Name – Allan Ferguson
Age - 25
Degree and university - Strathclyde University, Undergraduate = Law, Postgraduate = MSc Finance
Work Title – Associate, Specialist & Acquisition Finance, Clydesdale Bank
What do you actually do? I work within the Specialist & Acquisition Finance team in the Glasgow Financial Solutions Centre (a one-stop shop with access to a whole team of local banking specialists and credit facilities all in-house at one location). We are not so active in day-to-day relationship banking, but instead work on a deal by deal basis. For example, we provide funding for companies wishing to make acquisitions of other businesses, or for management teams wanting to buy out the shareholding of a departing owner. My role as associate is to assist the directors within the team with funding decisions, which may require me to research a company and the industry it operates in. A key part of our job as providers of funding is maintaining strong relationships with other professionals such as lawyers and accountants. To that end, my role also requires me to co-ordinate events whether for social or business purposes.
Were you always interested in the Financial sector? I have always had an interest in business and finance in a general sense even from my time at school as it is pretty fundamental to our everyday life, even though we may not realise it. For example, we all have a bank account, know someone that runs their own business or have worked for a company, so business and finance surrounds us and influences our lives. The financial sector appealed to me as it can offer a safe and structured career path while also providing excitement and a good standard of living if you work hard enough.
How did you find out about this particular scheme? I first came across the Clydesdale Bank graduate scheme whilst at the Careers Fair at Glasgow’s SECC. An initial chat with one of the representatives there got me interested enough to carry out further investigation into the company and what they could offer me. After reading the company website and speaking to some people who work in finance, I quickly realised that I could see myself working there so applied and got the job! It was the first intake to the scheme for a couple of years so there wasn’t much publicity about it but I believe it can now be accessed via the careers services or prospects website.
Would you undertake further training in order to gain promotion? Further training is something which I am currently doing and I actually think is very important. Everybody on the Graduate scheme is automatically enrolled on the Chartered Institute of Bankers Scotland (CIOBS) course. It is a fairly new qualification, but as it is backed by one of the world’s oldest institutes it is well-regarded within the financial sector. The advantage of the course is the flexibility it offers as it allows the student to choose the majority of the modules and the timing of the exams, so you can finish within a couple of years or take longer if necessary.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? The best bit about my job is working within a specialist team in an innovative and fun company. From the top down there is a friendly yet hard-working atmosphere which helps make your day more interesting, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. I also get the chance to go out to various events and meet a number of people from the local business community, which appeals since I will no doubt come across many of them again throughout my career.
I am approaching a year with the Clydesdale Bank and I can honestly say that to date there are very few downsides to working here. My only real problem is trying to keep up with all of them on nights out!
What skills do you believe you need to succeed? Fundamentally you need to have an interest in finance and business in general. Keeping up to date with developments via the financial press is essential in my job since every piece of information is scrutinised by analysts and the public alike which can have an impact on how the Bank is perceived. Being up to date can help you prepare for any questions customers may have. To succeed in finance I also think you need to be self-motivated, have good teamwork skills, and have the ability to talk to people and engage with them on a number of levels.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to come into this sector? My advice would be to do some work experience while still at university. I think trying a number of roles within finance with a variety of companies would be beneficial as there really is no substitute to hands-on experience. Some companies, including the Clydesdale Bank, offer internships and 10-week placements over the summer, and the feedback from friends that have done this has been very positive even if it helped them discover that a career in finance wasn’t for them. I would also recommend researching as many different jobs and career paths as possible on the internet, or through speaking to the careers service, because it amazes me that students see their options as limited when the list is almost endless!
Is there anything you would like to add? The financial sector is taking a bit of a hit at present just like the rest of the economy, but it is still a relatively safe career to pursue. There will always be opportunities available no matter what the external conditions are like, so I would encourage those considering a career in finance to continue to do so.