John Rooney, Corporate Actions Administrator at Rathbone Brothers Plc, explains why he chose to pursue a career in Financial Services...

Which school did you go to?

Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby

What qualifications did you take for GCSE and A level?

GCSE: Maths, English Language, English Literature, French, German, Geography, History, ICT, Physics, Chemistry A Level: Maths, Physics, Economics, Further Maths (AS)

What CISI qualification did you take at school and why did you decide to study for and take that qualification?

IOC: Introduction to Securities & Investment: I decided to take up my school’s offer of this qualification as I was keen to look past the short term hurdles of A-levels and University, and aim to achieve an advantage in the job market come graduation. As an introductory module, I thought this would offer a good foundation for a world of investments.

Did you go to University? If so, which one and what degree were you awarded?

Newcastle University – Economics Bsc (Hons) – 2:1 Classification

How did the CISI qualification help you in your career?

I definitely think having just that introductory module of the IOC put me ahead in the job market. The growing competitiveness of the graduate job market these days has made it imperative to differentiate yourself from fellow graduates. Regarding my specific career working in operations departments of large investment management firms, I will always say that the first module of the IOC taken at school laid the building blocks of it all. It fuelled my interest in the finance sector, specifically in dealing with securities, and the knowledge gained all those years ago is still extremely relevant. I have since built on this by taking and passing further exams.

Why did you decide to follow that career?

I honestly believe that the introduction to securities and investment module positively impacted my choice of career. I was always inclined to aim for a career in finance. Studying economics at A-level opened my eyes to the economy at a micro and macro level. Alongside this, commencing my studies for the IOC complemented it perfectly – I was hungry to learn the technical details of the investment sector, and the IOC module supplied the foundation level. With my numerical skills, I was instilled with the confidence that I could flourish in the investment sector, and even back then I was planning for further IOC and CISI exams I could take in the future.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying a CISI qualification at school?

It’s a must if given the opportunity. The benefit of having a qualification from such a well-respected organisation in the wealth management sector is invaluable for school-leavers and graduates alike. Whilst having a professional qualification may seem like a luxury you can’t afford – sixth form/college years are particularly stressful as it is – it really will pay off if you dedicate some time towards it. It’s an investment that will yield itself valuable when it’s time to enter the job market – showing not only the technical knowledge you will have learnt, but demonstrates a dedicated, knowledge-thirsty character to potential employers.

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Did you face any particular challenges whilst studying the CISI qualification at school and how did you overcome these?

I would say one challenge was the fact this was an extra-curricular activity I had taken up and as such we had to fit studying around our school timetable. Taking the exam only a few weeks before my A-level exams also made the multi-tasking harder, but I knew that passing the exam would pay dividends and I ensured I put the hours in.
Another aspect would be the fact that studying for this CISI qualification was different to what I had been faced with in other school subjects. Faced with minimal class-time in which to absorb the material, I was introduced to teaching myself outside of the classroom where I was understanding new topics from scratch, a totally new world of investments. Whilst challenging, this was also extremely fulfilling.

Are you expecting to take/ have you taken further CISI qualifications to support your career?

I have since completed my IOC studies by passing the second and third modules in UK Financial Regulation and Global Securities Operations, both taken last year. I believe completing the IOC was vital as it really does complement my job in the operations function of an investment management firm. I now intend to tackle the advanced papers, and then the investment advice exams.

Do you have any other comments that you would like to pass on to A level students?

Whilst not aiming to deter student from studying at university – I myself studied for 3 years in achieving BSc Hons in Economics - what I would say is that the university path is not for everyone, and school leavers can use these particular qualifications to enter the job market earlier than their graduate counterparts. Whichever path is chosen – one thing that is certain is that studying for and, with luck, obtaining a CISI qualification whilst at school is incredibly beneficial.

A Day in the Life of an Apprentice

Six apprentices at Rathbones Liverpool are blogging about their experiences as they complete two years of on-the-job training. The apprenticeship includes a study programme leading to a National Vocational Qualification in Business Administration (level 2) during their first year and the CISI Investment Operations Certificate (IOC) (level 3) during the second.
Amy Kirby, Operations Apprentice - Rathbone Brothers 

We are fast approaching our one year anniversary which is quite scary! I feel I have learnt so much since my first day and also even just in the last couple of months! Moving upstairs to work on the Investment Management team has been the most fantastic opportunity for me.

In July I had an overview of the dealing team which was rather interesting. Shortly after, I spent a couple of days with Investment Trust market makers in a company called Cantor Fitzgerald. This has meant I have now seen the entire chain of when it is decided to purchase something for a client. When an order is placed, it goes through to the dealers who then contact the likes of Cantor Fitzgerald to fulfil the order. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a totally different aspect of the profession.
Paul Edwards, Operations Apprentice - Rathbone Brothers

The apprenticeship route is a fantastic way to gain the invaluable experience that virtually every employer is asking for. I am delighted with my decision to opt for this apprenticeship as it has developed so many skills and characteristics that I personally do not think I would have gained through the university route.

With the opportunity to study for valuable qualifications and gain experience at the same time, it is a more attractive proposition to an employer than that of someone who only has a qualification when applying for a job.
Connor Day, RPAS Apprentice - Rathbone Brothers 

I now officially have a Level 3 Advanced Business & Administration National Vocational Qualification. My portfolio was assessed and I received compliments for how obvious it was that I had taken a great level of ownership with my work. This came as a massive relief, along with a great sense of pride. I have since begun studying for my first IOC. This is the second stage of the academic side to my apprenticeship.

I have started my third department. It is the first opportunity I’ve had to work with any offshore element to Rathbones and my knowledge has increased greatly. I am currently processing equities and will eventually move on to processing unit trusts. I believe it won’t be long before I’m in a competent position within Dividends and I look forward to being in such a position.
Jonathan Jones, IT Apprentice - Rathbone Brothers 

It felt so strange getting up each morning to go to work as I had been used to the routine of going to school, having lessons, lunch and so on forever! I had to get used to the way in which although I am learning whilst on the job, I am in work to do a job whereas at school I was there to learn about the subjects I was studying and to pass my exams. In work I can get a sense of achievement after completing a piece of work and even more so if I do not need any help with completing it! If I need help I ask for it and everybody is willing to help me out, but being able to do your work without help feels that little bit better! Being able to complete your workload gives you that satisfaction and you get extra satisfaction at the reality of being paid at the end of each month. Getting paid for completing jobs makes me feel more independent. It makes you manage the money available to you which I’ve also found important too!
Greg Beaver, Operations Apprentice - Rathbone Investment Management 

I have taken on a lot more tasks and responsibilities and it has made me feel like I am now contributing much more and becoming a valued member of the team. I was working for ‘Team 1’ in the Transfers Department which deals with pre-settlement transfers. In Team 1 I was taught many different roles including looking at physical transfers, electronic transfers, ISA transfers and data inputting. Everyone who guided me within the team was extremely helpful. When I had any queries they would take time out of doing their own work just so they could help me out – this was greatly appreciated. I moved to Team 2 which deals with post-settlement transfers. The first week involved getting to know the new roles I was going to be expected to fulfil and I received some further training. I will be sad to leave the team as I have built strong relationships with my fellow workers in the department.
Lewis Manning, Trust & Tax Apprentice - Rathbone Brothers 

I’m in my second of three teams now, the ‘Family Office’, and I feel just as comfortable here as in my last team. My work here has shifted from solely accountancy work to a mix of accounts and taxation. I hear that in my next team I will be doing mainly tax work, so I really am getting a good impression of the different roles in our department. I no longer compare coming into work to school life, as employment seems normal to me now! Attending college and starting my revision for my tax exams (ATT) has been helpful in the adjustment as well, as this has been a ‘bridge’ between school and working life. I think the increased complexity of the tasks given to me shows the responsibility that I have been given, and I know some of the apprentices feel the same.