From physics to fixed income at Fidelity International: a graduate’s story
After studying physics at Imperial College London, Niamh Fenton started work as a fixed income graduate at Fidelity International. We spoke to her about the move from physics to finance, working life and her involvement with social mobility initiatives at the investment management firm.
Niamh, what attracted you to physics?
I was always interest in science when I was younger so I knew that I would study a science subject. I realised very early on in my physics degree, however, that it was not the career choice for me. That didn’t matter though; it taught me a lot of transferable skills. I had to communicate and collaborate with a lot of different people at different levels of seniority, for example, which were useful skills to learn before joining investment management. In labs, we were frequently working with limited instructions, so we got used to problem solving and using our initiative. I had an amazing lab partner and I think we both built up a lot of resilience through those labs, including by gaining the confidence to push the lab supervisors for more answers.
And investment management?
I wanted to have a career that was relevant and required keeping up with news and covering broad topics, and I knew from my research that investment management ticks these boxes. I also did a couple of spring insight experiences and internships to confirm my interest before joining Fidelity. It’s an exciting area to work in; it’s always great when the work clicks and concepts that you didn’t know at the start become second nature.
Did you worry that physics was not finance related?
I did worry at first about joining without a finance degree, to be honest, but I think the real benefit of coming from a different background is that you bring a different perspective. Also, Fidelity is very clear that it is open to students who have all degree backgrounds. I’d say to a student planning to go into an area that they haven’t study at university to remember that you can learn on the job. Your degree and extracurriculars will have provided you with many skills that you can bring, so be confident and ask lots of questions. Do a decent amount of research into different industries and reach out to people on LinkedIn for more information.
What training and support have you received so far?
When we join, we have about a month of training with the other grads, which is nice for bonding and forming a cohort. Then over the grad scheme we have check-in training days every quarter.
What is your role in the team?
The grad scheme that I am on is rotational, so I am currently in the Credit Research team, but have moved through Portfolio Construction and Risk and am about to move into Trading. My current main responsibility is to cover tobacco companies, which involves modelling their financial statements, keeping up to date with announcements and helping with investment decisions on bonds by these companies. An area that is growing in investment is sustainable investing – how firms approach environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns is very nuanced, but it is a really interesting area and it’s great to see it growing.
Do you have time for any initiatives outside your core role?
Yes, definitely – I started the Fidelity For Everyone Social Mobility group in early 2020. I wanted to be involved in a diversity network as the financial services industry has a low track record for diversity. Fidelity is really trying to improve in this space, so I got a lot of positive feedback when I started the group and we have seen a huge increase in members. My aim is to promote a conversation around social mobility, develop a network for mentoring and support and work with HR on diversity hiring.
What is your work/life balance like?
Working from home has now made that a bit more difficult, I’ll admit! In normal times, I’m in the office from 8.00am to 6.30pm, but it really depends on what you have going on that day. To balance my working life, I regularly take time to exercise and call/see my friends. When choosing an employer, it’s so important to take your working environment into consideration as well as the content of your work, as you will end up spending more time there than anywhere else!
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