gave me eight months to live and my whole world crumbled. In December 2008, the financial system collapsed, and everyone was made redundant.
“As I had just joined a new company, I had no sick pay, so I had to work through my illness. I had little support from my partner, so my mum had to fly in again to help me.
“I was told that I wasn’t allowed traditional cancer care because of my endometriosis and that they had to create new chemotherapy, new processes, and new medications for me so that it didn’t trigger my other illness.”
Around a year after her initial cancer diagnosis, Ms Shamim, who was still working, decided that she wanted to move up again in her career and sat her exams to become a financial advisor.
After beating cancer and struggling with fertility from her endometriosis, Ms Shamim conceived a beautiful baby boy in 2011.
Late 2017 and early 2018 were a whirlwind for Ms Shamim, after “years of abuse”, she decided to split up with her ex-husband, become self-employed and launched her own community interest company, D Dance Theatre for older women in her community.
The community enterprise has grown from teaching one dance class a week to three and holds and attends events regularly in Oulton and across Leeds. Last weekend, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Asghar Khan, attended the launch of their third dance class.
A few weeks ago, the financial advisor opened her home to a mum and her nine-year-old daughter under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. Ms Shamim and her son are helping Viktoriia, a divorced single mum to a nine-year-old girl settle into English life, often going out for meals and trips to the cinema.
Ms Shamim added: “I thought my life was bad, going back and fore with my ex-husband about money and houses but I thank God for being blessed with everything I have. Viktoriia, had bought a home and a new car for herself and her daughter and now she has nothing.”
With a diploma in financial planning, Ms Shamim works with Open Works, the UK’s largest and longest-established financial advice network, trading under the name, Creative Financial Management, to provide sound advice on investments, pensions, mortgages, inheritance planning and insurance to many clients across West Yorkshire. In remission from cancer and taking medication to manage her endometriosis, Ms Shamim currently has no plans on stopping offering her services to clients or running D Dance Theatre for over 50s women across Leeds.