Transcript of podcast episode with alumni guest speaker, Nishita Naik.
Podcast length: 35:46
Cate: Welcome everyone to the latest edition of Career Talk. My name is Cate Linforth, I am the International Employer Liaison Officer here at University of Birmingham’s Careers Network, and I am so excited today, because on today's episode, we have Nishita Naik. Welcome Nishita, how are you?
Nishita: Hi Cate, thank you so much for having me. I’m great, how are you?
Cate: Very good, I’m very well thanks. We're really excited to have you here. So just jumping straight in, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, introduce, where you're from, what you studied at the University of Birmingham, and what you're up to now?
Nishita: Sure, so firstly, I’ll get the name out of the way, it's slightly difficult for people to pronounce so you can call me Nishi. I am from India, born and brought up in India. I came to the UK in 2012 to pursue my Masters from the University of Birmingham, studying an MBA. I specialise in global banking and finance.
I have about 11 to 12 years of experience overall now, primarily in the financial services sector. I'm currently working with a bank which specialises in financial solution and I just started about 3 months ago.
Cate: Well that's great and are you currently based in London in the UK? Is that correct?
Nishita: I am, yes I am currently based in London
Cate: Fantastic and so with your current role, broadly speaking, what does your role entail on a day to day basis?
Nishita: Sure, so the financial services sector of course, as you know it’s quite big. Within financial services there is a very critical component which is the AML compliance. Specifically entails client due diligence, which is trying to understand what your client is about, who the client is, what kind of business are they looking for, what kind of product, so an end to end review of what a client is about, to manage the financial risk for the bank. So that's my day to day, onboarding as well as periodically reviewing clients.
Cate: Okay perfect. I always think that financial services, like you touched on, is one of those sectors that is so broad, and there are so many different facets to it. I often liken it to when people say that they work in consulting or something, it's one of those terms that can cover such a multitude of different roles and different areas so it's nice to know more specifically about what your role entails.
When you came to the University of Birmingham, for your MBA, was this what you wanted to pursue as a career, or what were your hopes for after you finished your MBA?
Nishita: So interestingly, when I came to the UK for my MBA, I'd already worked for about three and a half, almost four years, in financial services specifically in client onboarding and due diligence. So that was something that garnered my interest from the start of my career. So when I came to the UK as well, my objective for the first was to gain more understanding from a management perspective and how I can apply but also learn those kind of skills, so I can take them back, and look for more, not only more senior roles within the compliance/AML space, but also to broaden my overall thinking of what the financial services are about. As we alluded to earlier, it’s a big industry and there are lots of kinds of financial institutions, all of them having different requirements. So learning that and, of course, in a multicultural environment was something that I was looking forward to in the MBA.
So yeah, career wise after my MBA, I decided to go back into the same field and continued on.
Cate: But you just had such a more, I guess, a broader experience of what that sector entailed and how you could elevate your career within that same sector and enhance that. Like you say about the multicultural element of it, we're very lucky at the University of Birmingham, in that we have students and staff from over 170 different countries on campus, so it is such a little pocket. As you know, Birmingham itself as a city is such a multicultural city, but the institution itself and the university is such a little pocket of multiculturalism. It’s a really interesting environment to learn about different cultures and different people and how business is carried out throughout the world as well.
So tell me a bit about your time at Birmingham, did you engage with the careers service at all or did you attend any employer presentations or any of the career fairs that we hold on campus? What do you think, with regard to your time at Birmingham I guess, what do you think had the most impact in terms of enhancing your career readiness?
It’s a tricky question because, obviously, like you say you had work experience beforehand you had already had experience in that sector, but also just generally in the world of work, but was there anything in particular at Birmingham that you helped prepare you for life after your MBA?
Nishita: So your first question about your Careers Network, and all the events related to careers that were organised. Yes, we did have that even back in 2012, 2013. There were some events that were university level, and some event that were department level. Most of them, the networking sessions, you could interact with employers, or perspective employers, to see what kind of firms where hiring, but also what role they were hiring for, what skills they were looking for. I remember there was an entire, I think it was in the Guild, where they set up camps almost, for every organisation that came in and they had pamphlets and booklets and loads of information, and you could go in and see the divisions within each of these organisations.
I think it was also, if memory serves, across industries, it wasn't necessarily just financial services. We had pharmaceuticals, accountancy firms, a lot of industry leaders who came in to talk about that organization.
I think one thing that really helped me in my career quest after the MBA was networking, and specifically through LinkedIn. Back then, of course, I'd say it was not as widely used as it is now, but even then, I realized that there was a lot in networking when I actually started getting calls because I had reached out to employers to interact. So that was definitely one thing.
I think, also, to an extent, if you have work experience, what also helps is often your employer may make an arrangement with you where if you want to go back you can go back and work with them. I remember I had classmates who were doing something like that. Of course if you're somebody who does not have experience, then networking is definitely the way to go.
When I say networking, it's not those cold emails or commenting interested on LinkedIn, that's not what gets you in. What gets you in is genuinely reaching out, personalizing the messages, because what happens is recriuters get loads of messages from many, many people around the world. So, what do need to do is really stand out and how you do that is not just comment interested, but rather, reach out and tell them why you are interested and the fact that you would like to have a conversation, and trust me it works. I am talking from personal experience.
Cate: So learn to promote yourself and promote your skill set and your experience in a way that sets you out and piques the interest of the person that you're that you're getting in touch with rather than just the same old generic conversation. That's such a helpful tip because, for so many people, myself included, networking is not something that comes easily or naturally. I think it tends to be something that makes people feel slightly awkward at the beginning, when you first learning how to do it. But it is such a vital part of your career journey, whether that's getting your foot in that first door, or even if it's for career development opportunities and accelerating your career. Networking is something that is such a useful skill to have.
Did you attend any of the in-person networking events on campus that we had? Obviously, you mentioned about the career fairs and things like that, were there any specific employers that you hoped to see on campus? You don't have to name them by name, but did you do you recall it being a case of being particularly excited if you heard that a certain was employer was on campus, or was it more a case of trying to get as much insight into as many of the different employers that came?
Nishita: I think at that stage it was more just trying to get insights into the employers. I think if I had to say that there's one specific or group of firms that I would have liked to see, then definitely the investment banking firms. That would have been a good addition, but I do recall seeing a couple of them there as well. It was more finding out what these firms were offering at this stage.
Cate: I think that's a really good point. There is a lot of benefit to attending the career fairs, or some of the employer activities that we have on campus. Even if you're not certain that you want to work for that particular employer as more of a fact-finding exercise than anything, and find out what they have to offer, and if that is something that you feel would be a good match for yourself as well.
Nishita: Absolutely, and I think if nothing else, what these events help you with is getting out of your comfort zone and talking to somebody you don't know, because often what happens is we tend to want to stick with the people we know. That can actually, you will lose an opportunity in the process. But I think what everyone is looking for today is, how can I position myself, why me? And I think that definitely gets you in the door. More importantly, not just networking while you’re looking for a job, that's not it, because that's one goal achieved. Obviously when you join an organization, you also want to grow in that organization.
So even once you've joined an organization, working with stakeholders across, for example, working with the people from outside of the country you operate in or even if it's within the same country, I think what often happens is most organisations have town halls, they have webinars, they have all sorts of events which I think one should definitely take advantage of. Those are the events where you can go understand more about other divisions in the organization, especially if it's a really big firm, what happens is you don't know what somebody at the other end of the office actually does. You’ve seen them, you’ve said an awkward high, but you don't really know what they do. You will be surprised, because if you actually go into sit with them and try and understand what is it that they do, it could perhaps become something you're interested in for the future. Networking within the organisation as well.
Cate: I think that so often we focus on just getting the first job and what happens in the lead up to just getting the job, but actually and you raise a very important point about seeing your career as a journey and as something that is continually evolving, and as something that we need to continually work out and grow and expand. Rather than, it doesn't finish when you get that job. You know it's something that’s only just starting.
Nishita: It’s really important to stay relevant and the way we can stay relevant is, one of course, continuously learning. I don’t think we can ever say we have learned everything, and that’s the fun of it. That’s the beauty of it. And at the same time, learning continuously, if I may make this up on the spot, your relevancy factor. You know, because if you're continuously updating yourself and learning new skills, then you are staying relevant, and you are making that employer or making your boss or making your stakeholder think ‘hey you know what, this person is somebody I want to give another opportunity to’ perhaps. So I think that's definitely something we tend to ignore once we get the job. But learning and staying relevant are definitely important.
Cate: Those are that's such good advice. With regard to your journey, obviously, having come from India to then study at the University of Birmingham for your MBA and now you're living and working in London, how did you come to that? While you were doing your MBA, was it always a goal to try and stay in the UK, or were you considering returning to India, or was it more case of you were open to going wherever the opportunities presented themselves?
Nishita: I think at that stage, I was more open to opportunities where they presented themselves, but I would say I was more inclined at the time to go back, only because, relative to be amount of experience that I had. What I had in mind was to go back, get a lot more experience you know, perhaps get into more senior roles, get myself up to speed on how things operate at a more senior level. Then, perhaps, some time down the line, look for opportunities outside of India.
The reason I wanted to do that is, I think most of us know that, countries such as India, especially, are hubs for a lot of organisations that are headquartered in the UK or the US. And what happens is, once you've gained enough experience in your home country, whilst having worked with stakeholders outside. I think what worked for me was the fact that I got more confident, I learned a lot more on how to work with individuals from different cultures, from different backgrounds and I think that's when I got myself ready to come in and say ‘hey you know what I think are now going to take the next step and go out of India and see what I can make of a career outside’.
Cate: How did you find that transition from living and working in India to then living and working outside of India? Were there any elements that were different to what you expected? Obviously, you had gained experience within multinational organisations, and you had your experience from the University of Birmingham, so you had that cultural element of getting used to the UK but was there anything in terms of the career sect that you found very different to what you were used to?
Nishita: I think surprisingly no. The approach is quite similar, but what really helped me was the fact that, of course, like you say I studied here so I had some exposure to how things work here. But after I went back, and you know the organisations that I was associated with, through the work I did there I ended up traveling to the UK, and a few other countries. When you're studying, it's a different environment that have, but when you are working in a different country. I’d say both are professional, but one is more academic, the other one is more goal oriented because you have certain work-related objectives that you need to fulfil.
So I think that experience helped me to come in here and settle in quite easily. I think, to an extent I knew what to expect. Of course there are things that you learn every day because there are things that you don’t necessarily think of on a daily basis when you’re at home. But I think that's the fun of it, that you learn from different people, from different stakeholders. That’s why I’d say, whether or not you have the experience of working outside your own country, it can be unnerving because you’ve packed up and moved. But what definitely helps you is your openness, continue to ask, don't hesitate to question if you don't understand something and I think you will find that people are very open to actually helping you and supporting you, and they will understand the fact that you have come from outside, made a huge change. I think the kind of support that most organisations provide these days, it’s amazing to see.
Cate: I think that's such a good point is that, whilst there are certain elements that can be a culture shock, both within your professional life and without, the more experience you have working with different kinds of people, but also working with different cultures and getting comfortable enough in your own skin to have the confidence to ask questions and to put yourself forward for things and stay relevant and network with people. All, I would imagine play into making them it and much more gentle transition. So that's a really handy tip for any students.
I know that at Birmingham, we have a lot of students who want to stay in the UK after their studies, at least for some amount of time to get some work experience. I think that it's such a wonderful opportunity, and right now we're very lucky in that an element of the post study work visa has come back. So we now have the graduate route visa and so students who are from outside of the UK now have that opportunity to stay slightly easier in the UK after their studies, but it is really encouraging to hear that if a student returns to their home country, there are still a lot of things that they can be working on to get that international experience and the confidence, so that once they've progressed a bit more in their career, they have those opportunities to travel within their organization and perhaps be relocated within their organization or with a different organization as well.
So I think it's key for students to note that whether or not you end up staying in the UK right after your studies, if it's something that you want to do, that's not the end of the road, there are opportunities after as well, which I think a lot of students are keen to hear.
So, in terms of your current role and what you're doing now what do you find most enjoyable about your work now?
Nishita: I think we touched upon this earlier when I said my career has practically been in the AML compliance space, and that’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing. It's a very, very vast subject, there are so many aspects to it and the kind of industry that I am in, there are different products and different products mean different risks to look at. What I find really enjoyable about my work, is the fact that I get to learn a lot because there's always something new coming up, there's always a new angle to look at. It's a very consultative role. This kind of industry is not one day you need to work in a silo and, of course, I think it doesn't work in any organization, but specifically within AML compliance, the beauty of it is it's consultative in nature is as well. What I perceive as risk, you may not, and that interesting exchange of ideas on how it's been perceived from different people's perspectives. It’s objective and there's not always a black and white answer so you get to really experiment, you get to look at things from a whole new perspective and investigate things that you may not have necessarily looked at before. That’s really something I love, and I think there’s a lot of tools available now in the AML compliance space if you look online, to really help you gain knowledge about what these factors are and how you can apply your investigative skills.
Cate: It sounds like it's such a varied role as well, it sounds like no two jobs that you're working on are the same or no two clients that you're working with are the same and, like you say, if there if there are different things popping up and there's always something new to investigate. It sounds like it's the type of role that would always keep you on your toes, and always ensure collaboration with others as well, which I think is such a key part of any role, is just keeping you fresh and keeping you engaged, as well as the employee. We do our best work when it's something that we are interested in and when it's something that's varied, I think.
Do you have any advice for current students who are looking to work within compliance in the financial services in terms of ways in which they might be able to enhance their employability? I know that we had previously touched on networking being so key, but do you have any other advice or practical things that students might be able to do if they're interested in exploring similar roles to yours?
Nishita: Absolutely, I think, if you did a basic Google search on compliance, there's just so much of information available. It is something that is taking centre stage because of the world we live in today. There are many angles to compliance, I’m definitely not an expert but from what I’ve learned so far, whether it's in terms of due diligence, risk management, or you look at compliance from an angle of money laundering, that is, human trafficking, slavery, bribery and corruption. That are just so many angles and so many things to learn.
There are organisations that actually offer, when I say organisations, I mean reputable and industry standard organisations that provide certifications which actually account for a lot. The amount of growth and opportunities in finance, like I said earlier, it’s a very consultative space where you get to talk to people from different departments because you’re trying to understand their role in the compliance mix, but you’re also working with your own colleagues in your team and trying to understand from them what their perspective is. There’s a lot of information out there, LinkedIn included. We have a lot of pages that provide you with tons of information. Many, many individuals I see post articles about the current events. You need to stay abreast of what's happening in the space as it's ever changing and there's always something happening in compliance.
Cate: That's really helpful. Obviously, besides the educational side of things, which are requirements for most roles, what would you say the top three skill requirements are for your role? What do you think the top three skills that you use most often are for you for your role that students can maybe work on?
Nishita: This kind of role in any organisation, a minimum requirement is to be able to demonstrate your understanding of the role that you're applying for. Like I said, compliance is a very big space and understanding exactly where you'll fit in, is also quite important. If you just see compliance as very generic, but what part of it really interests you, that's important to understand.
Once you know that second thing is, of course, to see if there's anything in terms of skills that you can learn through certification etc., which I know a lot of organisations do actually put that into their requirements and they are looking for candidates having some of these industry recognized certifications. I think these two key things that definitely get you through the door.
Cate: That's great. Nishi, it's been so, so lovely to talk to you. It's been really interesting to hear a bit more about financial services in general, but more specifically what is involved in your sector of compliance and just how broad and overarching that that umbrella can be and how varied it is. So anyone that might be interested in going into it, it sounds like there are a lot of different pathways, depending on what a student is interested in.
Before we leave, I just had one final question that I like to ask everyone. Do you have any particular recommendations for current international students for making the most of their time studying in the UK, and specifically at Birmingham, that can either help them personally or professionally within the context of finding a job?
Nishita: This is something I didn't do, but I would recommend in hindsight, it's something that everybody should, especially international students, is apply for internships if you can. I did apply, but I didn't necessarily pursue it, because of the timing of when I had come to the UK, but I think today with, like you mentioned, the post study work visa, but also the fact that we're doing everything online now. I think definitely a good opportunity for you to look for internships, because if you get one or two months, it's a very good way for you to learn how things work, in an international work environment, but also, if you do a good job, there are chances that you could actually get offered a full-time role. That's definitely something you should try make use of, because I know every course has semesters which are lined up differently, but if yours does allow for that time in between, then certainly I would recommend getting an internship.
Cate: I think that's such a such a crucial point to make is that internships are such a key way for students to find out about different opportunities, for them to gain tangible work experience, but also for them to first-hand sell their skills and themselves as potential future employees for the employers that they're working for. Right now, since the pandemic we've seen a huge increase in virtual internships, which is something that we were working on prior to the pandemic, but obviously with everything going digital, that's only accelerated that process. That's another way for students to get tangible experience anywhere in the world and learn from so many different organisations. I don't think there's ever been a better time to be gaining work experience and work experience, specifically through internships, because the opportunities are endless and I think the reward that you get from doing an internship is priceless.
Listen Nishi, it’s been so so wonderful speaking to you and I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you so much, and we're very grateful to you. I feel like I’ve learned so much about compliance that I never knew before, so I really appreciate you taking the time and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day.
Nishita: It's been a pleasure, Cate. Thank you for the opportunity, it was great fun.
Cate: Thank you.