My early career – why banking?
My career in banking started somewhat accidentally; I studied languages and my early career was focused on exploring opportunities to use these skills. That’s how I landed a role as PA to a senior executive with the French bank, Paribas, working in the City. I found that I really enjoyed the banking side and my current career developed from there.
How did my career develop?
In order to build on the knowledge I was gaining through work, I studied for the Associate exams of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. This proved invaluable in terms of equipping me with the necessary technical knowledge to further develop my career.
After working for Paribas, I undertook credit and relationship management roles with a couple of foreign banks. These early roles involved me in a number of syndicated transactions for major UK PLCs as well as some major European corporates.
I joined Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 1994. Initially I worked in a credit role at RBS, eventually progressing to the position of Senior Risk Manager within the corporate credit team in London. My time in credit involved me in the analysis and sanctioning of lending decisions for a wide variety of industries across the UK. This was where I really developed my credit analysis skills and how to lend money safely and profitably – a core skill required of every banker!
I then progressed into a relationship management role, taking responsibility for a portfolio of the larger corporate customers located in the Thames Valley. This move into a customer-facing role was a great opportunity and I relished the challenge. My credit skills were tested to the full, including being involved in several high risk transactions. However, I also needed to develop new skills, including how to build a rapport with customers and how to build a strong understanding of their business and an effective banking relationship.
At the time of joining RBS, I also started an MBA with the Institute for Financial Management. This was a part-time MBA and meant a lot of hard work in the evenings on top of a demanding full-time job, but I felt it was really worth it. This particular MBA programme had a focus on financial disciplines including corporate finance, treasury and bank financial management. The technical knowledge I gained is still useful in my current role, and the opportunity to study different businesses through a variety of case studies helped to equip me with a sound commercial and business sense that is important in a banking environment.
What does my role look like now?
In 2005, I relocated back to Aberdeen in order to bring up my young family. I then joined Clydesdale Bank, where my current role as corporate director involves me in the relationship management of the bank’s corporate portfolio, located around the North East of Scotland, as well as business development of new opportunities.
Many customers are involved in the offshore oil and gas sector, but I also get involved in other sectors such as construction and food manufacturing.
Typically, corporate customers within my portfolio have turnover in excess of £30-35 million and several came to the bank as a result of private-equity backed management buyouts where Clydesdale Bank has provided the senior debt.
A relationship management role means that you are at the centre of everything between the bank and the customer, getting involved with other bank specialists in such areas as providing treasury solutions, support with international transactions, asset finance and payments solutions. It’s not just about lending.
Since the global financial crisis, the banking environment has also changed immeasurably. This creates additional challenges that could never have been anticipated or even imagined five years ago.
The banking sector is increasingly affected by capital and funding constraints. Customer-facing bankers now need a detailed understanding of what impacts the ROE (return on equity) of every opportunity. They need to understand how to maximise profit through effective negotiation of pricing on lending opportunities and through identifying capital-friendly secondary income opportunities such as foreign exchange and wealth management.
Whether or not to lend is not just about the quality of the credit anymore. Every venture has to fit the bank’s criteria in terms of sector appetite and meet minimum return requirements for the amount of capital required.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Whether it’s a new lending opportunity or an existing customer, I’m involved with a different business every day and I enjoy this variety. Having also worked on large syndicated transactions for major PLCs in the City, I definitely prefer my current role involved with smaller mid-tier corporates. I feel that I can get much closer to these businesses and their management teams in order to develop a detailed understanding of their financing requirements. However, this type of business has a sufficient level of financial sophistication that means I can still add real value as their banking partner.