Meet the fresh young graduates breathing new life into Wales’ financial services sector
A group of bright young professionals are calling on others of their generation to ‘invest in their future’ by considering careers in financial services. The high-flying recent graduates are all currently on the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, a pioneering scheme run by the Welsh Financial Services Forum that combines intensive work placements with academic learning across two years.
With not enough graduates aware of the potential opportunities that exist in financial services, and the industry tarnished by stereotypes of ‘boys clubs’ and rich bankers in white shirts, the scheme aims to change perceptions of the sector and show the next generation that there’s a place for them in the financial world.
The programme allows graduates to experience various financial services roles with some of Wales’ leading companies, including Atradius, Admiral, and Principality Building Society, giving them the opportunity to experience the workplace, all while studying towards an MSc in Financial Services.
Through their successes so far, a host of young sparks are helping to diversify the sector and dispel myths and preconceptions about the industry.
Sarah, aged 24 from Bargoed, worked on the checkout at Tesco before securing a place on the scheme. She’s currently on placement as an underwriter at Atradius.
“You definitely don’t need a financial background to get into financial services. I studied Mathematics at the University of South Wales and have worked at Tesco for the last five years – part-time through University and then while looking for permanent work after graduating.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Rebecca has worked on placements with Composite Legal Expenses and Finance Wales and is part of the team of graduates working to organise the 2016 Welsh Finance Conference, an event that will give a new generation of graduates an exclusive opportunity to meet and network with over 40 leading employers from across the financial services industry. After studying at Swansea University, the 23-year-old decided to stay in Wales rather than move to a more traditional financial services sector. A real success-story of the scheme, Rebecca has already secured a full-time job with Finance Wales.
“I would encourage anyone who wants a challenging and rewarding career path to look past the stereotypes and explore the amazing opportunities in the sector. We as ‘millennials’ have been left with soaring house prices, massive student loans and, in more recently, the uncertainty of Brexit to deal with. If you want to be part of a generation who work to solve these issues and change the face of financial services, then now is the time to enter the industry.
“My experience on the scheme has been wonderful. It was a big decision to commit to a two year scheme, but I instantly saw the benefits. Through my placements I’ve had some amazing exposure within the industry, and my project management skills have developed exponentially. Rebecca has recently been appointed in a Strategy role at Finance Wales.
“Ultimately I have learned that I really love managing projects and have learnt a lot about assimilating to different workplace cultures. Looking to the future, I want to continue working alongside the public sector, and contribute to improving the Welsh economy.”
Hailing from Blackwood with a degree in French, 23-year-old Rhiannon Lewis has taken up placements at Atradius and Principality Building Society and is playing a key role in marketing the Welsh Finance Conference.
“Financial services isn’t all about number crunching. In fact, I’ve found that marketing is the perfect place to build a knowledge of the sector as a whole. The sector is constantly changing and no day is ever the same.
“At the moment I’m helping to organise a conference and careers fair - The Welsh Finance Conference – to help encourage more students to consider careers in financial services. I’d encourage graduates not to rule themselves out from working within the industry based solely on their degree discipline – finance isn’t just for a select few, there’s a role for everyone.”
Liam, 24, from Rhondda Cynon Taf is another success story- he’s also landed a permanent full time role for Finance Wales.
“My experience on the scheme has been enriching. I’ve been given ownership of my work, while taking up more responsibility to support the wider strategy team to help create change. It’s a steep learning curve in an environment that promotes my development and challenges my skill-set.
“I’ve developed from a student trying to understand where I fit in the financial services world, to a young professional contributing to the economic development of Wales. I want to keep being challenged throughout my career and achieve real impact wherever I work. The global nature and breadth of financial services will enable me to travel the world and will challenge me to keep adapting. That’s an opportunity too enticing to miss.
“Financial services has had a very negative perception in recent years but it is has so much more to offer. As my generation enters the workforce, having become adults within times of turbulence and recession, the field will continue to modernise – and that’s exciting.”
Originally from Bulgaria, 23-year-old Georgi found out about the Graduate Scheme when he visited the Welsh Finance Conference in 2014. Since joining the programme he has worked in Atradius IT and GM Financial, with his current role with the European controlling team.
“When I heard about the programme in 2014 I immediately decided that this is exactly what I wanted to do. What grabbed me about the program was the mixture of work experience, training, and academic development – that’s what makes the scheme unique and puts it a step ahead of other graduate programmes.
“I’ve had a great experience so far. I’m actively involved in ongoing projects such as automation and improvement existing systems, and implementing a new treasury management system. I’ve also had the chance to travel and meet the teams working outside the UK operations. It’s helping me build up a vision of the career path I want to pursue. At the moment, not enough graduates know about the incredible opportunities on offer in financial services in south Wales.”
Georgi has just been offered an opportunity to join GM Financial on their international graduate programme.
Katy, a Business Management graduate aged 26 from Pembrokeshire, has already secured a full time position at Julian Hodge Bank thanks to the scheme and is now studying towards her ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification.
“I studied Business Management in university, I started to really enjoy the financial modules as they allowed me to make important decisions based on complex equations and data. I knew I wanted to train to be an accountant but with no relevant experience, I found it very hard to get noticed by prospective employers. I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across the financial services graduate scheme online.
“The programme promised not only hands-on work experience in some of the best financial services firms in Cardiff, but also the opportunity to gain a unique and fully funded MSc in Financial Services Management.”
22 year-old Luke Reilly from Cardiff studied Physics at Birmingham University but decided to come back to Wales to look for a job in finance after graduating.
“So far on the scheme I’ve had placements in the Risk Management Information team at Atradius and have worked as a pricing analyst at General Motors Financial (GMF). I’ve had the opportunity to apply for a permanent role but want to make the most of the rest of my placements before making a firm decision about my next steps.
There are a much wider range of jobs available in financial services than many people realise. With roles as varied as underwriting, HR, marketing, sales, IT, and various analytical roles, there’s always something that’s bound to catch your interest. My goal in this scheme is to experience different work cultures and jobs so that I can find out more about what I enjoy, and ultimately find the perfect job for me.
Sandra Busby, Managing Director of the Welsh Financial Service Forum who is leading the programme, commented: “We developed the scheme to show talented young graduates that there are opportunities to carve exciting and rewarding careers in the financial services sector in Wales. There are a really diverse range of graduates on the scheme, all of whom have shown exceptional tenacity in their work placements. The fact that many of them have already secured full-time positions shows that the model is working.
“The Welsh Finance Conference will give them a chance to show the next generation of bright young graduates that there’s an abundance of prospects for them in financial services here in Wales. Getting this message across to tomorrow’s workforce has to be good news for the Welsh economy.”
The Welsh Finance Conference will take place on 29th November 2016 at Cardiff’s City Hall.