Japanese Studies and History, University of Sheffield
When I was applying for jobs I was looking for something that would stretch me and offered opportunities for professional development and a structured track to management opportunities. When I applied to the Co‑operative Bank I already had an entry level offer from another Bank but this programme was closer to what I aspired to.
Although I am part of the Internal Audit programme, a lot of the work I’ve been exposed to is related to Risk and there’s a fair amount of overlap between the schemes.
My first placement was in Audit and I took on bigger chunks of practical work over my first few weeks as my knowledge increased. I was always working with, and was supported by, Audit leaders and gradually moved from control testing to more data analysis and reporting. I worked on audits in our mortgage and anti-money laundering areas and also led on a project within Audit looking at ways to improve our own processes which was great. It was challenging but I learnt a lot about the disciplines behind what audit does and the scope of its work. It was also nice to have some independence at such an early stage. I can’t stress enough how impressed I have been regarding the level of support I have received to date from both my colleagues and the HR team who co-ordinate our professional and personal development.
My second placement was in the Independent Risk function in Finance where I’ve been doing a lot of work with Ernst & Young, the Bank’s external auditors. I co-ordinated the implementation of the management letter points they raised which is basically recommendations for change based on their observations. This involved me having to go to the business and find people to take responsibility for actioning the points raised to ensure our exposure to risk was minimised.
On a personal note I gained a good insight into what happens in external audits from this experience and it also enabled me to meet and work with very senior managers within the business. I also learnt a lot about how to negotiate effectively, both with internal managers and, in this case, Ernst & Young. I often found myself facing off to both parties and it gave me a real insight into how smart your observations need to be when reporting, how clear you need to be when articulating why and when there is a problem and how to come across as credible to senior managers when I’m not an expert in the area they work in. The bottom line is I quickly realised the value of preparing well before meetings!
Outside this core work, the other graduates from my intake and I have been set the task of co-ordinating an insight study for our CEO. Essentially we were given a commercial question to look at and then present our initial ideas. He liked those and the project has grown arms and legs from there! It’s been daunting but really enjoyable as its involved us having to engage with Heads of Regulatory Advice, PR, Finance, Marketing and Fraud Oversight to pull together the required information around costs and operational considerations. We will present our next update to the Board in a few weeks.
In summary, the Bank’s graduate programme has exceeded my expectation and it’s made me want to work hard to repay the investment they’ve put into me. I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt in such a short period of time, I guess that’s the beauty of an organisation in flux, it comes with its frustrations but it gives you so much scope to learn. What’s also good is that there is flexibility on the programme – if you have an interest in a particular area you’re encouraged to pursue it.”