Future impact

How will millennials shape our industry? We ask a selection of outstanding young professionals what they think
by Jane Playdon and Christopher Parsons
photos by Alun Calender

future

Millennials are bringing new energy to the financial services professions, driving innovations and reinventing perceptions of the sector. Our 25th anniversary print edition cover feature draws together a selection of young professionals who have performed outstandingly well in their chosen area of financial services, drawn mostly from CISI award winners over the past five years, for a snapshot of perspectives on how they are achieving this and what impact this generational shift is likely to have in the future.

Between them they cover a wide range of financial services, including wealth management, financial planning, banking, regulation and compliance, and operations. They generally agree that advances in technology will transform the way we work in future, and many point to a change in attitudes towards work, with an improved shift in work/life balance heralded as something to look forward to. But some predictions are more left field, including an optimistic prediction that poverty will be a thing of the past, global temperatures will have stabilised, and our favourite: the CISI will be handing out awards to robots.

Where do you think we’ll be in 25 years’ time? Let us know in the comments.

Ahmed Yaqoob MCSI, 23,
FX trader, Lloyds Banking Group
CISI Awards Ceremony 2017: winner, Fund Management

Ahmed spends his daysimmersed in the markets – knowing where foreign exchange rates are at, what is driving them, actively managing risk, and facilitating client flow by helping them to access the market for transactions”. He starts early, catching up with overnight market activity on the way to work, and keeps abreast of movements in price of a range of assets, global political developments, client transaction activity and data releases. “My job is to put these moving parts together to form a view on the markets,” he says, and he hopes to build on his “understanding of how other markets work and eventually become a generalist across a range of asset classes”.

Looking ahead, he says: “As technological advances converge across the finance industry, I think millennials will spearhead an approach which changes the dynamic of conversations with clients. Already we have seen a shifting of priorities away from ownership towards access – like working remotely, sharing cars and streaming music.”

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

Fintech will change the fundamental building blocks of how so many industries communicate and transact with their customers, and thus will ultimately change the world. A whole new wave of technologies and a raft of ideas around how to implement them are upon us but I think we will need to be patient to see some of the more groundbreaking pieces of technological innovation becoming core parts of our lives.  

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

The industry has grown to encompass so many functions and has become such a big part of our day-to-day lives that it becomes difficult to pin down a general perception. That said, I think there has been a big change in perception over the past several years, markedly so away from the immediate post-2008 era when perhaps perception towards the industry was much more mixed – in this regard the role of regulation, technology and client-focused ambitions have helped to improve perception.

In 2042 I predict …
There will be a focus on reducing human input into tasks “to prevent things going wrong. This will lead to a huge shift in the mix of allocations between capital and labour”. I also predict that the CISI will start handing out Top Young Finance Professional awards for robots!

Stephen Lennon, Chartered FCSI, 35
Regional sales manager, Parmenion Capital Partners
CISI Awards Ceremony 2014: winner, Applied Wealth Management

Steve learned to “look under the bonnet” of funds at an early stage of his working life, as part of a team handling calls related to a fund that had drastically underperformed “because it had a huge overweight to high momentum technology stocks”.

This sparked a fascination for investing and financial markets, to the point where today he is “slightly obsessed with market movements”, checking them immediately after waking.

He is most proud of the de-accumulation investment solution that he helped develop at Parmenion. “As far as I am aware,” he says, “it is the first de-accumulation investment solution in the UK to offer ten distinct risk grades and asset allocations specifically designed to mitigate the stresses that long-term withdrawals place on a portfolio".

Looking ahead, he hopes that the financial services industry “can shake off the stigma” resulting from the global financial crisis, and that millennials will “bring a new standard of professionalism and integrity to the industry. Having to explain that my role is a million miles away from structuring and selling collateralised debt obligations is hard sometimes, but I hope that will gradually change”.

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

I have no doubt in my mind that technology holds the key to the future of the industry and I am lucky enough to work for a Fintech50 company. Many adults in the UK would rather engage with their finances online and so I think that the ability to deliver intuitive and engaging tools will define a company’s success going forward.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate

Study time isn’t over yet!! Get your professional exams done early and when qualified you can enjoy focusing your full attention on your chosen career. However, don’t be arrogant enough to think you know everything once you’re qualified. This industry is constantly evolving and you should always be learning. That’s why I love it!

In 2042 I predict …

I will turn 60 and hopefully retire. Driverless cars will be commonplace and the combustion engine will be frowned upon. Drones will fill the skies but global temperatures will have stabilised and I’ll be hoping that my son will settle down one day!

Charlotte Moseley, Chartered MCSI, 27
Relationship manager, HSBC Private Bank
CISI Awards Ceremony 2015: winner, Financial Markets

Regulation and compliance play a “huge role” in Charlotte’s days, which are filled with meeting clients and colleagues to discuss investment ideas, strategies and business plans. “It is important to have a strong technical understanding of the rules, but it’s also helpful to start from the basic question of what is right for our client and what will keep them safe.”
What is your greatest career achievement so far?
In 2015, I was selected to take part in a project called ‘The Apprentice’ and was a member of the winning team. The project is supported by senior management at HSBC Private Bank and its objective is to not only develop individuals’ skills but also to give us a chance to make a real contribution to the strategy and success of our business. With a 'coach' to help us, we had to develop a business plan for an innovative project that would improve our clients’ experience and then present it to a panel of senior executives. It focused on teamwork and encouraged us to identify specific challenges and then work through a credible business solution as a team. It helped me to develop my network, and it got us all thinking about the different ways we can support our clients. For me, one of the biggest takeaways is the confidence I have gained when presenting and the ability to present my ideas eloquently. It has been really encouraging to see all the ideas presented during this project coming to life within the business and consequently improving our clients’ experience.
What is the one thing you think millennials will change significantly in the financial services sector as they progress through their careers?

Millennials have been able to take advantage of a ‘shrinking world’ due to the vast improvements in communications, and I hope this has helped them be open to new ideas and different cultures. I think we might be even more global when finding solutions for our clients.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate
Don’t be afraid to change your mind, it’s never too late! Lots of my friends started in one career straight from university and made the difficult decision to retrain for another profession a few years afterwards – none of them have regretted their decisions (so far!).
In 2042 I predict …

25 years ago, we barely had the internet, so who knows? Lots of people predict we will be a cashless society and all payments will be electronic.  

Oliver Knights MCSI, 26
Assistant vice president, Credit Suisse UK
CISI Awards Ceremony 2017: winner, Private Client Investment Advice & Management

Oliver began his career in private banking following completion of an internship in 2011. His current role involves “building pitch books for prospective clients; monitoring and reviewing existing clients’ portfolios or proposing new investment ideas; meeting new prospects or existing clients”. Keeping up-to-date with relevant compliance and regulatory matters is considered “hugely important”.

Equally important, he says, is work-life balance and the ability to ‘switch off’ once outside the work place. Looking ahead, he thinks millennials will effect significant improvements in this area. “I expect the millennials to push for more casual, flexible and open working environments that reflect those of a start-up nature. There will be flatter structures in the workplace as people strive for improving efficiencies. I’d also expect to see more integrated and advanced technology that will convert many manual tasks to automatic.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

The media has hardly flattered the industry in previous years, particularly as a number of institutions are still being investigated following the 2008 crisis. It’s undeniable that the financial services sector is incredibly important. However, people’s perception of it tends to be negative. With Brexit on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how this landscape changes as we learn more about what will and what will not be available to the UK as it likely leaves the single market. I would like to think that the millennial generation can help bring the financial services industry back into a more positive light in the coming years, but this won’t be an easy task.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate

Network. It can be your greatest asset in almost any industry, particularly private banking. Whenever you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to others at events, dinners, conferences, you should. You never know when that contact could be of use to you in the future.

In 2042 I predict …

I suspect we may get close to ten billion people on the planet and average life expectancy in the developed world could be well into the eighties. Most school children will be obligated to learn computer coding as a stand-alone language. Newspapers and cash might be long extinct.

Jennifer O'Neill, Chartered MCSI, 28
Investment manager, Quilter Cheviot
CISI Awards Ceremony 2015: winner, UK Regulation & Professional Integrity

Jennifer, who once had her name displayed on the ticker tape in Times Square to recognise her role in a wealth management project, is fascinated by the “relationship between investment markets, geopolitics and economics”.

Her role in portfolio construction takes into account “macro factors overlaid with fundamental analysis”. She facilitates this by arriving at the office before the markets open to catch up on data from Asia and the US, and combines this with “external sell-side research on macro events and company results”.

Looking ahead, she says: “We live in an incredibly global world, and I feel this will play a significant role in the way financial services develop. The adoption and innovation of technology will play a massive role, and millennials will lead the charge in this. I also think the industry will become more open as competition increases (look at where we are now relative to where we were at the time of the deregulatory Big Bang in 1986), so relative advantages will be more difficult to maintain.”

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

There are several phenomenal start-ups, particularly in the US. Robinhood is interesting from a retail investment perspective as there are no commissions levied on transactions (including direct stocks and exchange-traded funds). This is a great example of disruptive technology which is sure to bring about a change in the way traditional investment houses prospect for and carry out their business.

How big a role does regulation and compliance play in your career?

An ever-increasing one. It is so important that we not only comply with regulation, but also understand its purpose from the viewpoint of those it is aiming to help. For example, the updated Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) can appear to be a pretty burdensome set of requirements, but if we consider why these have been introduced, the whole process becomes clearer. Similarly with Basel III and Solvency 2, the macro factors precipitating their development and implementation post-global financial crisis are highly important to understand.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

I still think that many retail investors see finance as akin to alchemy – there is a perception of opacity and complexity around financial products and investment more generally. I’d love to see this changing.

In 2042 I predict …

Dow 80,000 … based on the current time taken to reach 20,000. Targeted advertising will be delivered based on data analytics so sophisticated it will be tailored to an individual in ways we can’t currently envisage.

Sebastian Taylor, Chartered FCSI, 32
Investment adviser, Charles Stanley
CISI Awards Ceremony 2016: winner, Applied Wealth Management

Sebastian’s father and grandfather were Chartered accountants, so from a young age he has been interested in finance and particularly the stock markets. “Joining the investment management industry seemed a natural step for me,” he says.

A typical day for Sebastian, who works in a team alongside a senior investment manager, involves analysing the investments they hold for their clients to ensure they are performing as expected, looking for new investments and checking that accumulated income or regular contributions are invested to maximise portfolio returns. He also spends a great deal of time communicating with clients.

Looking ahead, he highlights the large impact technology has had on the sector, which “will only advance in years to come”.

He views career success as “managing a large, profitable book of clients”, and also wants to be valued for the personalised service he offers clients.

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

They are important because their ‘disruptive’ nature creates competition which forces other companies in the market to improve their systems and processes. Areas such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding enable small businesses to borrow money that may have been unavailable to them through banks, and in turn, a business idea can become reality in a much shorter timeframe. Mobile phones are starting to become the payment method of choice which offers small companies the opportunity to compete with their larger competitors. Fintech firms are also able to pass on savings to the end user which will help their customer base grow.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

I think the general perception is improving. Events such as the financial crash and the LIBOR scandal did not help people’s perceptions, however I think that the introduction of the Retail Distribution Review has changed the industry vastly, and now the calibre of people has improved, which gives people more confidence in dealing with financial professionals.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate

Networking is very important, especially when it comes to looking for jobs. There is a lot of competition for graduate schemes nowadays with thousands of people applying for a very limited number of spaces which makes it extremely difficult to get a place. So my advice would be to try and find a way into a company, either through work experience or through a contact, as it will enable you to demonstrate your skills and you also never know what may come from it.

In 2042 I predict …

The FTSE100 will hit 21,000, everyone will work from home and hopefully I will be retired!

Felicity Hooper MCSI, 35
CGT manager, Investec Wealth & Investment
CISI Awards Ceremony 2016: winner, Advanced Global Securities Operations

Felicity joined the financial services sector because she wanted to use “the analytical and mathematical skills” she had gained from a degree in neuroscience. Her first job after university was at a stockbroking firm.   

A typical day for Felicity involves “liaising with investment managers, other settlement teams, training within the team, investigating and piecing together clients’ CGT history as well as looking into the tax treatment of corporate actions. It's also crucial I stay up to date with changes in regulation as well as looking for ways to improve the process and procedures within my team".

Looking ahead, she thinks “millennials will achieve harmonisation in cross border practices across the industry”.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

I believe it is more positive than it was after the financial crisis. However, there is work to be done and by correctly focusing on client outcomes I hope perceptions will improve further.

In 2042 I predict …
That the technological advances in the financial services industry will make how we work today seem unrecognisable and archaic. 

Farida Hassanali CFPTM Chartered MCSI, 30
Paraplanner, UBS Wealth Management
Head of Paraplanner Interest Group and member of IFP Professional Forum Committee

Farida transferred membership to the CISI following the November 2015 merger with the IFP and, as an established paraplanner who had already achieved the top financial planning qualifications, quickly took on responsible roles within the CISI. 

She joined the financial planning profession as a result of being inspired at the age of 12 by the TV show Your money or your life, which “analysed people's finances and helped them understand how best to achieve their goals”. 

She arrives early at the office to plan her priorities and divides her days between writing recommendation letters, attending client meetings and participating in several projects. Her ideal role would allow her to increase her time spent with clients.

Looking ahead, she thinks that millennials will continue to drive digital innovation and further reduce the barriers to globalisation as 'going to the office' ceases to be a requirement.

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?
I think it is great that people continue to create and the rise of online computing has clearly influenced the rise in unicorns (startups that have grown to be worth at least $1bn) by reducing the barriers to entry. This also forces well established institutions to invest in research and development or risk losing their competitive edge as their offerings become outdated.

How big a role does regulation and compliance play in your career?
A large part of our role is to ensure that we understand changes in regulation and how they will affect our clients. However, I think that compliance should not be the burden that many believe it to be if we ensure that we act ethically and record this appropriately.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?
All the recent regulation changes make financial planning ever more complicated, but the introduction of the Pension Advice Allowance recognises this and helps people to access it. This will hopefully help to improve perception. However, the media continues to heavily influence the public's perception of financial services and it is unfortunate that there have been plenty of complaint cases to report on in recent years.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate
Get as much experience as you can. This is a great time to explore career options and experience can come from many different sources, such as part time jobs, summer internships, volunteering or joining the committee for clubs you are part of at university.

In 2042 I predict …
That we will be studying 2016 as a significant period in history!

Sian D’Amore, Chartered MCSI, 30
Compliance officer, Smith & Williamson Investment Management
CISI Awards Ceremony 2014: winner, Combating Financial Crime

Sian’s working environment is fast-paced because she is “constantly trying to stay ahead of regulatory changes and updates”. She particularly enjoys “working on thematic reviews, reading new regulation and working on its application to the business”.

She is enthusiastic about the competition created by fintech start-ups, saying that “the more closely coupled technology and businesses are, the greater the opportunities for businesses and compliance to be directly driven by information and be much more targeted”.

Because millennials are accustomed to having a huge amount of data at their fingertips from multiple sources, Sian says that in future “they could incorporate this into general working practices, making what is already a dynamic work environment even more receptive to change”.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

In recent years it’s been very mixed. A lot of people have been stung and it takes time for wounds to heal.

Businesses work on relationships which are established though trust. I think that the general perception is that, in the past, financial services did not always consider the customer’s best interests. As a result, trust has been lost. A lot of the work we do in compliance is making sure that we put the customer at the heart of what we do, that we operate with integrity and that we work towards ensuring the stability of the industry. If we continue to do this then trust can be regained over time.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate

It doesn’t always matter what subject you study at university, it’s still possible to work in almost any industry you might want. University gives you the tools to be a professional and teaches you to be open to learning, to drive your own development, to work with others and to be critical of yourself and your environment. These are the skills that will make you successful.

In 2042 I predict…

Technology will have opened up more opportunities than we can even fathom now.

Toby Grainger ACSI, 31
Director of cost management and analytics, UBS AG
CISI Awards Ceremony 2015: winner, Advanced Operational Risk

Toby joined UBS AG following successful completion of an internship in New York. He aspires to become a “chief operating officer in one of UBS’ control or logistical departments”.

He is most proud of a project he managed last year to introduce a new internal global billing system that “enables us to perform service-based billing to our client businesses across all locations and is an important step in being able to move significant parts of our control and support departments into a service company to meet regulatory requirements in Switzerland, US and the UK”.

Toby is currently focusing on “designing and implementing support processes for a new contractual framework that will come into force later this year between all the locations at UBS. I am also building a new team to help support these processes in our Krakow office so spending quite a bit of time focusing on training and integration for this new team”.

Looking ahead, he says the disruption caused by fintech start-ups “could be good for the industry and one of the main advances could be the use of blockchain to make transactions more efficient”. 

As millennials progress through their careers, we will see “greater digitalisation of the financial services sector due to growing up within the internet age”.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?
There is still a negative perception, but the frequency of fines and serious incidents does seem to be decreasing, so hopefully many issues from the financial crisis have been resolved and the increased focus on integrity and improved culture within the industry will lead to an improved perception.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate
Find a role or area of an industry that you enjoy, as we are all going to need to work for longer than ever before!
In 2042 I predict …
All personal financial transactions will be confirmed using biometric data.

Samuel Chung ACSI, 26
Assistant vice president, Citi Private Bank
CISI Awards Ceremony 2015: winner, Investment Advice Diploma

Samuel’s greatest career achievement to date is “closing a private placement deal for a client and in doing so, setting a precedence for a new product program for the bank”.

He aspires to become the “first port of call” as a trusted adviser for his clients. “Ultimately, banking as a services industry is all about relationships – with clients and with shareholders. Trust is something that is built over long periods of time, yet can be destroyed overnight. The financial services sector has taken a beating following the global financial crisis but perception is definitely on the rise.”

His work days begin at breakfast when he catches up on headlines and overnight market developments, followed by further updates at the office. He then divides his time between advising clients; research; identifying new prospects and formulating strategies with business partners.

Looking ahead, he says: “Millennials will be responsible for driving innovation in the financial services sector. They will have a different perspective on how things can and should be done and will identify the next big growth opportunities.”

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

They are going to be a huge opportunity (especially amid Brexit and the reforms in banking, where institutions are looking to become more efficient and integrating technology to do so). The cost of entry is typically low and there is a huge demand for it. However, the financial services sector is tightly regulated and navigating through this increasingly complex regulatory framework is a huge challenge, and a very critical component for the success of any fintech firm. It is vital that start-ups understand this when they start, otherwise they will have simply created an amazing product that cannot be integrated into the market.

How valued do you feel as a talented individual in this sector?

First, I don’t think I am ‘talented’. This is not false modesty – I have learnt that there will always be someone smarter, more talented and more knowledgeable. That said, it is important to ‘know your value’ and understand what you bring to the table. For me, being valued means being someone that is credible and counted upon so that seniors and clients alike depend on you.

In 2042 I predict …

We will have gone through the next industrial revolution, data will be the new ‘natural’ resource and poverty will be a thing of the past.

James Groom, Chartered FCSI, 33
Risk manager, Ernst & Young
CISI Awards Ceremony 2014: winner, Regulation & Compliance

James joined the profession because it offered the potential for the sort of research, investigating and problem solving that he’d enjoyed when completing his degree.

His work days involve “overseeing the firm’s financial crime controls, training staff, monitoring processes and generally working to improve the risk framework”.

Looking ahead, he says millennials will influence companies to focus on “striving to achieve a better ‘work/life balance’ for their employees. Flexible working, especially for working parents, already seems to be gaining traction and I expect that will only continue, to the benefit of all”.

Thoughts on fintech start-ups?

Companies such as Twitter changed the world and are now needing to consider what their responsibilities are in this ‘new order’. I hope that future fintech companies embrace social responsibility, right from the start, to ensure they understand what their success will mean for others.

What do you think is the current perception of financial services?

If you say you work in ‘financial services’ people usually assume that means either ‘accountant’ or ‘investment banker’. I’m not sure the industry is well understood and recent industry scandals haven’t helped. However, I think the UK is leading the way in regulation and compliance and that consumers are thus better served (and protected) than ever before.

The one piece of advice you’d give to a school-leaver/graduate

Don’t underestimate how valuable industry qualifications are, especially early in your career when you are trying to get noticed. Whether it’s the CISI or another professional body, there is now a range of affordable exams pitched at all levels that will support most paths in financial services.

Finish this sentence: in 2042 I predict …
The first person will step foot on Mars.

An abridged version of this article is in the 25th anniversary edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'.

Published: 09 May 2017
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  • Compliance, Regulation & Risk
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