Mike, not his real name, works for one of the big 4 banks within a data program. He has previously worked for 2 investment banks and was the Business Analysis Manager for one these i-banks on the buy side. He has also worked for another big bank within Risk and has had stints within the public sector.
He has 10 years + working experience within Financial Services in Sydney and earns between $700-900 a day.
MMA. Ok Mike, let’s start in the very beginning like Julie Andrews. Tell me about what you did in university.
A. I studied engineering in university and was fortunate enough to work in defence looking at radars working with air traffic controllers and fighter controllers or air defence officers.
MMA. Wow, do tell us more.
A. Air Defense Officers basically use varied systems to detect, locate and identify air and surface targets and disseminate this information using a number of different communication and information systems. They basically perform surveillance and control and manage the air battlespace.
Air Traffic Controllers on the other hand perform a very similar role to civilian air traffic controllers. Their role is to provide safe and expeditious control of military and civil aircraft in the air and on the ground in both the air base and tactical environments.
MMA. Never appreciated you before this Mike. And you wanted to leave that to work in finance?
A. Haha yes I did. It was in my final years at the Defence that I became very interested in the markets. So much so that I was started my Masters of Applied Finance at Macquarie.
MMA. How did you find that? I did mine at Kaplan and have the convenience of doing it at home. That plus the fact that Kaplan are perceived to be for practitioners due to evolution from SIA days whereas Macquarie was seen as more, shall I say, theoretical?
A. Yes I guess that was the argument. It worked out fine for me as in my final years I just went to O’Connell Street for the lectures with the occasional electives weekends on campus. In the end by virtue of just studying the MaF and having a degree in engineering helped me secure my first banking role.
MMA. That’s a good segway into our discussion about your first role in Banking then. Where was it and what were you doing?
A. Can I just say that it was in one of the big 4 banks?
MMA. Sure you can. You can say whatever you want to say Mike. We want to protect the names of the innocent here.
A. Yes we do. So it was with one of the big 4. I used the fact that I was doing my MaF to highlight my interest in the area. I should also point out that the environment back then presented a lot of opportunities for people like me i.e. the market was buoyant, low unemployment and banks were delving into the new territory of Basel II which at that point, had no real experts in the field. What I mean by that is, even though there was a risk function within the bank, the B2 methodology drastically changed numerous processes, policies and systems in the bank due to the capital calculation. This meant that the banks had to hire big time – and there I was with the opportunity to take my first bite out of banking. It was a 3 month contract that ended up being 2 years!
MMA. First impressions?
A. Impressed in the beginning with everything that I needed to learn. But then that slowly disappeared later on when politics came into the picture.
MMA. Really? In what way?
A. Power struggle between middle management. There was one manager there that constantly butchered people with French either in their face or behind their back.
MMA. Haha! That must have been a good welcome to the world of banking for you.
A. Yes you could put it that way. I always thought that language only belonged in a construction site.
MMA. So what happened after that? How did you progress your career after that?
A. After almost 2 years, the Basel project was naturally reaching an end point. Another opportunity presented itself when all banks had to roll off B2 to BAU. Banks wanted anyone with B2 experience on their CV’s. Recruiters were calling like mad when they found out that you were one of the few. I got such a call and moved to another bank on a full time basis.
MMA. Nice transition. After 2 years, you were a risk management in banking expert!
A. Well I wouldn’t say that. But what I would say is that I had enough experience in a new field that employers wanted. The actual role was really querying a data warehouse, getting the results and feeding it to SAS then getting the outputs of that to prepare a risk report. After going through that process a few times, it all became repetitive and automatic.
MMA. Good stuff. Did you stay there long?
A. About a year and a half when a golden opportunity presented itself in an I-bank that was about to launch business here in Australia. Well actually they already had a presence here but what I meant to say was they wanted to formalize the structure on how they developed their business because previously, it was informal developer-talking-to-business with nothing documented.
MMA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it works for smaller setups. But I do understand the need when the business grows or if it’s part of an international firm.
A. Exactly the case in this situation. The business had plans to launch structured products in the market and we wanted to do it in a disciplined manner. We were buy side managers that were big on equities which at that point in time, were booming like nothing else!
MMA. Very good. You say that with such passion and zeal! We haven’t tracked what you’re doing at moment but I’m assuming that was the most rewarding time you’ve had thus far?
A. Bang on the money! That role gave me exposure to whole swag of securities and derivatives which I enjoyed. It’s not like working for big 4 on the institutional banking side where the volume of clients means that they need to de-compartmentalise their asset classes into smaller business units to ensure quality service. Which translates into specialist skills for those asset classes as opposed to being on the buy side where you one is able to receive a broader exposure to all assets classes, derivatives, strategies, so on and so forth.
On the career-development side, I was the 1st BA in the team which meant that as we grew, I managed to progress my career from being a BA, to a Senior BA and eventually to a Manager of a BA pool as the team grew.
I was there for 3 great years.
MMA. Can you tell us what happened after that.
A. We got taken over by another organisation and the strategy was to bring in their own people and their own systems from overseas to run the show. It was ironic that in end, I was helping them perform a system migration, a handover of our process to theirs, documenting and rules that we had…and it was very clear to me at that stage that I was writing myself out of my career with the firm. That’s when I started to look elsewhere.
MMA. Where did you go after that?
A. I went to a local i-bank for a FO team lead role; it was supposed to lead a team based across Sydney and London. When I say “supposed” what I mean is that in the 1stmonth of working there, they had a restructure and I effectively didn’t have a team. They integrated FO-BO and they had another manager run the show.
MMA. Ouch. That would’ve been rough.
A. Yes it was but you know, these things happen. Prior to that event, I was actually enjoying myself learning Charles River, how their FX system worked, how the process flowed through Front to Middle to Back Office. But at the tail end of my stay there, I was offered Windows upgrades. So if you can appreciate where I came from and what was eventually given to me, it was a slap in the face. That said it was hard for me to look elsewhere because I committed to a full-time role and had every intention to stay there for years.
MMA. Completely understand where you’re coming from. So what happened after that?
A. I bit the bullet and went contracting again. Had a 6 months gig in the public sector and now I’m now back in one of the big 4 on a data program.
MMA. Are you happy where you are?
A. It’s not ideal but its cash flow. I shouldn’t actually complain. The actual work is new to me so at least I’m learning and learning fast! It’s all data driven from “what are the implications to the vendor”, “what happens with duplicate data”, “what are the outcomes to service providers” etc.
MMA. I have not been in a pure data program. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
A. Sure thing. Our data centre comprises of Facilities Management and Raised Floor Management. Being in a data centre, our main goal is to ensure that we provide a reliable and available data to our service consumers. We have taken the intelligent provisioning approach to ensure that we don’t have to answer questions like “are we going to run out of power?” and “will the cooling be enough”. Additionally we have to ensure that we will not run out and reach capacity anytime soon.
MMA. Interesting stuff. Quite a shift from what you used to do. So tell me what insights can you foresee happening in the market?
A. The cost cutting will continue with the banks. They’ll continue to outsource to India, Philippines and generally wherever they can shave costs. It used to be just relegated to operations and all back office processing but now it’s also impacting testers and developers as they only need little to no interaction with the business. I believe in this is the advantage of BA’s and PM’s as they’re more business facing roles.
I can see the partnering with service providers such as EDS and IBM continue on. They have the expertise and the banks generally want to remove that risk in-house.
Regulation wise, outside Basel 3, we also have FOFA coming in which will have impacts to both business and IT. This should be a key driver for more project work with the banks and financial companies.
MMA. Hmm. Quite a raft of upcoming changes there. What’s your strangest / weirdest office moment?
A. Well there was a time I was sitting at my desk at work and an unfamiliar guy came up to me and asked me if I want to sign up for an American Express card. Anyway to cut a long story short, I found out that he tail gated someone through the lifts and the doors so we had to lodge a security incident that day. I gave him full marks for being so ballsy!
MMA. Indeed. I have heard of other incidents where people tailgate other to get on a floor but certainly not a salesman! Shifting focus, what do you think of agents?
A. Like anything else, you get good ones and you get bad ones. The good ones are those that can get you interviews and the bad ones are those that just talk. Of course there are times where even the good ones can’t set up interviews because conditions outside their control. For example at the moment, I know you have mentioned in your reports that there is too much supply of able resources but not enough job demand. I wouldn’t necessarily label an agent bad when they cannot fix an interview for me as the client might be inundated with CV’s from all other agents.
That said an excellent agent is one that can arrange interviews even during times like this due to their strong relationship with the client. At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships.
MMA. Well said and I completely understand where you are coming from. Here’s something I like asking people that work on a contract basis; do you set up your own company or go PAYG?
A. I have my own ABN setup. It gives me flexibility but it also constrains me i.e. the 80/20 rule is a disadvantage, I have to reserve for various taxes, I have to dedicate time to do the accounts and so on. But despite that, it suits my needs for now.
MMA. Ok. Always interesting to hear different insights to that question. Tell me do you believe in work-life balance?
A. Of course. I have a child and a wife and I need to have time aside to spend with my young family. I really am appreciating this stage of my life you know but of course during the certain periods, I have to stay a little bit later than usual because there may be an implementation that is about to occur or simply a milestone to hit.
MMA. Cool. Just to finish up, do you go on work socials much?
A. Not too much because of the fam. But if we do, we usually just go to the local bar down the road. I remember we went to the Baxter Inn not too long ago. I must say that that is one of the cooler bars I’ve been to in a loooong time. I actually want to drag some of my work colleagues down there.
MMA. Glad you liked it. Maybe I’ll drag you there again shortly.
A. Sounds good. You know I’ll be up for it.
MMA. Hey Mike, thank you for your time today.
A. Not a problem at all. Let me know about that drink ok?
Mike’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.
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