What degree course did you study?
BA Law and Business Studies followed by MSc Accounting and Finance.
Why did you choose that particular degree course?
Looking back to when I first started my study, I don’t have a specific career path in mind. Instead of a specific industry, company or roles, I wanted to make a positive impact, add value and leave things better than I found them. Also, I wanted to build up my area of expertise and become an expert in my field.
Tell us about your employer and the position you were recruited for
Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s degree in Finance from the University of Warwick, I started my career with Barclays through a graduate scheme in September 2012.
I first worked alongside frontline sales directors preparing local business-development strategies. I then moved to work as a credit risk manager and exercised sole discretion for exposure of up to £2 million, where I was responsible for designing and implementing business investment strategies for UK small and medium-sized enterprises covering multiple industries.
In June 2016 I moved into a group finance function and worked in the Group Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team. I built partnerships and maintained strong relationships with senior stakeholders across business units, providing insights into future business performance over both short and medium-term planning cycles, delivering both internal and external stress-test responses and translating financial numbers into business stories to assist the board in its strategic decision-making. In the summer of 2017, I was promoted to Vice President and was appointed Senior Manager for Risk Grading Strategy, leading on the model risk management activities in Barclays UK Credit for 30+ regulatory and internal credit-grading models across Business Bank portfolio.
In 2019 I obtained an MBA from Imperial College Business School and later joined Close Brothers, an FTSE250 company and leading UK merchant banking group, as Risk Manager for the Premium Finance business, which helps customers with more affordable insurance. Close Brothers Premium Finance works with over 1,600 brokers across their 2,000+ offices to help 3 million businesses and customers across the UK and Ireland spread the cost of their insurance policy. As the pioneering providers of premium finance, we have been making it easier for our customers to manage their money for over 40 years. In my current role, I am leading on embedding and facilitating processes to enable the appropriate identification, reporting, management, and escalation of non-financial risks.
In my current role as Risk Manager, I am leading on the embedment of the nonfinancial risk management framework, awareness and culture, as well as acting as the go-to person on wider risk issues within the Premium Finance business. I also deputise for the Risk Director at various committees and provides oversight and challenge to risk management activities conducted by first-line colleagues across the business. At work, I continue to drive the scope and content of various local risk and compliance committees and is striving for better operational risk management and oversight across the business. I am working closely with the business (over 20+ teams) and the Group Operational Risk team in shaping risk and control registers. I am keen to think outside the box and to explore new ways to deliver insights from the mass volume of qualitative operational risk management information and to drive great commercial results.
What attracted you to this position?
Both the coverage of the role in a number of key risk management areas and culture of the organisation. Despite the demanding nature of my role, I have made time to help various company corporate social responsibility initiatives, including workplace mental health wellbeing and ethnic diversity.
What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?
Coming from a legal and more analytical academic background, my part-time jobs at campus (via Unitemps during my time) and various extracurricular activities helped me to develop strong teamwork capability. I learnt useful stakeholder management and continuously improved my interpersonal skills in leading and coordinating many internal and external events or projects. All these past experiences allowed me to use my initiative to contribute to the team’s objectives, which greatly improved my confidence and developed my transferable skills.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?
One key skill I learnt during my early career is building my resilience. Looking back to my last few years at university, I knew I always wanted to take on a finance-related role during my early career, but I never thought that I would end up with Barclays as my first job until I decided to take the opportunities that came my way. Even though that opportunity scared me a little and pushed me outside my comfort zone, I had no regrets about my decision. We often hear people say, ‘You should step out of your comfort zone’, but this is easier said than done. It takes time and effort to learn something new, especially when the role stretches your current limits. I would say, just be confident, taking your first step outside your comfort zone and believe in yourself!
What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?
Building a commercial awareness and business mindset, instead of restricting yourself to a role titled risk analyst or financial analyst, is crucial for a future risk manager or any roles that involve risk management. In particular, the ability to build a healthy relationship with your key stakeholders and add value to the strategic decision-making is essential. In my current role and responsibility, I am effectively acting as a risk business partner who bridges the gaps between the group and business, as well as providing oversight and adding value to risk-management activities conducted by frontline colleagues across the business.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
Be preparing that not all career progression or job can be carefully planned, so embracing change and keep your mind open in your early career. Personally, my early career progression was partly a conscious choice and partly the result of good luck.
Any additional advice or comments?
I am passionate to help graduates succeed with their early career planning, and I use my spare time to do the Risk Insights series on LinkedIn and share a lot of useful insights in risk management.