Five things I learnt from a graduate scheme in finance

Today we have the pleasure of featuring a guest blogger Edward Prendergast who currently works in the strategy & delivery team at Esme Loans (a rotation within the NatWest Commercial Banking graduate scheme). What’s it like being in a Finance grad scheme? Find out from Edward’s story!

In June 2019, I joined NatWest as a Commercial Banking intern. Over a year later I’m now completing my first placement on the Commercial Banking graduate scheme. I’m currently working for Esme Loans, one of NatWest’s ventures, in their strategy and delivery team. Esme is an entirely digital end-to-end platform offering online business loans to SMEs.

While I haven’t been with Esme long, here are five things I learnt during my first month on the graduate scheme.


1) Finance graduate schemes are not all about numbers

Too often there is a misconception that graduate schemes in the financial sector are largely numerically based or require a degree in maths or economics. While mathematical skills are useful, employers are looking for individuals from a wide range of academic disciplines.

There are also a huge variety of graduate schemes available within the financial sector. While most banks offer finance-related roles, there are also opportunities in departments such as marketing or HR. Don’t feel discouraged from applying if you think you don’t have the ‘relevant’ academic background. A career in the financial sector is still possible.


2) Take advantage of development opportunities

In my first week with the bank, I attended sessions on how to pitch myself, worked with my colleagues to design an app, and even managed a virtual bank over a full economic cycle during a business simulation exercise.

Graduate schemes offer a plethora of training and development opportunities. Employers invest a huge amount of resources into these opportunities, so they are always worth taking advantage of. Some graduate programmes also offer you the chance to gain a professional qualification. Currently, I’m studying for my advanced diploma with the Chartered Banker Institute. These opportunities can be invaluable and are aimed at providing you with a wealth of knowledge and experience going forward in your career.


3) Remain curious

Given the breadth of opportunities available, a graduate scheme is a perfect opportunity to get involved in a variety of projects and initiatives and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s important to remain curious and get involved with areas that are new to you.

While I’m based in the strategy and delivery team, I was recently given the opportunity to do some work within marketing. By taking up this opportunity I was exposed to different projects and gained insight into the function of the marketing team as well as the stakeholders they work with.


Interested in a career in Finance? Look no further than the Finance sector guides on our KEATS pages. 


4) Networking is key

The financial sector is renowned for its emphasis on building relationships. Being sociable can aid your career development in multiple ways. The more you network, the more likely you are to meet prospective mentors, increase your visibility within the organisation and develop your skillset.

Establishing a solid network will also help you further along your career journey. Someone you meet during your graduate scheme may end up being a close colleague 10 years down the line. Never underestimate the importance of making a good first impression.


5) Always take time to reflect

During your graduate scheme, you are likely to be challenged at times and face situations you haven’t previously encountered.

Having periods of reflection is important for your career development. Make sure to take time to reflect on what you’ve learnt, the challenges you’ve faced and how you might do things differently in the future. This can significantly improve your personal growth and ensure you are ready to tackle the next challenge.

I hope that by sharing my experience, I’ve helped you gain an insight into what a graduate scheme can look like. Regardless of what your next steps may be, try to stay positive and motivated as you apply for similar schemes, work experience and jobs after uni. I wish you all the best with your search and hope you enjoy the time you have left at uni before you enter the world of work.


King’s Careers’ Take: Did you know that spending time thinking about your knowledge, attributes, skills and experiences is a big part of developing your employability? You’ll develop your confidence about what you offer and what value your experiences have given you. Our career e-course can help you with this, and get you started on reflecting what makes you employable.