Should London be the first rung on your career ladder?

If you want to pursue a career in finance, it’s worth looking outside London to see if there may be better opportunities, write three postgraduate students

May 8 2019
Should London be the first rung on your career ladder?

The path to a career in finance was once a no-brainer. Get a degree, head to London and work your way up the chain. But in a digital world where big data and artificial intelligence are changing how business works and how we live, is this the only route to success?

Three postgraduates who realised that they had the talent that companies outside the capital were seeking share their experiences of starting their finance and data science careers in Cardiff.

After gaining her economics degree at Cardiff University, Cornwall native Charlotte Vick joined the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, a scheme unique to Wales that was developed by the Welsh Contact Centre Forum and part-funded by the European Social Fund.

When I left Cornwall for my undergraduate degree at Cardiff University, I’d always planned for London to be my next step. It was the obvious choice for graduate jobs. When the time came, however, I started to look for other opportunities. I realised that the growth of the Welsh financial services sector had brought big employers to Cardiff, a city I was already familiar with and a place where the cost of living is much lower than London’s and quality of life much higher.

A little more research brought to my attention the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, which offered the chance for a paid master’s course while I got experience working with several employers. I found myself wondering, “What’s the catch?”

Applying for a place on the programme was the best decision I ever made. I got the opportunity to rotate through placements with Legal & General, Hodge Bank and Principality Building Society. Each role brought new challenges, chances to explore different types of work and roles within organisations of various sizes in different specialties, and actual work experience that let me contribute right away.

Most importantly, I had the chance to find out what I really wanted from my career. I’m now a data and research analyst with one of the organisations I had a placement with, Principality Commercial, the commercial real estate lending arm of Wales’ biggest building society.

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Originally from Lancashire, London School of Economics and Political Science graduate Murtaza Hussain returned to education after deciding to leave the capital for a career change

Having lived in London for more than 10 years and as a recent father of two young daughters, I knew it was not realistic for my family to continue living in London because of the cost of living. On top of that, I was interested in expanding my career out of the legal industry and had started investigating different career paths in the data sector. In 2018, I started to explore master’s courses – and that was when I came across the Welsh Data Science Graduate Programme.

Before then, I’d never considered working in Wales. But as I became more enthralled with the programme itself, along with the fact that Cardiff is regarded as an up-and-coming data industry hub for data by professionals in the sector, I decided to enrol. It was a chance to get a paid MSc while going on placement with companies that I ultimately wanted to work with, in an area where we could afford to live well. As a mature student with a young family, it was the dream.

To date, I’ve had a placement with the Henry Howard Finance Group and will soon be rotating to Admiral, all the while studying for a MSc in data science. If anyone is thinking of pursuing a career in data science or who wishes to get some experience under their belt, I would recommend Cardiff as a place to live, work and study. The data science community is incredibly welcoming and is thriving with endless opportunities.

London was never the plan for Somerset-born Alex Ryall, who first moved to Wales to study at Cardiff University.

I came to Cardiff for my undergraduate degree in economics and Spanish about four years ago. I’d considered universities elsewhere, but I was drawn to Cardiff by its size and the number of large companies based in the Welsh capital. I thought it was a good move in the long term. After earning my degree, I had a difficult time deciding on what I wanted to do. The thought of moving to London to pursue a career in economics initially crossed my mind, but the stereotype of the City as a place of extreme stress and burnout put me off a bit.

I began looking at opportunities here in Cardiff and discovered that the Welsh Contact Centre Forum had worked with employers to create the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, a scheme that ticked all my boxes. I could stay in a country that had become my home, secure a funded master’s and work with some of the companies that had first attracted me to Cardiff.

The programme allows students to do three rotating placements with three different major companies, but I decided to stick with my first rotation at Atradius for all three. If I hadn’t done this, I don’t think I would have achieved the same personal and professional development, because of the strong connections I have made with my colleagues both internally and externally. Currently, I am an associate account manager within the Global Team at Atradius and will hopefully be continuing in this role come graduation in September.

The Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme and the Welsh Data Science Graduate Programme were developed by the Welsh Contact Centre Forum and employers, with part-funding from the European Social Fund, to satisfy the growing Welsh demand for expert professionals.

Read more: Graduate employability: top universities in the UK ranked by employers 2018


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