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“I had limited finance exposure, but got a job at a top global bank. Here’s how”

Skyline of The City in London, England at sunrise

Last year, Megan Noelle Chew moved from Singapore to London to start a job as an investment banking analyst at Barclays. Unlike many first-year bankers in the City, however, she had not focused on finance during her undergraduate degree.

How did Chew land a full-time role at one of the world’s leading banks in the face of fierce competition from other elite students? The answer is two-fold.

First, after completing a degree in business management, Chew was offered a place in the Advanced Master in Financial Engineering programme (now known as Master in Finance) at ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific, where she attained the specialist skills that helped launch her career in banking.

Second, as part of the ESSEC programme, Chew spent her summer interning at Barclays in 2015, where she impressed the bank and secured a job offer for the following year.

“My first degree equipped me with a good holistic foundation in business, but to move into a banking job, I needed to hone my technical skills and deepen my knowledge in finance,” says Chew. “I chose the ESSEC’s Master because it’s highly reputable and technically challenging.”

Chew opted for the ‘international track’ at ESSEC, allowing her to study in both Singapore and Paris (students can also complete the degree solely at one of these two campuses). “I wanted to keep in touch with Asian markets, but also wanted to live in France and be immersed in French culture, especially since I speak the language. The degree gave me the best of both worlds,” explains Chew.

She describes the programme as “very intense”. “It was an especially steep learning curve as most subjects were new to me. Many of my classmates had had work experience in finance or had technical degrees like engineering or mathematics. But my friends supported me in areas they were more familiar with, and I simply worked very hard.”

ESSEC’s professors were equally helpful. “They didn’t just lecture and organise case studies – they were always open and ready to answer questions, even after class.”

Chew also says ESSEC prepared her well to secure a summer stint at Barclays in London. The business school provides job-focused training via AlumnEye, a coaching company that assists students with each stage of the banking recruitment process – from writing essays that simulate online job applications to taking part in mock assessment centres.

“I went through the same difficult interview process as everyone else, but I received a lot of useful guidance and preparation materials,” says Chew. “ESSEC was also quick to make us aware of all the relevant internship application deadlines and networking sessions.”

“Having a four-month internship as a pre-requisite is a unique and useful aspect of the degree. Being pushed to do an internship was a crucial part of our education and the surest route to landing a potential full-time job,” adds Chew.

She says the internship was “character building”. “It’s extremely competitive as your peers are just as hungry as you are to secure a job. The hours can be long and the tasks can be exacting. But I enjoyed the experience because it was well-planned and eye-opening – I learnt a lot very quickly.”

Chew didn’t waste her time making coffee or passively shadowing senior people. “We were given meaningful projects and measurable goals to achieve.”

She spent the first half of the internship working in Barclays’ markets division. “I had to come up with practical and creative macro trade ideas as well as make equity pitches in front of large audiences of managers and other interns,” says Chew. “While this threw me out of my comfort zone initially, it taught me to express and defend my opinions confidently, as well as gave me in-depth knowledge of different asset classes and financial instruments.”

At Barclays, Chew was able to draw upon the technical subjects she had studied at ESSEC the previous semester. She even ended up teaching fellow interns about ‘Greeks’, a method of measuring the sensitivity of an option’s price. “During the internship, I used what I’d learnt at ESSEC on actual trades, so I gained an applied, knowledge of finance,” she adds.

For the final two months of her summer, Chew worked in Barclays’ Investment Banking Division (IBD), where she focused on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the financial institutions sector. “It was a great opportunity as it gave me an insight into both the public and private side of a bank.”

Her stint in investment banking landed her a full-time job in the M&A after she graduated from ESSEC. “It wasn’t just my work ethic and technical ability that helped me get this job – it was my genuine interest to learn and to forge new, meaningful relationships across the bank.”

Chew says she’s enjoying the experience of working overseas at a young age. “I am grateful for my ESSEC education and proud of my ESSEC qualification – it played a big role in helping me get to where I am today. I’ve had an exciting start to my career in one of the world’s top financial centres. I’ve now got a launch pad to becoming successful in banking.”

Image credit: Getty

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