Sameed Afzal graduated from Swansea University having achieved a 2:1 in BSc Accounting and Finance. Whilst studying for his degree, Sameed completed a placement year as a management accountant assistant and it was this experience which helped shape his future career goals.
Sameed is now on his first placement with the Financial Services Graduate Programme with Monmouthshire Building Society as an Operations & Continuous Improvement Graduate. Four months in, we caught up with him to find out how he’s getting on.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you studied at uni?
I studied Accounting and Finance at University which involved a year in the workplace. My placement, a management accountant assistant with the largest NHS Trust in the UK, was a very valuable experience but when I returned to university for my final year, I realised that I wanted to broaden my horizons and pursue a career in something other than accounting.
This realisation led me to follow my passion for environmental sustainability and study an MSc Environment, Development, and Politics at the University of Birmingham.
During my MSc I worked in project development for a creative regeneration agency where I led on a project to connect locally sourced produce to consumers via a subscription food box, a project I found really rewarding!
What attracted you to Graduate Programme Wales?
I am really grateful to be on such a great initiative that develops the Welsh financial services talent pool.
The main thing that attracted me to the programme was the varied experience that I would gain. In just 2 years rotating through 3 companies and experiencing different roles, cultures and people is very unique and invaluable. The fully funded MSc was also a big attraction because I am directly applying the theory I learn to a workplace setting which has accelerated my learning!
Have you always wanted a career in Financial Services?
My first exposure to financial services was in the film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and I never really saw myself working in the industry but, when I was studying for my MSc I learned how vital the finance industry is to help achieve sustainable development. That’s what has attracted me to a career in finance.
What does your role at Monmouthshire Building Society involve?
My first placement is in Continuous Improvement in the Business Change Department at Monmouthshire Building Society. I have found it to be an incredibly interesting role, even more so because the Society is going through a transformation and the business change department is still relatively new.
During my placement I will lead on a strategic project through to completion and am currently supporting on a number of business-led projects to improve back‐end processes and customer experience which I am finding very interesting. I have led two requirements gathering workshops, conducted varied research and data analysis and will support on the Society’s ESG projects in the future.
I am also the deputy chair of the newly established Social Responsibility Panel, a brand new initiative which seeks to encourage the Society to be more socially responsible, which ties into the Society’s ESG strategy. I have developed a number of useful resources with the support of the wider panel to engage colleagues to act more socially responsible. The panel organises a number of initiatives, most recently collecting money for the charity shelter Cymru.
Do you have any advice for managing work and studies?
It can be pretty tough to manage both work and academic commitments. The best advice I have is to get in a routine. We generally have about a month to work on our assignments so getting into a good routine can make all the difference and can save you from scrambling around the night before a deadline to hand a half-baked piece of work in. For me I like to plan my assignment in the first week it is set. I then try and get the bulk of the writing done on the weekends.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the graduate programme are to build my network and develop my personal and professional skills.
Once the programme is over, I am aiming to secure a role in sustainable finance. I’ve written my dissertation on the current state of sustainable finance in the UK and believe my academic knowledge and passion will position me well for a role in this field.
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of applying for the Programme?
The programme is a great opportunity to gain a variety of experiences and academic knowledge and the WCCF encourage people from all backgrounds to apply. I’d highly recommend the programme to anyone curious about a career in financial services.
Thanks to Sameed for sharing his story, we look forward to supporting your career goals throughout your time on the Programme.