Aspiring to a career in finance? Industry professional and alumnus dispels the myths

Skyscrapers in city

Postgraduate study offers students a chance to develop their knowledge and skills and to take the next step in their careers.

However, after a successful career in Finance, Laurie Robathan decided to return to the city of his birth to study an MSc in Finance and Investment. Despite working in the industry for many years, he was particularly keen to dedicate time to study the theoretical background to certain subjects, such as behavioural finance, that he hadn’t had time to look into in detail whilst working.

He has also set up a charity Fairfield Enterprise, which aims to assist ambitious 19-24 year-olds from low income backgrounds to build successful careers in the finance industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Laurie Robathan, MSc in Finance and Investment
Laurie Robathan, MSc in Finance and Investment

I was born and grew up in Bristol and have recently returned to live here after more than 15 years in London working in the City.

I started my career in 2004 and, after initially working at a large asset manager then a large merchant bank, I ended up as senior partner at Kepler Partners, an asset management firm in the West End. Together we built one of Europe’s most successful hedge fund platforms and were able to launch a number of really interesting funds based in the US, Asia and Europe. 

What is exciting about a career in Finance? 

Finance is exciting because of the number of sectors and roles contained within it. I don’t believe any other professional service industry has as many different pathways to success that require as broad a range of skill sets and personality types. Portfolio Manager, Trader and Investment Banker are examples of roles that the wider world may struggle to distinguish between, in fact these jobs can require very different if not opposing characteristics to be successful in. It is an industry that offers great opportunity, the only definite pre-requisite is hard work! 

Tell us about your experience of recruitment in Finance

Not everyone is driven by money! The majority of successful people in finance are not driven by money but instead some other form of tangible measure of achievement. I’ve heard lots of portfolio managers boast about their fund’s % return but I’ve never heard any of them talk about their bonus. The intellectual challenge of trying to solve problems or beat the market is what gets most people going.  

What skills and characteristics do recruiters look for?

Not sure about recruiters but as an employer the most important characteristic is does this candidate ‘get it’. To us ‘get it’ meant: 

  • Do they know what this job involves?  
  • Can they explain why they would be good at those tasks?  
  • Can they explain how that would benefit us as an employer?  

If you can outline that, backed up with examples, then you’re halfway there.  

What can students do to help themselves secure a good career in finance?

Without being too specific try to identify roughly what you want to do and immerse yourself in it. Do as much homework as you can to map out the industry and identify what areas might be suited to you. Are you suited to sell side or buy side? Front office or middle office? Public markets or private? Going through this process in itself will increase your understanding of the markets. Ultimately you won’t know you’re completely suited to a role until you do it but narrowing it down will help you articulate yourself in interviews and applications.  

Fairfield Enterprise logoWhat does your organisation do that can help? 

At Fairfield Enterprise we use our combined experience and network to assist ambitious and talented students from low-income backgrounds to build high level careers in finance. We believe real change will come not through filling quotas but from having a meritocratic representation of backgrounds at boardroom and senior management level.   

We work intensively with our candidates to understand their ambitions, skill sets and personalities and then coach them to try and ensure they start their career at the right point to enable them to reach those positions.