Tips from the top: career advice

Twelve financial services experts outline their advice for young professionals and those wanting to get ahead in the financial services sector
by Bethan Rees


Learning from those more experienced can provide invaluable insight. Below, ordered from the most recent publication date in The Review, 12 professionals share their advice for those setting out on a career in finance. We’ve listed their professions as they were at the time we spoke to them.

Azhar Rana, Chartered MCSI"Don't stop learning, it is as simple as that. You can't stop building knowledge. The world is constantly changing, including the financial sector, which is going through changes due to Covid-19 and Brexit among other things. Keep on learning to keep yourself ahead of the game."

Published November 2020

Sir Hector Sants, chair of the UK’s Money and Pensions Service 

"It's important that whatever you do is something you get personal satisfaction out of. Doing things just for money is a bad idea. The other point that has certainly been brought home to me over the years is the importance of maintaining balance in your life."

Published October 2020

Liz Field, CEO of the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association

"Be curious and ask questions. Learning is not just in books, it's also in talking to people and learning from their experiences to help you build up a picture. Also careers, in my experience, are not linear. A sideways move might be necessary to add to your experience before moving up."

Published August 2020

The next four quotes are from our ‘2020 Mudlark vision’ feature that appears in the February 2020 print edition of The Review. To complement our February special report about social mobility, we spoke to former interviewees from 2008 onwards to see how their careers had progressed over the intervening years.

Tani Nagele, senior manager, JM Finn"Learn as much as you can and study for the sector exams. In today’s regulatory environment, it’s important to keep up with the current requirements. A good grounding in the broader aspects of the sector also helps to prepare people for more senior roles. This can be through background reading, working within different departments, or volunteering to help with special projects within the firm."

Tony Solway, chair, Sionic

"London has global scale, is the most competitive market and attracts the best from around the world. If you are ambitious and have talent, this offers a wide range of opportunities."

Neil Atkinson, Chartered FCSI, managing director, global head, strategic client management, HSBC Securities Services

Networking is "incredibly important" for career development, with "organisations like the CISI provid[ing] great opportunities" for this. 

Deepa Chandrasekhar, Chartered MCSI, chief compliance officer & MLRO, United Gulf Bank

"My mantra is that the process of learning never stops. Gone are the days when a master’s signified the end of academia. My certifications in risk, compliance, fraud, AML, and CISI courses like the Islamic Finance Qualification, equipped me with the knowledge to tackle the requirements of my job."

Mark Yallop, chair of the FICC Markets Standards Board, 

"I see some people who come into financial services just because they want to earn lots of money or achieve a position of authority. I don't think they are very good reasons to pursue a career in finance. Decide what your passion is. It may lie outside financial services and if so, that's what you should do. But if it lies inside financial services then follow that and you'll have a fabulous time."

Published March 2020 

Wanda Goldwag, chair of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, 

"Do what you’re passionate about. It’s easy to accept a job because you need the money, you’re a bit bored and it doesn’t really challenge you. You won’t grow in those sort of situations – I think I’ve grown the most when I’ve been a bit scared. You learn quicker and you learn from your mistakes."

Published September 2019

Nigel Jones, co-founder and advisory board chair, City Mental Health Alliance

"Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Acting, for most of us, is hard work and tiring. Pretending to be somebody else means you have to remember your lines. Just being yourself is much easier."
Published July 2019

George Kinder, founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning 

"The most important thing is realising what it is you really want to do. Most people who are choosing this career really want to connect with their clients and if it's not for the client then, frankly, I think you're in the wrong profession."

Published June 2019

Bola Ajomale, president of the Nigerian NAC and managing director and CEO of NASD

"Financial services will always be a rewarding destination for younger people who show diligence in all things, from knowledge building to execution; versatility, which comes from varied experience and exposure; and flexibility and a willingness to quickly – and appropriately – adapt to increasing technological disruption in the securities sector." 

Published June 2019

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Published: 18 Dec 2020
  • Career Development
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Soft Skills
  • Young Professionals Network
  • work-life balance
  • Wanda Goldwag
  • Tony Solway
  • Tani Nagele
  • social mobility
  • Sir Hector Sants
  • Nigel Jones
  • Neil Atkinson
  • Mark Yallop
  • Liz Field
  • George Kinder
  • Deepa Chandrasekhar
  • Covid-19
  • career development
  • Bola Ajomale
  • Azhar Rana

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