The need for education
I believe passionately that more needs to be done at secondary schools and universities to educate younger people about financial topics like pensions, taxes and mortgages. Finance wasn’t really talked about as part of the education system, yet these areas are so important in everyday life. Only now that I’m in the pensions industry do I realise how important having a pension is.
I knew that post-university I wanted to go into business development or marketing, but I wasn’t sure which industry I wanted to go into. A recruiter asked me if I was interested in financial services in a business development role. I hadn’t considered financial services, but I knew I wanted to pursue business development. I had little idea of what a custodian bank or even a pension was, so this was all quite daunting. Still, I decided to go for the role.
The role was to support our senior business development in building out the pensions business for what was KAS BANK (before being acquired by CACEIS), with a career plan set out to eventually becoming a business development manager. Knowing there were opportunities to move up in the organisation and I’d be rewarded for hard work made this an attractive proposition for me. The recruitment process involved interviews with the senior team at KAS BANK, as well as a personality test to make sure I’d fit the role and the team. The interviews and competency-based questions were things I’d experienced applying for previous roles. The personality test was new to me. I think it’s an important tool in the recruitment process, now that I’ve gone through the experience myself. Fortunately for me, I got the job and, three years on, it’s the best decision I made.
Myths and reality
After three years, I’m still eager to learn more. Many of my preconceptions about the finance industry have been dispelled. It’s not Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short. The industry I joined is hard working, professional and very goal-oriented. I work for a multi-jurisdictional bank in a business development role. I get to travel around the UK as well as across Europe, attending conferences and networking events, pitching to pension schemes, consultants and trustees.
There are so many different players in pensions too – working in the industry doesn’t mean you work for a pension scheme. There are consultants, banks, actuaries, lawyers, professional trustees, marketing firms and more.
I was surprised at the level of diversity in the industry and how much it’s debated at conferences. I thought the city would be a male-dominated world. To me, it meant going to university and wearing sharp suits. But I’ve met people of all different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. More needs to happen to encourage further diversity but positive strides are being made, particularly through initiatives like NextGen.
Importance of pensions
I want a comfortable retirement, and this is why pension schemes are here, to help achieve this goal. But if I didn’t work in the pensions industry, I wouldn’t have a clue what a pension really is and how it works - like many people my age. I’d be lost in the jargon. I’d be disengaged with my corporate pension. Now I know the importance of this long-term saving instrument.
Who would have thought three years ago that I’d find myself preaching to friends and family about why they should be engaged with their pensions?
I had no idea that pension contributions were invested in assets like bonds, property and stocks. This a powerful tool for engaging younger people – what investments are held within their scheme. Someone against animal testing, for example, might not realise their pension pot is being used to invest in organisations that use animal testing.
My advice to younger people and the pensions industry
I feel very fortunate to have joined such a large organisation as CACEIS, and I’m acutely aware that many of my peers are struggling, particularly since the onset of the coronavirus. New opportunities emerge on a regular basis and I’m always happy to roll up my sleeves and pitch in. If I had any advice to someone looking to enter the financial services industry, I’d suggest interviewing with a number of companies first before making any firm decisions. The cultures of companies vary enormously so it’s important to find one that really suits you. One of my main reasons for joining CACEIS (formerly KAS BANK) was the culture of the organisation and the potential opportunities given to me at such an early stage of my career.
Equally, I’d also encourage companies themselves to be more broadminded in their selection criteria. I’d encourage any firm to use programs that encourage younger people into the industry. This could mean running internships and apprenticeships for people who have just finished school or college, as well as placement and graduate programmes for the university students. It can often be a low cost to firms but you could be attracting talent that is the future of the organisation. Furthermore, I would not look solely at grades, but in conjunction with work experience and the personality of the potential employee. For example, a graduate with a first in their degree might look good on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily transfer to the work environment. Attending career fairs at universities and colleges can also be a way to attract younger talent.
Like many younger people, I’m passionate about the environment. For too long we’ve exploited the world’s resources and, over the last few years, the impact of climate change has really hit home. The pensions industry is playing a lead role in protecting the environment. At CACEIS, for example, we provide climate reporting tools as part of our clients’ Corporate Social Responsibility duties. More generally, we help our clients manage and monitor the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. I’m delighted to be a part of this and hope to do more over the coming years.
I feel privileged to be a part of the pensions industry, a more diverse industry than I could ever have imagined. And I truly believe it provides a societal good. My own journey over the last three years has enabled me to mature as a person, adapt to the workplace environment and learn far more than I initially thought possible. If I can do it, anyone one can do it.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine March 2021 edition.
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