My name is Ben Deverell, and I’m a career commercial banker with roles spanning operations, risk, strategy and business management. I’m currently a senior member of our Financial Institutions business, supporting clients with their financing, investment, risk management and banking needs.
To any current students looking to start a career in finance: the financial industry is a great place to work and I commend you for your decision!
However, for a multitude of reasons, it is also fraught with challenges and risks. My advice would be to take a leaf out of several books (some from other contexts) and apply. In particular, I would stress three points:
Diversification is the most useful of risk management tools so apply this to your career path. Specialising in one area at an early age could mean you become an expert in yesterday’s product.
- Keep learning and changing
The cliché from Darwin rings true; those that can reinvent themselves, prove adaptable, can learn and change quickly, are more likely to have a fruitful, productive and enjoyable career.
Developing skills via study is a crucial element. I studied the MSc Investment Management at the ICMA Centre, part of Henley Business School, graduating in 2016. Obtaining an MSc was both a personal goal of mine and considered important to progress my career. With Henley being a highly ranked business school and clearly linked with industry via the ICMA, then the decision came to the course. I chose IM for three reasons:
- Intellectual stretch; whilst I had some prior learning in a few areas of finance, many of the topics were either completely new or introduced considerable stretch.
- Relevance: the syllabus was highly relevant to my role and the agenda of my clients. The breadth was attractive too; I enjoyed and valued both the pure technical (in particular Portfolio Management and Corporate Finance) andthe non-technical modules (Ethics and Regulation).
- Credentials: allied to the first two points, the landscape for qualifications in finance continues to expand. Having a good quality MSc from a regarded business school carries credibility. The fact that this degree was accredited via CISI and, for FT students, allied to CFA, only added to the appeal.
- Finance is a people business
This is probably the most important point. Finance is based on developing trust between humans, despite the data revolution that is occurring – which is unlikely to change.
My time at the ICMA was excellent. In addition to the formal course, I enjoyed the trading simulation terminals (and, of course, revisiting student bars), but some of my favourite experiences were when I was working in teams with other students from many varied walks of life. So, be ethical, truthful and respectful and hone your people skills as much as technical. And, if you can be personable and fun, so much the better!