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How Networking Helped Welsh Student on Financial Services Career Track

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Although some of us might have many years in the workforce under our belt, still the idea of networking at an event can be sheer hell. We’re not talking here about those who’s job is to meet people and cement relationships on a daily basis and they just can’t bear the idea of another evening event meeting new contacts. We are referring to the group of people who really would rather not have to go beyond their comfort zone and introduce themselves to someone they don’t know.

So, with this in mind, imagine you are a 19 year old university student and you find yourself in a business environment, at which you are clearly the youngest by far, in a room full of suits. This was the scenario which Sam Hurst faced when he made a decision to attend his first CISI Wales branch meeting:

“I must say I was a little nervous during my travels to Brewin Dolphin’s office in Cardiff that day. With breakfast roll in hand I walked into a room that was, as expected, filled with unfamiliar members, all reasonably older than myself. I always knew that it might be hard to strike up and hold a conversation, given my relative young age and lack of financial services experience.

“I got chatting to a couple of very friendly CISI members who work for a large and well-known company in the UK. I discussed where I am now and my ambitions for the future. One thing led to another and I was given the opportunity to come into their Cardiff office to see how both their retail and corporate clients’ funds are invested, as well as the other departments within a financial services firm.”

For Sam, this encounter was an example of how you can cope at networking events and that, in fact, all you need is a little confidence and then anything is possible.

Originally from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Sam studied his A levels in Mathematics, Business and History at Aylesbury Grammar School. He is now in his first year studying for a BSc Business Management (Finance) at Swansea University. He recently passed his CISI Level 2 Award in Fundamentals of Financial Services.

So what motivated Sam to take this CISI professional exam and how does it fit into his overall learning programme?

“It really all started when Mark Evans, a member of the CISI Wales Branch came into my university to talk about asset management careers. Thoroughly engaged by his talk, I was the only student to stick around afterwards to ask questions and arranged to grab some time to chat in the future. At this meeting Mark discussed how beneficial joining the CISI would be to me and how taking an exam would be useful in two ways: firstly, the qualification would be evidence of my proactive nature (ie studying additional qualifications whilst still in my first year of uni). Secondly, it would give me access to student membership and therefore to CISI events.”

“As the title suggests Fundamentals of Financial Services is an introductory exam covering the general fundamentals of the profession and therefore seemed most appropriate for me at this stage in my learning and career. Studying for this exam alongside my three university exams this exam season tested my time management skills a little, as I couldn’t let any of the exams take too much priority over others.”

“After that chat with Mark I could tell that a CISI exam would be great fun as well as a brilliant qualification to add to my CV and LinkedIn profile. It is also a great talking point when networking with those in the profession as the CISI is a very well-regarded professional body.”

This summer Sam has arranged a few work experience opportunities, from shadowing financial planners to going into investment companies:

“All of this is simply to gain a deeper understanding of the different professions to see which is most appropriate to my abilities and interests. Initially, I really like the idea of investing as well as being in a client-facing role, hence why I am looking forward to seeing how a couple of financial planners operate. However, especially having been to M&G Investment’s Insight Day in London recently, I like the idea of working in fund management. As you can tell, I really need something or someone to help point me in the exact direction and I’m hoping some work experience this summer will do this.”

Gretchen Betts CFPTM Chartered MCSI is President of the CISI Wales branch. She was very impressed with Sam’s initiative:

“Sam is a fantastic example of what thinking outside the box, or going the extra mile can achieve. Although studying for a professional qualification on top of your degree can seem like a big ask, most professional bodies offer exam candidates additional benefits such as local and national events. He made the most of the opportunity and networked with us, resulting in his summer work placements. The commitment Sam has shown to his career development in this, only his first year of university, is impressive and I think will stand him in good stead for future opportunities and be attractive to employers on his CV.”

Sam plans to attend future CISI Wales branch meetings and he is clear as to the career development opportunities which could arise from this:

“Each talk put on by the CISI Wales branch will allow me to learn more about all aspects of the profession, from investing, to integrity in financial services and more.”