“Barclays is an incredible place to launch a career”
Kelly McCarthy and Abiola Azeez, two alumni of Barclays’ graduate scheme, tell us what life is really like on the programme – from meeting new people, to expanding their comfort zones.
Abiola Azeez didn’t plan to work in banking but, three years ago, the University of Surrey Law graduate was encouraged by a mentor to consider gaining experience in Compliance.
“I’d never heard of Compliance before, but I was told that the skills would be quite transferable and that I’d learn a lot about finance,” she says. She researched the role then decided to apply for a Barclays summer internship. After completing the nine-week placement, she went on to join the bank’s graduate scheme which included three eight-month rotations.
“I got to work in Barclays International (BI), Barclays UK (BUK) and Financial Crime,” Abiola says. “All three rotations were completely different so you pick up different skills as you go along and you get a feel of where you would like to be on a permanent basis. It’s definitely what you make it. If you want to get stuck in, you will have that opportunity.”
You only score as many goals as you shoot. Be yourself and have a clear understanding of why you are special – because that will make you shine
Compliance Manager, Barclays Investment Bank
Abiola recently landed a permanent position as a Compliance Manager at Barclays Investment Bank in London, where she helps to oversee the bank’s regulated activities and ensures that rules are being followed.
The flexibility of the programme is also highlighted by Kelly McCarthy, who joined Barclays eight years ago. Starting her career through the bank’s Global Markets internship while studying Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Kelly went on to join the bank graduate scheme.
“During the rotational internship, you get a really interesting mix of experiences and also have the opportunity to build relationships with your peers,” she says. “Being part of a class of 120 interns, there’s a huge sense of comradery.”
Kelly is now a Vice President within the Global Healthcare Group at Barclays Investment Bank in New York. She advises corporate clients within the life sciences sector on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and capital raising alternatives.
“Getting your skills up to scratch”
Abiola and Kelly both highlight the development opportunities offered by the bank through the Barclays graduate scheme.
“My training class was full of people from different academic backgrounds – I remember feeling that we were all learning and pushing ourselves to get to the same place by the end of the scheme,” explains Kelly. “Having senior people bring me to meetings at a very early stage and also being given the opportunity to cover accounts independently was an incredible learning experience in terms of sales and soft skills.”
It’s possible to push yourself past what you think your limits are
Vice President, Global Healthcare Group, Barclays Investment Bank
Abiola describes the two-week induction course she took at the start of the scheme, which she says, “is really useful for getting your skills up to scratch”.
“You work through a series of different workshops. The most notable one for me was the Excel workshop because people sometimes forget you've come from university and may never have used it before. We went on a team-building activity in Sandhurst Military Academy for two days and had an obstacle course at the end!
“I got to meet so many other graduates outside of Compliance through training and I was able to build a network of friends that were going through the same experiences at the same time.”
She adds that alongside frequent opportunities for additional training throughout the programme, graduates have the option to take part in training focused on personal development.
“You are assigned a buddy when you start and there are schemes that are run by other networks in the bank. For example, the Black Professionals Forum has a mentoring scheme. Graduates are really encouraged to get involved in those groups and networks.”
“If you apply yourself you can have a real impact”
Being successful in banking does mean being dedicated, says Kelly. “The industry requires a lot of time and commitment. It’s important to set personal boundaries for yourself to establish a balance between your personal and professional life.”
But, she adds, the scheme also showed her what she’s capable of. “I learned that it’s possible to push yourself past what you think your limits are”, she says. “At Barclays you can earn responsibility at any level of experience, so if you apply yourself, you can have a real impact. Senior colleagues definitely support you and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, and I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of the job.”
Asked to share their advice for people considering applying to the Barclays graduate scheme, both Abiola and Kelly are enthusiastic about promoting the programme to a new generation of talent.
“It is an incredible place to launch a career,” says Kelly. “You will have an enormous amount of support and a network of people across the bank that are rooting for you.”
“You only score as many goals as you shoot,” adds Abiola. “Be yourself and have a clear understanding of why you are special – because that will make you shine.”