07 Feb 2020
Six myths about working in financial services
What does a career in banking and wealth management really look like?
The working culture in financial services is a hot topic. UK users googled 7,200 different questions about what to expect from careers in the banking industry within the last month*. But not all organisations are the same. Here, we asked five Investec employees to tell us what it’s really like to work here – and to bust the myths that might be holding you back from applying.
Myth number 1. You must have a financial background
You don’t need to be an economics whizz to join us. Most of our current roles do not require financial qualifications or related degrees. In fact, some do not require degrees at all. Investec looks for passion and personality instead – and we’re seeking entrepreneurial spirit.
“So many people here don’t have a financial background but they’re all self-starters. Everybody collaborates and drives things forward,” says Annalisa Ludwinski, who manages our relationships with other banks.
The truth is, we want fresh ideas. Amandip Bahia joined Investec in Organisational Development, after 15 years as an Occupational Psychologist in the NHS. “The two worlds couldn’t be more different,” she admits. “I would say that’s enhanced what I can offer. I’m not stuck in one way of thinking and that’s welcomed. People are people and you can learn from them no matter where they’ve worked.”
That means our interviews are different too. “The interview process was all about me as an individual – it was different from the technical questions I’d been expecting,” says Paul Rablen of Corporate and Investment Banking (who studied physics at university). “People asked me what gets me out of bed in the morning. It was refreshing.”
It’s not uncommon to meet several members of your team before you start because the social dynamic at Investec is valued as much as professional know-how.
Once you’ve joined us, we invest in learning opportunities including structured professional training; off-site team-building days; annual hackathons and mental health seminars to make sure you feel prepared and supported at work.
The interview process was all about me as an individual.
Myth number 2. There’s no work/life balance
The stereotype of City life includes early starts and long hours, but every job is different.
“I’m trusted to get my job done and not necessarily within 9-5 hours,” says Annalisa. In particular, the hot-desk policy at our London banking office is geared towards flexibility and you’ll be provided with a laptop so you can work on the move or in one of our sociable break-out spaces, as well as with your team.
Annalisa also takes time out to exercise and frequently works on her mobile as she travels internationally for work. From time to time you’ll find her in the on-site yoga studio or the terrace, or you’ll get an email from the airport. “Investec understands that I deliver in my role while still being Annalisa,” she says. “Balance for me is not being chained to my desk every day.”
This approach attracts interesting people to work with. “We want people with passions outside of work so we need to give them the freedom to live their lives,” says Deborah Sayagh who leads the Business Development team of our Private Banking business. “It helps make Investec a fun place to be.”
To support wellbeing at work, our benefits include access to on-site psychologists, physiotherapists and a private healthcare scheme.
Myth number 3. I don’t fit the mould
We make an effort to hire people from different backgrounds. In January we launched our first Return to Work programme to recruit those who have been out of work for two years or more into roles in some of the growing areas of our business. New hires are given meaningful responsibility, mentoring and networking opportunities.
“We’re constantly challenging ourselves on diversity and ask how we can get more women into senior positions and other minorities into the workforce. Different perspectives give us a richness of thought and that’s good for our people and our business,” says Deborah.
Amandip says the Investec workforce defies stereotypes. “I’m from a working-class background in Wolverhampton and I was worried finance would be stifling, but I was proved wrong,” she says. “I’ve been able to be myself as a woman and as a woman of colour. If you are willing, able and enthusiastic, Investec is a great place to be.”
To make sure everyone feels comfortable, we focus on strengthening the feeling of belonging as well as making sure we are inclusive.
I was worried finance would be stifling, but I’ve been proved wrong.
Myth number 4. There are lots of rules and regulations
Finance is a heavily regulated industry, but Investec has a flat structure: there aren’t layers of hierarchy and decision-making to wade through.
“You have freedom at work,” says Deborah. “If you have an idea, people will listen. There are no private offices, it’s all open-plan, and from reception to your peer, your line manager to the CEO, everyone is approachable. You can try things out and look for new areas of development.”
Investec was founded by South African entrepreneurs and honest conversations and fresh ideas have been part of our culture from the beginning. “Very few organisations have the legacy we have,” says Charles Lesia, who works in FX trading for private clients. “The leaders of the organisation can have a coffee with me and hear how I’m doing, and what I’m doing.”
Paul agrees: “People are much more approachable than I imagined. Opinions aren’t just encouraged, they’re expected.”
Investec hosts quarterly updates, creative sprints and evenings with inspiring speakers to spark conversation.
Myth number 5. Banking doesn’t have a social impact
Investec Group CEO Fani Titi is one of 30 global leaders who have committed to financially backing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. That means we’re supporting projects in areas such as clean energy and clean water, and making our own operations sustainable too.
On a local level, we invest money and time into education, environmental and entrepreneurial projects that benefit the community. In fact, our employees are given two days off for volunteering each year.
Annalisa joined Investec because of our values. “It’s really important for me to be able to give back,” she says. “I’ve worked with one of our education partners and mentored an 18-year-old girl who was struggling to get her A-levels done. Seeing her go off to university was so rewarding.
“I also co-ran a clothing drive for a charity called Dress for Success and we donated 46 boxes of clothes to help get women back into work. Being given time to do that as part of my day-to-day work enables me to bring my other passions into the office.”
Not everybody here has a financial background, but they’re all self-starters. Everybody collaborates and drives things forward.
Myth number 6. There is a set career path
You won’t get ‘stuck in corporate life’. With ten per cent of the UK working population looking for a new job each year (source: ONS), Investec champions the opportunity to move into new teams within the business.
Whether shifting from the facilities team to corporate sustainability, or from HR to technology, there are countless examples of people who have made leaps internally.
‘I’ve been able to work in two countries within five years. There is no limit to the amount of learning you can do.’
Charles transferred to London from a previous position in Johannesburg. “I’ve been able to work in two countries within five years. There is no limit to the amount of learning you can do,” he says, pointing out that the challenge is deciding what to do next. “It’s a blank page and sometimes you can get writers’ block, but ultimately the canvas is still yours.”
Deborah joined in 2013 in a new role for the organisation. She is responsible for introducing new clients to Investec products and has shaped her team around her. “There is so much opportunity and you can take your career where you are willing to go as long as you are willing to work hard and perform well,” she says.
There is so much opportunity here and you can take your career where you’re willing to go, as long as you work hard and perform well.
... and not all banks are the same
Hard work and ambition are sought across the industry, but you can channel your abilities in a way that suits you.
“Investec is forward-thinking and different,” says Deborah. Others choose words such as “high energy” and “unorthodox” to describe our culture.
Paul joined Investec having spent more than a decade at a rival organisation. “Friends told me I should consider working at Investec. They said ‘they do interesting deals in an interesting culture and it’s just a bit more entrepreneurial’.
“My boss said it was going to take six months to realise how different things could be. Investec is a whole new world.”