Interview # 1: The Senior Business Analyst in Wealth Management

Interesting People

Joseph, not his real name, works for one of the big 4 banks within Wealth Management. He has previously worked in a few IT vendors in Sydney, 2 custodians and another major bank predominantly contracting. He has 15 years + working experience within Financial Services in Sydney and earns between $700-900 a day.

MMA. What do you do for a living?

A. I am a business analyst; pretty much an interpreter between business and IT.

MMA. Can you tell us a little bit about your background.

A. I was in administration for 2 years and I made my way into more project-related work with the business.  I was actually completing my Diploma in IT in UTS while moving into projects. It was a pre-requisite to have 1 year industry experience in the final year so it was tough slog at first.

MMA. So you started in administration within a bank as your first job?

A. Well, I actually started as a civil engineer for an oil and gas exploration company in India. We  sized projects, gave quotes and sourced service providers for the projects we had on. I was underpaid over there and during one period, I was not paid for 4 months. I started at 8am and was the last guy on the site which sometimes meant staying back up to 2, 3am in the morning.

MMA. Excuse me, did I hear that correctly? 2-3am in the morning?

A. Yes, there were occasions that I did stay onsite until that time. But average finish was about 8pm, 12 hours working day 8:00 to 8:00! At that point, I knew that this is not what I wanted to do with myself so I moved into the administration part of the job. I came to work with AutoCAD software which is basically a civil engineering application. It was MS-DOS based and from that moment on, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. So that’s when I decided to come to Australia to study. So the transition was all planned.

MMA. That must have been a tough choice for you.

A. The toughest times I’ve had is my first few years here in Australia. I went from living life as a king in India to doing everything over here. I had to find food with very little money in my pockets.   I even had to eat meat for 3-4 years as this was cheaper than having to stick with the vegetarian diet.

MMA. Ouch. That must have been a difficult choice.

A. Oh it was very difficult; but a guy has to eat you know.

MMA. I understand. So you came into Australia studying and working?

A. Yes, I also had to work at the same time. This wasn’t all that bad as at least I was able to immerse myself with the work culture. That was with Colonial during the CBA takeover and I was in Superannuation as an administrator.

MMA. And how did you make the transition between that into Business Analysis?

A. Well, I came here to do my Bachelors in IT via a Diploma in IT first. I used my prior industry experience in Super and my education to get a role with a local vendor. I was really an Account Manager and I had my portfolio of clients including JP Morgan, Macquarie and others. Account Manager was my working title. In reality, working for a vendor meant BA-work.

MMA. Fair enough. That was a nice transition. So what do you do now?

A.  Stock standard BA-stuff for a strategic project within Wealth Management. I gathered requirements and did the functionals for the system. We have gone through build and are now in delivery phase which means it’s pretty full-on.

That’s now. But I used to work for other companies too; 2 other wealth managers, 2 custodians and another vendor.

MMA. So what’s your typical day look like?

A.  We start off with morning scrums.

MMA. Oh so you guys use Agile?

A.  No but what we have done is borrow some Agile concepts and planted it within the project. Scrums is one!

MMA. Sorry, you were saying about your typical day?

A.  Ahh yes. Typical day is 20% at my desk and 80% elsewhere. I could be having a chat with the developers, testers. I could be with the business. I usually have lunch at my desk. Highlights would be the 10am coffee runs and the 6pm bus ride home! This is all really typical of the delivery phase.

MMA. Of course. So what has been your greatest achievement at work so far?

A.  The capability for a Wealth Management group to perform Superannuation and Banking in a branch. You can do virtually walk into any branch and deposit money in your Super account.

Work related to the home-front however, was managing home renovations with my dad as the “customer”. He is very stingy. He wants high quality for little dollars. Haha.

MMA. Haha. Yes we can all relate to our parents like that. Any core BA-skills that you would expect from peers?

A. Good analysis and documentation. From working Excel, its standard lookups as you typically have to look at a lot of data at some point in the project. To also making sure your documentation is sound.  Also a good BA should use listening skills and commonsense more than anything else ;)

MMA. I know you’ve done PM work too. What core skills do you need for that and what do you enjoy more – being a BA or a PM?

A. I wouldn’t call it a PM work but rather stick to the Agile term of “Iteration Manager”. Look, if the organisation is fully Agile, i would love to work as an Iteration Manager than a BA. As it gives you full control of what gets worked on in each of the iterations. Which means more power to influence business calls and good opportunity to actually delivering something…?

MMA. Any weird office moments that you would like to share?

A.  We had a guy once who was supposed to be a business lead for about 10 people. He constantly slept through meetings. And I don’t mean dozing off for a split second. I mean sleep for 5-10 minute power naps. He used to position himself in the back of the meeting room and drift off to lala-land.

MMA. Very bizarre. What did you guys do?

A. Well, we decided to play a trick on him once and left him in the meeting room sleeping while we walked out. He finally came out 15 minutes later and casually asked how the meeting went? That guy, kept the project alive I tell you.

MMA. I hear that. Some seasoned contractors tend to set up their own company as opposed to going PAYG. What do you do and why?

A.  I go PAYG. It gives me more freedom and the cash flows are more predictable. I don’t  accumulate any unintentional ATO debts this way.

MMA. Very good. I understand that. So how do you arrange your next contract?

A.  I go through my Networks – usually agents first, then I call people I know. I go through this process 3 months prior to contract finish to flag myself to the market. The idea is, when I have 4-6 weeks left in my contract, I would know exactly where I stand with the market; what roles are hot, what companies are hiring, what the general numbers are. This doesn’t necessarily go in this order all the time but at least that’s the idea!

MMA. Absolutely necessary for a contractor.

A.  Yes. It’s the mentality of a contractor and how you survive. You don’t take anything for granted, even potential extensions at your current work. You should just talk to agents to find out what the market is doing so that when it’s time to sign for an extension, you know that you are making an informed decision.

MMA. Well, now all you have to do is switch to the Job Market Demand to get your market view.

A. Haha, yes. You have given me a service.

MMA. Your opinion on agents?

A.  Same bucket as Real Estate Agents and Used Car Salesmen. You must have good terms with the best of the best!

MMA. Hmm. Any insights on the job market for us?

A.  I believe it’s 2 years worth of challenges out there in the market. We are in set-down mode where companies are very selective with their spend. Off-shoring appears to be the trend but I do see a cycle of on-shoring those jobs back…potentially around 2015.

MMA. Here’s a killer for you. Do you believe in work-life balance?

A.  Absolutely and that’s key. I have 2 kids and a wife that works so I really enjoy that flexibility of having to balance the 2 out.

MMA. Yes I guess it’s one of those things that you really don’t get to ask in interviews but you hope it’s there when you start working.

A.  That’s right. Actually there was one day I came in late to work, approximately 11am and had to leave at 5pm to pickup my son. So it is times like those that I really value the support of my manager. Of course it’s give and take, and there are times like ill come in on the weekend to deliver a piece of the project.

MMA. That’s good of them. So do you frequent after work socials?

A.  Few and far between. They tend to be on Fridays and these days, that’s my day to pickup my son from after-care. So it’s hard.

MMA. That means the wife get’s to go to socials?

A.  Well not really as we still have our little girl too.

MMA. But during the infrequent times you go out, where do you guys go?

A.  It’s usually the Slip Inn particularly in Summer. It’s quite nice there. It’s that place and our local bar below our work.

MMA. Not a problem. What music do you listen to? I know that’s an odd question but  its always good to know what people are listening to.

A.  106.5 FM. In the evening, we listen to Ghazal. It’s good wind-down music for the evening.

MMA. How do you get to work?

A.  I catch the bus these days but I used to cycle at one stage and I even drove to work a long time ago.

MMA. Sounds good Jo.  Listen, thanks for your time today. Hopefully we start a good collection of insights from various professionals and are able reflect our journeys. I look forward to touching base with you again in the near future.

A.  Absolute pleasure. I’ll be in touch. You know where to find me!

Joseph’s identity has been masked upon his request. This blog uses real people who have worked for more than 5 years in the Australian Banking and IT industry.

Market Measures Australia

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