To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 we’re profiling Exeter alum Dr Cat Walker, who graduated from the University of Exeter with a PhD in Economic Psychology. Cat’s currently Research Consultant/Director for The Researchery Her debut novel ‘The Scoop’ (described as “the lesbian Bridget Jones meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”) was published in early 2020.
I have been working as a researcher in the voluntary sector since I left Exeter. I started out with the Fairtrade Foundation, then had longer stints with Charities Aid Foundation and the Directory of Social Change where I led the research programmes. In 2015 I set up my own research consultancy, The Researchery, which works exclusively with the voluntary and community sector. My clients have included the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, The Big Give, Nesta, the University of Kent, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, UK Community Foundations, and the Association of Charitable Foundations.
“I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively.”
I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I wanted to make a difference. Although I’m not working on the frontline of charity I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively. I love working with different clients, and learning from them as much as they learn with me. The variety of my work is a major bonus and with each project I know that we’re making the world a slightly better place.
At University I had excellent lecturers and PhD supervisors, particularly Professors Paul Webley and Stephen Lea. They mentored me and created amazing opportunities such as sending me to Aix-en-Provence for a year as part of the ERASMUS scheme, and employing me to run the Economic Psychology Training and Education Network. Highlights included the annual Lundy Island trip to study animal psychology and the Christmas Psychology Review which I wrote for and starred in on a ritual basis. Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher. Also the general ability to get my head round facts, do literature reviews, make cogent arguments and write in a sensible and logical way.
“Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher…. (and) we had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks!”
Exeter has a beautiful campus and is near both the sea and the moors – making it exceptional for day trips. I enjoyed getting out and about both with hockey, cycling and surfing. The accommodation was excellent. We had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks! It had one of the best Psychology courses in the country, with excellent lecturers, and I’ll never forget that they tried to put us off by saying that it wouldn’t be easy and we would have to work hard – that appealed to me!
“My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity… gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!”
My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity (after my PhD and being a post doc research fellow) was plugging in computers and some basic administrative duties but it gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!
In the future I hope to be able to carry on with my consultancy work as long as possible, but in the current economy I may have to have a back-up plan which is to work for a grant making foundation, helping them to learn from best practice and be the best funder they can be.
Studied - BA Accounting and Finance; MSc Accounting and Finance, 2014
Career – Transfer Pricing Manager at PWC Vietnam
Where do you currently live and work?
I relocated back to Vietnam after leaving Exeter in January 2014 and have been with PwC Vietnam since July 2014.
Why did you choose to pursue this career?
I got very interested in transfer pricing (“TP”) issues when I was in Exeter. That was the time when people started to get serious about TP, especially with the case of Starbucks in the UK. So when moving back to Vietnam, I applied for TP services in PwC and have been doing this for over 6 years now. This role has given opportunities to work with many colleagues around the world (either from PwC network firms or from head offices/regional offices of our clients), in order to understand the bigger picture of their intercompany pricing policies as well as to support our clients to comply with TP regulations in Vietnam.
For those less familiar with transfer pricing, how would you describe it in one sentence?
It is actually quite tricky to describe TP, even in one paragraph. Essentially, TP is a practice to determine the price of goods and/or services between related companies (companies within the game group), in order to examine whether the price between related companies is comparable to the price between independent companies (companies not in the same group). This is to ensure that each company in the same group will operate as if they were independent, and hence they will earn proper profits and pay proper tax accordingly just like other independent companies.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?
Let’s just say Exeter gave me everything I wanted. It was the city, the people (both local people and members of staff), the students and the degree. The city is vibrant but at the same time not too big that you would feel overwhelmed. Everyone is friendly and that really goes against what overseas students like us tend to hear about the UK (eg. people are very cold and reserved). The degree is well structured and gives us everything we need for our career.
Why did you choose your degree subject?
The degree has really given me clear understanding of accounting, which is the backbone of any business. From that, I guess I could apply for any role that I wanted. The biggest highlight was that I got offered to be the Accounting Scholar, which was a prestigious scholarship back then where the University of Exeter Business School would pay 100% of my postgraduate fee and at the same time, I got to teach first year students. It was an amazing experience because I always love teaching and if it were not because of the visa requirements, I would have stayed longer.
How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?
I was friends with students from the UK and around the world. So during our group work assignments, I was usually in a very diverse team, which helped me to understand how to work with different people from different backgrounds. Also, being pro-active and asking questions when I was not clear about something is a huge thing in my daily work life. I’m in consulting so we ask and ask and ask, to ensure that we understand what our clients are going through to support them.
Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?
For PwC Vietnam, back then I had to submit my application online (around January and February). Next, I was asked to take an online test, then I had to do another test at the centre after I passed the online test. A group interview where they assessed my group work and presentation skills would follow. And eventually, it was the final interview with 2 leaders of PwC Vietnam (usually a partner/director and a manager)
Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?
I did use Career Zone whilst at Exeter and even the employability team of Business School. Both channels gave me lots of insights into how to write a personal statement letter and CV. However, I did not use these resources as much as I should have. As I said earlier, I love teaching and I found myself at the perfect place being the Accounting Scholar. So I did not really actively look for a job, until I decided I would not go ahead with a PhD after my MSc degree. By then it was already too late.
What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?
I think a lot of aspects of university education in the UK have helped me during the application process. This may also be applicable for university education in other countries where English is the native language, for example the UK, the US, Australia. As you may know, the whole application process is in English. So my experience in the UK helped me to react very well with all the questions during the process, from the tests to the interviews. My skills gained from doing many group work assignments also helped during the group interview. I knew how to navigate, lead and be a team member of the group through the challenges. The ability to proactively ask when things are not clear helped me during the interviews as well, because candidates who did not have much exposure to the cultures other than Vietnam felt intimidated during the interview and did not feel confident when they had to ask questions. I think the experiences and skills I gained from my degree really gave me the edge during the application process.
What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?
During the time at Exeter, I was the co-founder of Bright Futures Exeter society, part of the men’s basketball club, and international student society. I was also part of the International Welcome Team and University of Exeter Business School ambassadors.
What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?
The biggest obstacle to me would be the culture and language. It may sound very funny and strange, because I am a Vietnamese, left Vietnam at the age of 18 and came back for a job in Vietnam after 6 years in the UK. Theoretically speaking things should have been all smooth and familiar. But to me, going back to Vietnam was a real culture shock. People do and think differently here. For instance, the Vietnamese in particular (and Asian people in general) may not say “thank you” and “sorry” as much and as often as we do in the UK; so when I did that, they looked at me differently simply because it was not common here. Regarding language, it also took me a while to get used to the professional terms in Vietnamese. My whole degree was in English so English accounting and finance terms like “income statement”, “balance sheet”, “bonds” are very familiar to me. But when I saw the terms in Vietnamese which were not taught in high school, I had absolutely no idea what they meant.
Salary is another thing. To big companies like PwC Vietnam, I was still a fresh graduate and the salary would be the same for all fresh graduates (regardless of where I got my degree from). So I did get the job, and the pay was okay but not as high as I had thought I might get. Don’t get me wrong. I still love my job and my workplace and would have not picked anything else. But I do hope the pay would be better. (Who doesn’t?!)
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?
I think we all make mistakes along the way and will always say “I wish I knew blah blah blah”. But perhaps just embrace the journey. If you are still at university, use Career Zone or whatever it is called now as much as you can. Do as much research as you can before applying for a job and be yourself in the interview. You will be just fine.
What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in the financial services and wanting to follow a similar path to you?
Keep an eye on what’s going on around you. There are TP issues everywhere you go.
End of interview.
Our alumni networks in these countries are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.
The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here.
Students and alumni in, from or looking to relocate Vietnam to are welcome to join our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/305956466185407to connect with our alumni community, ask questions and keep updated on the latest alumni news and events.
Georgia Humbert is a 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros).
I’m on my 7th month of an internship with http://spoton.net a web design company with whom I started in October 2019. I found the marketing internship through My Career Zone, and the experience has been amazing for developing my workplace skills, and has shown me where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I would really recommend everyone to consider doing one! I have the aim of working in either the fashion or the entertainment industry, so wanted to explore if marketing would suit me as a potential long-term career. My time with http://itseeze.com/ (subsidiary company of Spoton.net) has been really valuable for this and, as a result, have just secured a third year placement in marketing. Furthermore, it has provided me with clarity that creativity is one of my strengths and something I enjoy applying to my work, so I intend to pursue creative roles moving forward. Prior to the internship I had started a hand painted wall art business
and have subsequently found my own ways of marketing it, so it’s been great to push myself to go about things slightly differently, and I have learnt skills I will carry over to my personal work.
For everyone doing a term time internship, we all know that juggling lectures, assignments, societies, as well as this regular commitment can have its challenges. But now, working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdown is a new one to overcome. As I started the internship a while before lockdown, I have had to change from working in an office once a week to homeworking, a change that seemed a bit daunting. I have a desk at home which I work from and I structure my day as I would if I was going to the office. Despite the big adjustment I would say it’s nice to skip the long commute to Torquay! This means I wake up with time to get ready so I can start at 9am and take a lunch break as I would normally. I find that I tend to take more breaks in the day at home because my family is there, so I usually make up for it by working a bit later into the early evening. I find this actually helps my productivity because breaks help me to stay motivated and alert.
Luckily for me, the team at http://itseeze.com/ are really supportive and as a web-based company, pretty much all my work can be done remotely. The marketing team is very small with just three of us so it’s easy to stay in contact, mostly through email or Trello. Because of the nature of my work, which is often content creation or routine tasks, plus how we use online task managers, we didn’t often have meetings in the office so this hasn’t been a problem since lockdown measures.
The original plan was for me to work in the office for a whole week in April, after which I would finish my internship, but since lock down we have decided it would be more useful for the company if I stuck to working one day per week. It will be strange to finish the internship remotely after working in the office for a few months, but the change has been another learning experience in terms of being adaptive and organised to work independently.
If you are currently doing a term-time internship from home, here are some things I’ve learned from the transition which might help you:
Make sure you have all the resources you need
One of the main things to consider if you’re used to working in an office is transferring all the files, passwords you’ll need etc. It’s probably a good idea to ask your manager to do the transfer of essential data to you; for me that was email passwords and social media logins. I had a bit of a struggle to set up my work email from home but once it was managed it has been a lot easier to stay in contact with the rest of the company (Thunderbird is a great desktop app for this).
You might need to change how you are allocated tasks
Since I started at http://itseeze.com/ we have used Trello as a tool for my managers to give me tasks online, allowing us to all see my progress. If you are used to chatting to your supervisor about being given jobs to do, suggesting this could be a good idea as it is really clear and easy to use plus you can add attachments and messages. It will probably be useful to your manager at this time in particular, if you can get on with your tasks without having to constantly communicate, and this is a great way to do that.
Get used to working independently
As said before, every working environment is different, but if you run out of jobs to do it’s a good idea to have a list of other things to be getting along with without needing to be asked. For example, I have set up a Pinterest account for http://itseeze.com/ so I can spend time managing that. If you’re stuck for ideas, competitor research and new marketing ideas never go amiss! We have a routine of procedure for my colleagues to give me feedback, via either email or Trello, the week after I send it; this way we all know what time frames to expect and I can access all the feedback online.
Don’t worry too much and keep in contact
Checking in with your supervisor regularly with any questions or concerns is great for everyone, so they know how best to support you and can get a heads-up if things aren’t going to plan. It is understandable that the transition can take a bit of time to get used to, but the more you work independently the easier it becomes!
My name is Maxine and I’m a 3rd year Business and Management student at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. In April 2018 I participated in an insight week at KPMG on their ‘Women in Deal Advisory’ programme. This summer I completed a summer internship at KPMG in the same department and in 2020 I’ll be joining them as a graduate.
What are insight weeks?
Insight weeks, also called spring weeks, are short internships offered to early year university students so that they can learn more about a company. They are intended to give students an ‘insight’ into what a company does and what career options they offer. Despite the name, they vary in length depending on the company, with some being a full week and some only a couple of days. Insight weeks are often used by companies as recruitment channels for future internships and placements.
What time of year should students apply for them?
Applications open from as early as August up to around January but the exact dates do vary from company to company. On many company websites, there will be the option to sign up to be notified by e-mail when their applications open. Application deadlines also vary, with some even closing early.
Some people I know who applied to many spring weeks found it useful to create a spreadsheet with the opening and closing dates for all of the companies they intended on applying to, and the stages they were at with each application.
Most insight weeks will be for first year students if they’re doing a three year course or second year students if they’re doing a four year course. Some companies will accept penultimate year students, so it’s still worth doing your research if you’re a second year student on a three year course, or a third year student on a four year course.
Where did you find out about your insight week?
I wasn’t aware of insight weeks until I attended an employer event on campus where they talked about the one they ran. After the event, I did a Google search of other companies that did them. Google directed me to websites like e4s which list opportunities from many different companies, and also official recruitment pages on company websites. I was mainly interested in consulting so I looked at consulting and professional services companies.
When I first started looking, I planned on applying to management/strategy consulting but as I had (surprisingly) enjoyed the accounting module I had done in my first term, I decided to also apply to the KPMG Women in Deal Advisory insight week as a wild card. I applied for 4 insight programmes but decided that KPMG was the one I wanted.
What was the application process like?
The first stage of the application was completing a form with information about myself, work experience and education. The next stage was completing a situational judgement test and a numerical reasoning test. In preparation for these tests, I practised with ones I found online and through My Career Zone. After that, I was asked to record myself answering set questions related to why I was interested in deal advisory, and why I was interested in KPMG.
The final stage of the process was an invitation to their London offices where I had to complete a case study exercise on one of their laptops in a room with the other candidates. The case study involved reading through a booklet of information with written sections, graphs and tables, and financial statements about a company. After given time to read the case study, I then had to answer questions and make recommendations for the company based on the information provided. Spellcheck and autocorrect was disabled on the laptops during the case study exercise. I tend to type quickly and hope that spell check corrects me, so not having that safety net did make me a bit nervous. So, if you type like me, I would recommend getting comfortable with typing without autocorrect and spellcheck in case you encounter something similar!
Was it paid?
I was paid for the duration of the internship which was great. Luckily I was able to stay with family members which meant my costs weren’t too high anyway, but lots of companies understand not everyone is that fortunate which is why many insight weeks are paid. If you find one that isn’t paid but the travel/living costs would be affordable, I would recommend doing it as the experience is worthwhile.
What did you do during the week? Who did you meet?
During the week, we had presentations from various employees, from recent graduates to partners. They talked about their career paths and the projects they had worked on. Throughout the week, we were given group activities to do related to the roles available. One of them was working together to come up with a solution to a problem and then presenting our ideas to senior members of staff. We also got to shadow employees at various levels of the business.
The final day was an ‘assessment centre’ style session where – if successful – led to a summer internship offer. The first part of the assessment was a group exercise with several stages. The assessors swapped tables for each stage so we were judged by a different person at each stage. The second part of the assessment centre was an interview with a senior member of staff asking us more about our motivation for deal advisory, our career goals and also some competency questions. Having spent the week learning about the work employees did, the interview was much easier than others I’d had in the past as I had lots of information to draw on for my answers.
After the assessments, there was a networking drinks session with employees we had interacted with during the week and others. They were all happy to answer any questions we had and keen to find out more about us.
Was the insight week useful?
I found the internship to be very useful. As it was an area of business I hadn’t had much exposure to, I learnt a lot from hearing the experiences of current employees, getting to ask them questions and shadowing them. Getting to see what they did day to day made me feel less nervous about going into work after graduating as the tasks were not as complicated as I had imagined them to be.
Has it influenced your career choice?
The insight week led me to choose a completely new career path. I was set on going into management consulting before it but now I have accepted a graduate offer from KPMG in deal advisory. I am very glad I took a chance on something new and started thinking about my career early on.
Which professional services and consulting companies offer spring weeks in 2020?
To find out if a company offers insight weeks, head to their careers website. Here is a brief list of some of the most popular insight weeks:
Jess Franks graduated from the University of Exeter in 2018 with a BSc in Business Economics WIE. She’s currently working in Client Relationship for BlackRock. Jess talked to us about making her time at Exeter work for her.
Morgan Stanley stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair because of its culture; opening my eyes to the opportunities in Investment Banking outside of the ‘front office’ trading roles. Having expressed an interest in the Operations division, the team set up a trial insight week for me and another Exeter student. I was fast-tracked, and secured a Placement Scheme prior to coming back to University in my Second Year.
At Morgan Stanley I was awarded ‘Campus Ambassador of the Year’ for my commitment towards promoting the organisation at Exeter. In support of the company’s core value of ‘Giving Back’ I volunteered for a day at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and ran my first half marathon for the charity, raising over £800. This helped me realise that I wanted to be part of an organisation which was both intellectually stimulating, but also gave back to society.
“The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination… I’m very thankful to all the team for helping make my career aspirations a reality.”
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Morgan Stanley, I knew I wanted to work in a sector which combined the client-facing experiences I had at PwC with the finance knowledge I’d gained. I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where my mentor encouraged me to look into Asset Management. I realised that I preferred the ‘buy side’ work which is built on developing long-term client relationships, rather than the ‘sell side’ which is focused more on short-term work.
I successfully applied to BlackRock’s summer internship programme in the Client Relationship Management division – spanning from departments dealing with Central Banks to Charities. I enjoyed being in the Asset Management division where I observed fund managers who were managing portfolios and actively taking investment decisions.
After the internship I was offered a graduate role at BlackRock in the same Client Relationship department – a role I find very exciting. I get to work closely with insurance companies yet also follow what’s going on in the rest of the global economy at a macro scale, and the value of constantly innovating fits with my ethos of continuous improvement and development.
The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination I’m thoroughly looking forward to entering. I’m going to be able to contribute to an expanding business, work with impressive clients and give back to society. An induction of two weeks in New York with BlackRock is a dream come true and I’m very thankful to all the team at the Career Zone for helping make my career aspirations a reality.
Think your part-time job doesn’t relate to your wider career plan? Think again. As Emily Quartly (final year, BSc Economics and Finance) found out, it’s all about transferable skills.
Being a student is tough enough with baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, let alone trying to fund yourself through the nights out and long days on campus and extortionate student housing.
For me, I’ve always worked with the mentality that earning my own money is the best way to guarantee funding for what I want to do. I’ve worked in Nando’s since I was 16 and kept up the part-time job throughout school and University. Nando’s is a great company to work for, the hours were flexible, and everyone I met was hard working and continued to contribute to the growth and success of the restaurant. I never really thought about what Nando’s had given me beyond a payslip and a good Christmas party until I started working in a more corporate environment.
“I was chatting to a senior manager about my progress and he continually highlighted the fact that I was very approachable…He wasn’t surprised by my history in restaurant waitressing and even said that it’s those kinds of student jobs that give you the best skills.”
Being an intern you’re told the biggest thing to work on is networking. Networking is another term in my head for a good chat and interactions with each other, which is actually the basis of my waitress job. Interacting with customers, colleagues, managers, and trainees was all key to my student job, especially when it came to handling complaints and general challenges and changes seen in restaurant life.
On my last day of my internship with an investment bank I was chatting to a senior manager about my progress and he continually highlighted the fact that I was very approachable and easy to talk to and get along with. Bearing in mind I had spent the best part of 10 hours a day with the team for 5 weeks, it’s so valuable to be recognised as a team member even as an intern.
He wasn’t surprised by my history in restaurant waitressing and even said that it’s those kinds of student jobs that give you the best skills and my transferable skills necessary to progress other areas of career interest.
“If you’re thinking of taking a job while studying I would highly recommend; it may prove much more valuable to your skill set in the future than you ever thought.”
I couldn’t agree with him more now! After nearly 4 years I left a great restaurant and joined the Career Zone team, which although a very different job, still gives me networking opportunities and the chance to write pieces like this for other students.
I really enjoy working and having some time in the week for something that is special to me and a completely separate focus to my university studies. It teaches you loads of time management, organisation, confidence and integrity as you’re faced with new situations at every turn.
If you’re thinking of taking a job while studying I would highly recommend; it may prove much more valuable to your skill set in the future than you ever thought. As for me, I’ll be starting a graduate role at BNP Paribas in September.
Kellie Wragg graduated from the University of Exeter in 2016 with a degree in Business Management, and then in 2017 with a Masters in International Management. She is currently an Account Manager at HeadBox.
During my final years at Exeter I used the Career Zone a lot to get some helpful advice about what my steps should be after my university career was over. They were really helpful and I would definitely recommend paying them a visit if anyone is finding their next steps daunting.
I wasn’t sure which industry I wanted to work in, but knew it was best to get as much experience as possible. Soon enough, I started working for an Estate Agency in London as a member of their Sales department. Although this role taught me a lot and was a great experience, I knew it wasn’t for me. The company themselves was fairly large and the processes they had set up were rigid and very set in stone. I didn’t like the feeling of being just another employee to them and having to stick to outdated and rigid terms. So, I decided to start looking for something else. That’s when I came across HeadBox.
“Being part of startup is always exciting and there are constant developments and new things to learn.”
HeadBox is the UK’s first SaaS enabled marketplace for creative venue and event spaces. The website was the first of its kind that allows you to instantly search, book and pay for a quirky venue online, which was a very exciting concept for the events industry. The more I looked into the company, the more interesting it sounded so I applied for a position as one of their Account Managers. I went through their interview process and eventually landed myself the role in the budding technology start-up. Working for a startup is a great experience, and one that comes with many positive aspects. Here are just a few reasons why I think working for a startup is the right step after you graduate.
Making an Impact
When you work for a smaller company or startup, there’s a lot more room for you to get your voice heard. As you’ll be working in a fairly small team it means each person has the chance to contribute and share their ideas from the beginning. This makes a huge difference to not only your confidence in the workplace but your ability to present your ideas to managers and peers. You can feel real ownership over your successes and how your work impacts a company as a whole. It really makes you feel like all your working efforts are making an impact on the success of the company, which is great.
The Startup Journey
Being part of a company during its adolescence is an invaluable experience, and an exciting one. You’ll definitely learn tonnes about the department you work in, but you’ll also get to work very closely with other departments and see how they work together to make the company great. For example, you may sit right next door to the marketing or finance team which means you can get a great insight into how your role affects them and vice versa. This is something you don’t always get in a larger company. Being part of startup is always exciting and there are constant developments and new things to learn.
The third benefit of working for a startup is the social aspect. You’ll usually find yourself surrounded by a group of other recent graduates who all share the same enthusiasm for making their way up the career ladder. Although there’s lots of hard work to do, there’s also a great sense of team spirit which makes it a relaxed environment to work in. You can constantly bounce ideas off of your colleagues and ask them for help and advice.
Finally, I think that being part of a startup company gives you a lot of opportunities for fast progression through a company. A successful startup grows pretty fast, and if you’ve made a good impression, you’ll be climbing up the ranks a lot quicker than at a larger corporate firm. There will be plenty of opportunities for you, and possibilities to see yourself moving from executive to manager within 6 months.
There are plenty of other benefits to working for a startup, the rewards really are endless and I would highly recommend it to any graduate who is looking to kick start their career.
After graduating with a First in BA Accounting and Finance, I was invited by the University to stay on for a year to complete a Masters in the same subject and to teach undergraduate accountancy. This meant I could not only get a free Masters degree, but I would also be paid to teach at a University – fantastic at 21 years old! This was an opportunity I therefore enthusiastically took up. However, I had to give up a position in the Corporate Finance team at EY which I had already been offered. This was a decision that I didn’t take lightly but is one I now know was very much the right thing for me to do. At that point I didn’t know if I wanted a career at a big firm, or if I wanted to find my own path; either within smaller companies or my own business. Either way, both degrees would set me up very well for the future.
“I genuinely believe that the base knowledge, skills, and contacts I made at Exeter were the springboard to all of the things I have gone on to do.”
While at University I had also set up my own business developing fitness products. I did this with the help of the University’s Innovation Centre (now Think, Try, Do). The skills I learnt through that process have proved invaluable.
I have to admit; I didn’t have the usual University life. The social side didn’t interest me much, and I was more focused on getting ahead in life. That was far more important to me at that stage. Because of this, I was also completing professional qualifications alongside my degree, and before I had finished at Uni, I was qualified as an investment manager with the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and as a financial adviser with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).
When I came to finishing the Masters, it had become clear to me that I needed to have full control over my future, and therefore a career at a big firm was not for me. I had a conversation with my father and brother that would change the course of my life.
My brother had just come out of PWC as a Chartered Tax Adviser and started working with my father, who had a small accountancy and financial advisory business. We as a family took the decision that my brother would take over the accountancy firm, and I would take over the financial advisory side, allowing my father to step back from the day-to-day business operations, and enable us to inject some fresh energy and ideas into the business.
We quickly rebranded the firm, and set-up a law firm to complement our accountancy and financial advisory activities. This was only possible because the rules changed in 2012, allowing non-lawyers to own a law firm. During this time I also obtained regulatory permission for the financial advisory business to manage investments. These two developments allowed us to serve clients internally across a number of areas, which was, and I believe still is, something unique in the UK. The new group is called Prydis.
Since 2012, we have grown the business six-fold, with 75 staff and four offices. I have also moved our investment management activities into a separate company, P1 Investment Management. P1 serves not only our clients, but also the clients of other financial advisory firms. Additionally, I have developed a consumer-facing online investment platform, Strawberry Invest, and a new financial advisory offering, Financial Solutions.
Life has turned complicated, but exciting and rewarding. I genuinely believe that the base knowledge, skills, and contacts I made at Exeter University were the springboard to all of the things I have gone on to do.
Emily Quartly is a Final Year BSc Economics and Finance student on the Streatham Campus, and a Career Zone Student Information Assistant.
While I can’t say I’m an expert in the wider world of Finance and Banking, I’ve had my own experience of applications, success and failure, interview pressures and ultimately development and progress on my career path. I would like to think I can offer some words of advice to those in their First Year with curiosity and interest to get involved with opportunities to do with their future career.
I started University with only a small exposure of what it might be like to work under these big names, and applied for Spring Weeks and First Year internships. I was offered places on the Spring Weeks of both Fidelity and BNP Paribas, but as they were at the same time I chose BNPP.
After the week at BNPP I was lucky enough to secure myself a place on their internship program the following summer. Now, as a Finalist I’ve accepted a graduate position within BNPP’s Capital Markets division, following on from the completion of my degree.
Arriving as a newbie to University can seem daunting enough without the prospect of having to think about what you want to do afterwards. However, for many Business School students, having an interest in business and finance is already a great attitude to have when looking at what kind of schemes you could be eligible for even within your first year of undergraduate study.
“Being able to go into a Spring Week with ambition, interest and initiative will take you far.”
From an article released by the Financial Times in 2016, Goldman Sachs attracted more than a quarter of a million applications from students and graduates for jobs in the summer of 2016. The number of applications from students and graduates has risen 40% since 2012, according to figures provided to the Financial Times. The trend is mirrored at several other large banks such as JP Morgan, which says it’s only hiring 2% of graduate applicants into its Investment Banking division.
These kind of figures highlight how highly competitive the places are for these graduate and summer positions. Investment Banks are beginning to see great value in moving away from the ‘churning out of analysts’ and continue to move towards a more ‘Google’ model of attracting and retaining talented candidates.
So, what is a Spring Week?
A Spring Week or Insight Week is a week’s worth of work experience. It’s an opportunity to get first-hand experience of how a large corporation functions, and what better way to do that than with the major players in the financial services world. For employers, a Spring Week is a very long job interview or assessment centre.
What will you get out of it?
Showing your interest and applying as early as possible may well mean a good candidate is retained by the employer right though to a graduate position.
Being able to go into a Spring Week with ambition, interest and initiative will take you far. Employers set up these kind of events in order to fully see your skills and prospects, a lot of the time not anticipating any previous experience or technical knowledge. Therefore you’ll be taken through step by step any technical information that the firm want you to learn or have an awareness of.
In a company you know little about, on a desk that’s trading millions of pounds or franks or dollars, curiosity can’t be spoken highly enough. Using information provided and asking intelligent questions should allow you to begin to join dots up about products and processes, as well as show the company you are very much interested and captured by what the firm does. You are assumed to know very little at the beginning it is highly likely you are going to be observed for your skills in learning new things and questioning all the sectors and technical language and processes you are exposed to and come across.
Making successful applications and interviews.
The two key elements to a successful application are knowing your own skills and competencies, and having great commercial awareness about the employer. If you can demonstrate where you add value to a company, and how you understand their business, they’ll be much more likely to take you on.
Bear in mind that rejections happen at every stage of the application process, and it may take several attempts at applications to correct mistakes and build confidence. For myself, I completed nearly 10 applications, a mixture of Spring Weeks and First Year internships, with only 2 successful results.
What’s the next step?
Many of the applications can be easily found through the individual company’s websites; a short list below of many of the popular names can be found for the applications commencing through 17/18:
Making full use of the Career Zone while applying for Spring Weeks are essential. You can find relevant links below to start your process. Including CV and application form resources, a link to booking online appointments and the interview resources and mock interview links.