Physics, University of Manchester
Although I studied Physics at University, I was keen to leave academia and seek new challenges after graduation – it was during my subsequent year out that pursuing a career in Finance began to really appeal to me; problem-solving and numerical challenges, but grounded in a much more hands-on environment. There were three main things that I was looking for when considering Finance graduate schemes: firstly; I wanted to gain a wide range of experience in different areas of Finance so I could better determine where my strengths lay; secondly, I wanted to be in an environment that would expose me to real business challenges, and to the key business leaders that were grappling with those; and thirdly, I wanted to develop my professional expertise through studying a professional accounting qualification. The Bank seemed to have a very compelling offer in all of these spaces.
In Finance, one of the cornerstones of your career is your qualification, and The Co‑operative Bank offers a choice of studying for either CIMA, ACA or ACCA, which is something a lot of employers don’t offer. I chose CIMA as ultimately I’m more interested in the industry side of accounting – taking business data and using it to help drive management decisions - and I felt CIMA was more tailored to this. I started studying about two months after I joined the graduate programme, when I attended a combination of weekday and weekend classes at BPP in Manchester and was provided with some very good study materials. The study leave allowance is generous, and the support from colleagues and line managers has been great. Balancing the demands of college, home study and exams with day-to-day life required self-discipline, but I still managed to find time to plan my wedding and maintain other commitments outside of work!
My first rotation on the graduate programme was in the Financial Performance team, which is part of the wider Performance, Planning and Analytics area. The team I worked with was primarily concerned with reporting monthly business management data to the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, and it was a great introduction to the business as I was seeing a wide spread of financial information from across the Bank at a very high level. Alongside the business-as-usual tasks, I worked on a number of projects within the team; all of which helped me develop my practical knowledge of the financial mechanisms that drive a bank.
What I really liked about this placement was that people took me seriously from the start and I made some big strides in developing my networking skills; it’s crucially important to be able to effectively engage with other people when working in any organisation in any setting.
For the last few months I’ve been working as part of the Securitisation team within the Financial Accounting division. The work has been much more technical than in my first placement and I’ve really had to draw on the accounting knowledge I’ve learned up to this point. In particular, the CIMA Financial Accounting module has been really useful in this role and it’s nice to be able to actually apply what I’m learning to a real life situation (I didn’t get much of that in the more technical parts of my degree!)
I’m really enjoying the rotational aspect of the Finance programme – it’s fascinating to find something that you looked at briefly in one placement suddenly becomes a larger part of the picture in the next placement. I also really appreciate that I’m able to have some input into what I do and get exposure to, and the structure is incredibly useful in terms of building profile and contacts across the wider business.