- When did you decide you want to work in Finance?
I first developed an interest in Finance after graduating from High School. I have always been fascinated by the stock markets, international trade and their crucial role in a country’s overall economic development. Furthermore, the career opportunities within the industry are endless. There are so many roles in different sectors of Finance to choose from. It is also easier to work and travel abroad. Combining all of these factors, it was relatively straightforward for me to choose a career in this field.
- How long does it take you to know your career direction?
I think for most people, finding the right career path does take a lot of time and efforts. This was certainly the case for me. Even though I knew that I wanted a career in Finance, there were too many paths to consider at the beginning. So I followed a methodological process. In my first year at university, I attended every company presentations, career fairs and researched specific sectors of my interest. After completing a placement programme at Barclays, I realised that career in Investment Banking which would be more closely aligned with my long term ambitions. Overall, it took me 3 years to find out the type of job that I really wanted.
- Was there anything or anyone in particular that had a great influence on you to chose that career path?
I used to idolise Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Each person has enjoyed enormous success within his respective career. I admire Warren Buffett’s unique intellectual prowess when it comes to stock investing. I respect Bill Gates’s visions, entrepreneur talent and his ability to transcend the limits of the Technology innovations. Their stories of hard work and success have been a great influence on my career decision. Needless to say, I still follow some of their business philosophies and investing principles today.
- How long did it take to get into the industry?
It took me 4 years in total to get to where I am today. I spent 3 years at university for my Bachelor degree in Banking & Finance and 1 year work placement at Barclays.
- Can you describe a day in your life?
I currently work as an Operation Specialist in the Commodity Trading department of JPMorgan. My role is to support our base metals trading team with every aspect in the trade lifecycle.I usually start at 8:30 in the morning. My first task is to check with our traders regarding their daily positions and complete a delivery process with the London Metal Exchange. Then I work with my colleagues in the Credit Risk, Settlement departments to complete a number of requests for our clients or to resolve any payment issues. I also interact extensively with Sales persons, external warehouses, and physical traders to negotiate and arrange business deals.After a busy morning, I normally catch up with my projects in the afternoon. These projects, depending on the current state of business, can range from something minor such as optimising our payment system to major projects such as building out a new trading platform, etc. I normally finish around 6:30 in the evening.
- What's the best thing that your study (university, A level, master degree) has helped with your career?
As part of my university degree, I completed a work placement year at the Credit Card department of Barclays. This was an extremely beneficial experience for my career. Not only did it teach me the basics of the operations of a multinational company, it also helped me to develop and improve my interpersonal and communication skills, which are vital for the Finance profession. I was regarded as an official analyst in my team, not as a student or intern. My manager gave me real projects to manage and the opportunities to present my work to senior managers within the department. I learnt a lot during my placement year. The experience certainly helped my degree and improved my “employability” after graduation.
- Any downsides with your role?
My work can be very intense sometimes. This means I have to get up early and finish very late in the evening (overnight on some days!). Keeping a work life balance is very important. However, I think everyone needs to define his/her career ambitions. Hard work and determination will definitely help to get to where you want to be in the future.
- What challenges have you faced in getting where you are now?
When I graduated from university, it was quite difficult to find a job due to the current business situation at that particular time. Even though I had many unsuccessful interviews, I kept on trying and learnt from all my failure experiences. My persistence finally paid off and I got a job offer from a very prestigious firm.For international students, the process of applying for a job can be very daunting. You have to put in a great amount of effort and determination in order to compete with the local graduates. Failures along the way are common but you should not let these affect your long term career goals. Keep trying and eventually you will achieve your goals.
- What skills and qualities do you think are important for your role?
Excellent communication skill (both verbally and orally) is an absolute necessity for my role and any Finance career in general. On a daily basis, I often have to interact extensively with different level of management within the firm and external clients. Therefore I need to be able to convey ideas and deal with clients’ issues effectively.Good analytical and problem solving skills are also important. As the business constantly changes, I need to find new solutions, processes and control to avoid potential negative impact to the firm. For example, I could be challenged to automate a trade booking model to reduce manual errors and system overheads that might lead to big cost savings for the business.Having a strong drive for success and ambitions will also help to push your career further. Certain Finance careers are very competitive. To succeed, you need to set high goals for yourself and be prepared to work hard to achieve them.
- What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?
My best advice would be to start preparing early. First you need to identify your own personal strengths, weaknesses and what sort of career path that would suit you best. Secondly, do as much research as you can about the industry / job role that you are interested in. Attend all company presentations and career fairs as these will give you a good overview of the specific firm and the job that you are looking for. Also, if possible, find out if you have any contacts (professionals, family members, etc) that work in the same industry and ask them for career guidance. Most important, obtain relevant work experiences from summer internships, work placements or part time jobs. These experiences will help you build the interpersonal skills that are vital for your future career and make you stand out when you apply for graduate jobs at a later stage.
- How and what do [your role at work, e.g accountant, rchitect, etc] contribute for society?
As my role supports the base metals trading business, everything I do have an indirect impact on the wider society. For example, I could help arranging the physical transportation of metals to alleviate demand / supply imbalance between different geographical locations. I could also help warehouse companies to generate revenues from direct financing of physical metals. These activities in turns help to create more economic activities within the industrial sector and have a knock on effects on the employment and microeconomic structure of a country.