#069: Chris Humphrey on how to break into finance and banking


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Chris_HumphreyWe are joined by Chris Humphrey who is a project manager and careers consultant, and the founder of the popular careers website Jobs on Toast. Chris originally completed a PhD in Medieval Studies at the University of York, before leaving academia for a career in the private sector. Over the past 15 years Chris has worked in the areas of technology, transport, financial services and sustainability. Today he works as a project manager for a leading sustainable bank.

Chris is passionate about helping people with their careers and personal development. He has given numerous careers talks at universities in the UK, Ireland and the US, and has taken part in live Q&A events on The Guardian’s website, and for jobs.ac.uk. In 2012 Chris Humphrey founded Jobs on Toast in order to raise awareness amongst Masters students and doctoral graduates of the abundant career opportunities outside of higher education. His motto is ‘If I can do it, you can do it’!’

In this episode, Chris will introduce the range of careers that are available to PhDs in the financial services sector. He will also provide some tips and tricks for how to break into this line of work.

‘You don’t need to have a finance degree to get a job in the finance industry – certainly I didn’t!’

– Dr. Chris Humphrey, Project Office Team Leader and Careers Consultant

Transcript

Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of PhD Career Stories – the podcast in which PhDs tell their stories inspiring you to take the next step towards dream job. My name is Maria Sjögren and I’m your host today.

Before I introduce today’s speaker, I would like to encourage you to get in touch with us and share your feedback with us. What do you think of the podcast? Would you like to participate yourself, or nominate someone we should contact? Do get in touch! We would love to hear from you. You find our website on phdcareerstories.com and you can also reach out to us via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

But let’s get back to today’s speaker. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Chris Humphrey, a product manager and careers consultant and the founder of the popular careers website Jobs on Toast.

Chris originally completed a PhD in mediaeval studies at the University of York before leaving academia for a career in the private sector. Over the past fifteen years Chris has worked in the areas of technology, transport, financial services and sustainability. Today he works as a project manager for leading sustainable bank.

Chris is passionate about helping people with their careers and personal development and he has given numerous careers talk at universities in the U. K., Ireland and U. S. and has taken part in live journey event on the Guardian’s website and for jobs.ac.uk.

In 2012, Chris Humphrey founded Jobs on Toast in order to raise awareness amongst master students and doctoral graduates of the abundant career opportunities outside of higher education. His motto is ”if I can do it – you can do it!”. Welcome Chris.

Hello,

I’m Chris Humphrey, I’m the founder of the careers website Jobs on Toast, having originally worked as a PhD and postdoc in medieval studies I left academia for a career in business and today I work as a project manager in a UK bank.

In this podcast episode I want to introduce the range of careers that are available to PhDs in financial services sector. I’m gonna give you some tips and tricks for how to break into this line of work. You don’t need to have a finance degree to get a job there – certainly I didn’t!

I did use a transferable skills I gain from my PhD and my previous employment experience to land my job as a project manager with a medium sized bank. Let’s get started by looking more closely at financial services as an industry.

Financial services are a key sector of the economy! After all, we all need bank accounts where we can pay in our grants or salaries, payout for our bills and living costs and save something for the future and we need insurance to protect against something going wrong, covering our positions, our health and our pets.

In the U. K. in 2017, the financial services sector contributed a 119 billions pounds to UK economy – 6.5 % of the total economic output. The sector is largest in London where 50% of the sector’s output was generated. In fact there are 1.1 million financial services jobs in the U. K., 3.2% of all jobs. So it’s a serious industry much bigger than academia and hence potentially many more opportunities for you to find work and apply your skills.

Because capital and credit are so central to modern economies if something goes wrong, like it did in the financial crisis of 2008 to 2009, the consequences can be severe and long lasting. So financial services sector is very highly regulated by governments. This provides further opportunities for employment, EGS central banks like the Bank of England and the industry regulators.

So having looked at the broad nature of the sector we can now turn to look at the types of job roles that are available in financial services, and consider how can PhDs of any discipline enter this line of work. Well let’s categorize jobs in three types:

  • Front office jobs
  • Back office jobs
  • Core financial services roles

Let’s look first at front office jobs – by this I mean roles where you’re dealing directly with customers either face to face or remotely. Although many banking insurance processes are now fully automated, companies still employ large numbers of people to deal with work that can’t easily be done by machines, e.g. co-center work, opening more complex kinds of accounts, and assessing insurance claims. If you’re dealing with business customers, for instance helping to arrange loans and overdrafts, this is also an area where human touch and personal relationships are key. And of course there are sales roles, where you’re helping customers and clients to purchase the right products and services.

In my view, the administrative and customer contact work is work that any researcher could do. Right after I handed my PhD on a Thursday I started working as a temporary administrative for insurance company on the Monday generating quotations for life insurance. This help me pay the bills over the summer. when I waited to my post doctoral fellowship to start.

I appreciate these kinds of jobs are not using the full range of skills that you have and you might feel they’re a little bit of a step down. But on the other hand, you can see such a role as a stepping stone into the sector and a way to gain access to more senior roles. You’re going to be using your communication skills, your organization skills, you’re getting paid and gaining experience in seeing what opportunities exist for you.

The second type of job is in the back office. Although our typical experience of financial services is going into our local branch of you bank for instance, or calling a phone number, or using a website, or app, remember that banks and other financial services companies require a whole host of a specialist services behind the scenes to keep them going.

So let’s think about those for instance:

  • IT services to ensure that employees have computers and phones to do their work.
  • There is software development for external websites and mobile apps.
  • There is human resources and training to keep employees paid, trained and happy.
  • There is project management.
  • There is teams of people whose job is to make changes to how the organization works.
  • There is marketing to make customers aware of the company’s products and services.
  • There is buildings facilities management to operate local branches in head office buildings keeping them secure, warm and clean.
  • There is legal and compliance to ensure that the organization operates within the law or regulations.
  • There’s risk management to consider what might go wrong and act to mitigate those risks for instance from fraud, natural disasters or economic downturns.
  • And even jobs like an archivist whose role is to manage the historical records of an organization.

As a researcher you could join a financial services organization in any one of these roles.

Okay, so you’re going to be relying on your transferable skills and applying them to the specialist role rather than using your subject matter knowledge. For instance, in my current day job I’m a project manager. I help the bank I work for make changes to its IT systems, launch new products and deliver coworker training. I learned project management as a researcher doing my academic research projects and have since applied my project management skills in the transport sector, IT, and now I’m applying it in banking.

Another example of a PhD whose working in banking is doctor Patricia Bouteneff, who works as the chief of staff and resident historian at Citi Banks Center for Culture in New York. Patricia holds a doctorate in modern Greek literature. In her account of a typical working week on the website phdsatwork.com, Patricia says a short list of what we might do in a given week might include, write histories, built timelines, mount exhibitions, provide images not from our collections, give tours, research questions, conduct interviews and hang out. How’s that for a job?!

The third type of a job in financial services is in core financial services roles. Within the financial service company they’ll be a core group of people in specialist financial roles, e.g. chargers of accountants, credit analysts, investment manages, product manages, financial analysts and financial advisers. They typically hold professional qualifications that demonstrate their capability to do the job. If your PhD is in a core financial services discipline you can consider applying for these roles. Certainly, I’ve seen job adverts where investment banks are directly advertising for PhD with statistical and financial backgrounds.

Organizations may even have programs to assist you directly. For instance, the Bank of England has a PhD internship program so you can get valuable work experience even while you’re doing a PhD. The Bank of England also directly hires PhDs with more than three years of work experience so check out their website for more details.

So we spent some time looking at the three main types of job roles that exist within financial services companies and i hope that’s whetted your appetite giving you a better idea of the possibilities for employment. If you feel that you are interested in a career financial services, here is my seven steps for what to do next:

  1. Get going with some background reading, reading industry newspaper like the Financial Times. Listen to podcasts too, such as those produced by the Financial Times or the BBC Money program.
  2. Make a list of your transferable skills and think about how you can apply your skills to the roles I’ve introduced.
  3. Decide how you want to get into financial services. Is it the front office, is it in the back office, or in the core financial services itself?
  4. Start looking at some job descriptions online and match your skills to the skills listed in the job description.
  5. Get some work experience in a financial services company or in a relevant role. Remember, you could take a week or two weeks out from your PhD research and do a period of work experience in such a company.
  6. Networking! Do informational interviews with people who already work in financial services.
  7. Come up with a good explanation of why you want to get into financial services to include in your CV an application letter. You are then in a good position to start making applications for jobs as you come to the end of your PhD.

Okay, so that completes my introduction to the career opportunities available to PhDs in the financial services sector and some tips about how you can make a transition into this line of work. I hope you found that helpful. If you have any questions by all means email me at Chris@jobsontoast.com or by the contact from on my website, that’s: jobsontoast.com

Happy job hunting!

You have just listen to an episode of PhD Career Stories – the podcast in which PhDs tells their stories, inspiring you to take the next step toward your dream job! Subscribe to the show on iTunes or any other podcasting app. You can also find us online at phdcareerstories.com and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

See you next time.

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