If you’re thinking of going into the highly-rewarding, but highly-competitive, banking and finance industry, you probably have a few worries. What qualifications do I need? How do I beat the competition? What experience should I get? To help you out, we spoke to banking and finance expert Kirsty Meldrum who was happy to spill the beans.

The keen-runner went to university in Edinburgh and received a qualification with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Now she is going from strength-to-strength, working for Santander in Loan Markets. Here’s how she did it…

What attracted you to banking and finance?

I studied mathematics at university so for me it was a natural progression to go into a numerical industry. I wanted to work in an environment that was fast-paced, constantly evolving and would require rea-life problem solving. I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do but I knew the banking world would challenge me and keep me on my toes.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity within the banking and finance industry?

The opportunity to work with intelligent, hard-working people in a dynamic industry can not be underestimated. I am pushed to learn as much as I can, both day to day in the office and with professional qualifications like ACCA. It is a great environment to work in if you like a challenge and coupled with the ACCA qualification it’s a fast-track to success.

What advice would you give to graduates wanting to get into banking and finance?

I would recommend getting as much experience as possible – whether that is through internships, work experience, speaking to people in the industry or keeping updated with what’s going on in the financial markets. When I think back to my final year of university, I remember feeling quite daunted about finding a job within banking so the more informed you are the better. Do your research and find out what areas you have a genuine interest for.

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How did you manage to get your internships and work experience? Was there anything in specific that you did, or can recommend?

I spent my third year on exchange in Australia so I had limited time in the summer before starting my final year back in Edinburgh. I was conscious, however, that I needed some sort of work experience on my CV so while I was in Melbourne I researched local accountancy firms in Aberdeenshire (where I’m originally from) and got in touch asking about possible opportunities. This worked out well because the company I worked for was small enough that we tailored the work to what I was interested in and there was less competition getting the position in the first place. I knew people at university who managed to secure internships with investment banks and one thing that helped was that they were very organised. They knew exactly which banks they wanted to work for, they applied early and because it had been in their minds since their first or second year they had purposely got involved with certain societies, chose particular courses/projects and built up a strong CV.

I have also been involved with the recruitment process here at Santander and from being on the other side, it seems a strong academic record is almost taken for granted now. The candidates who have stood out are those that take part in a lot of extra-curricular activities and show an effort getting to know more about the industry. A well-presented CV with no spelling mistakes is a given although it blows my mind how many we receive that have not been spellchecked and don’t make any sense.

What do you enjoy most about working in banking and finance?

For me, the best part about working in banking and finance is the people. My role is client facing so I enjoy bringing our pitches to life, communicating what the numbers and analysis actually mean for the business. The same can be said interacting with internal stakeholders — we work with many areas of the bank who all need to understand how certain decisions and risks will impact them.

What has been the greatest change within the industry since you started working?

I began my banking career five years ago and in that time (unsurprisingly) regulation has had a significant influence on the bank market. This has had an impact at a strategic level as well as operationally so it has been interesting to watch the industry adapt.

If you want to get into banking and finance, head to www.yourfuture.accaglobal.com to find out more.