What it's like to do a finance apprenticeship

Image of finance apprentice
Tom Coleman has just completed his apprenticeship and is now an equity investment specialist at Fidelity International. Here he discusses his experience.

Tom chose an alternative to university which developed his confidence and set him on the path towards a successful career in finance. Here's his story so far.

  • 2013: Completed one week of work experience at AXA Insurance.
  • 2013–2015: Worked as a customer service assistant at Waitrose alongside studying towards A levels.
  • 2015: Completed A levels in business studies and sports studies.
  • 2016: Joined Fidelity International as an equity investment operations apprentice.
  • 2019: Promoted to a permanent position of associate equity investment specialist.

Tom says…

At school there was someone who would come in every couple of months to tell us about school leaver opportunities and alternatives to university, but I still felt the school’s focus was mostly on people who were going to university. I knew that I didn’t want to go to university but wasn’t entirely sure of my next steps.

Discovering apprenticeships

It was a family friend who worked at Fidelity International who first told me about its apprenticeship programmes. Throughout my time at school, I had an interest in finance and, especially, investment. I was particularly attracted to the training on offer as part of the apprenticeship, and the opportunity to learn more about finance at an organisation that specialised in supporting clients to decide where to store their money to get the best return from it. I was also excited to be able to stay near home, and the chance to start earning money didn’t hurt either.

Starting out and finding my place

During the application process for the apprenticeship, I was able to meet with representatives from HR, my manager and my manager’s manager, who were able to give me a full idea of what the role would involve. I knew what I could expect when I started and that there was a lot of support available.

My first role was in a data retention team, where my time was spent filling out data sheets with new information and updating databases, and so I was able to learn more about the type of data that was involved in investment decisions and become more familiar with the finance sector.

After around a year, I moved to a different team and this was the biggest challenge I’ve encountered over the course of my apprenticeship so far. Straight away, I felt that there was a huge gap in the level of my knowledge compared to my new team. This was tough at first, but I realised that it was up to me to ask the right questions and get up to speed.

Learning through working

Many of my friends went to university, which works for them, but I don’t think they’re going to get the exposure to business and the training that they would get on an apprenticeship. I attend quarterly training sessions where I’m able to develop soft skills such as communication and teamwork.

I meet with my college tutor regularly and spend half a day each week studying. I’ve completed levels 3 and 4 qualifications in business administration qualification and I’m currently working towards the Investment Management Certificate (IMC), which is a respected qualification within the finance industry.

From January 2019, I’m moving to a new full-time position as an associate equity investment specialist, as having completed my apprenticeship. My ambition is to become a full equity investment specialist and my IMC will help me along the way to reach this target in the next few years.

Advice for school leavers

The application process for my apprenticeship was very simple and involved sending in a CV and completing an interview. It’s important that, before you apply, you research the employer. I made sure that I knew how large the employer was, the services it offered and who the leadership at the company was. Not only did this help me to make up my mind as to whether I wanted to work for the organisation, but also this information helped me to make my application more specific and prepare questions I could ask in my interview.

Tailoring your application shows that you have a genuine interest in the apprenticeship and that you are seriously thinking about your career, which impresses recruiters. After starting my apprenticeship, I realised the importance of communication skills. Even making small talk with the other people in my team helped to get me settled and make an impact in my department – it showed confidence and that I was willing to learn.

I’m now friends with my team and we go out regularly. Don’t underestimate the value of talking to people and asking questions. It helped me to find my apprenticeship and it’s helped me to be successful in my work. A valuable piece of advice that I was given while I was at sixth form was: ‘If you don’t feel confident, try faking it.’ Over time it becomes natural and you will see your confidence grow.

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