Skills and competencies

The skills needed for an investment management career, by Baillie Gifford

12 Sept 2023, 10:07

Three people on Baillie Gifford graduate schemes tell us the degree subject, skills and experiences needed for investment management careers.

A lightbulb held up against a blue and pink sky, indicating the creativity you will need in investment management

Applying to an investment management firm that has spent over a century establishing its global client base may seem daunting – but the truth is, those joining a Baillie Gifford graduate scheme are expected to present potential rather than the finished product. That’s true for our investment research and technology solutions programmes.

The application process for each programme involves: a short online application form, used to assess whether your skills and attributes are a match for the company and role; an interview with multiple members of the relevant team; and, lastly, an assessment day and/or final interview.

While each programme has its individual set of required attributes, there are approaches and skills needed to work for an investment management company – whatever your role. To discover what these are so you can highlight them at each stage of the application process, we spoke to Joanna Abudar, graduate investment analyst, Sharon Justine-Nyar, graduate trainee, and Tarun Mistry, trainee application developer.

Know you’re a fit for the firm

Just as Baillie Gifford has clients from all over the world, it looks for employees with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and interests. As stated on its website, it ‘wants people with the potential to think differently’. So, don’t be put off from applying or entering the recruitment process because you don’t feel that you will ‘fit in’.

None of the graduate programmes require a specific degree background – a 2.1 in any subject is the only academic requirement. Accordingly, Joanna studied English literature and classics, Sharon studied law and Tarun completed a physics with industrial experience degree.

Joanna explained: ‘I assumed that as an arts student I would be totally out of place in the world of investments, but on my current team we have someone who studied history, an engineer and a former molecular biologist. So don’t be worried that you aren’t the right type of person to apply – there truly is no standard type that Baillie Gifford looks for.’

Speak about the experience you have

Joanna reflected: ‘One thing I wish I had done was speak with more confidence about experience I had that was completely unrelated to finance/investments.’ This is something Sharon also considered: ‘During the interview process, I think I tried to shift the attention from all the legal experience and internships I had been involved in because I was under the wrong impression that the fact that my experience was mostly legal would put me at a disadvantage.’

Many employers in the investment banking and management world expect candidates to have first attended finance insight days and then undertaken an internship or placement year – Baillie Gifford does not. Instead, it is interested in how your experiences and transferable skills are relevant to the role and company. The pages for each graduate programme on Baillie Gifford’s website provide three aptitudes that are most important for that role. These can be gained from a variety of experiences, so think about how your experience demonstrates them.

For instance, the investment research programme requires resilience. Joanna, who entered this programme, had worked as a childcare assistant and a waitress – which, she said, taught her how to work in busy and demanding environments. Picking out examples of times when she persevered despite difficult children or customers would have demonstrated resilience very effectively.

You might also find that you have very relevant experience, just in a different sector. Don’t discount it. Tarun currently works in the external-facing web team, focusing on a content management system to develop the application programming interface, and finds similarity with previous experience. ‘I worked at a physics laboratory, focusing on automating data analysis procedures through developing custom, in-house applications. Although this was applied to a completely different scenario, it introduced me to the whole software development lifecycle.’

Show teamwork and communication skills

Across all programmes, teamwork and communication are recognised as crucial at Baillie Gifford. These were identified by both Sharon and Joanna, with Sharon describing them as ‘invaluable’. This is linked to the rotational nature of the programmes – Sharon mentioned working with new teams in new rotations, meaning she had to communicate with different groups of people effectively.

Once again, teamwork and communication can be demonstrated through a range of experiences. So, don’t shy away from mentioning any examples that you think demonstrate them effectively during the recruitment process.

Be curious

One of the ‘key lessons’ Joanna took from her degree and uses in her working life is remaining curious, and this is something Tarun also spoke about: ‘Always stay curious. If something grabs your attention and interests you at university, read up more on it outside the scope of your courses.’

Tarun advised talking about the things that interest you, discovered during moments of curiosity, throughout the recruitment process – provided you are asked a question that is relevant. For instance, if you are asked about the extent to which you think analytically, you might discuss your passion for debate – demonstrated through your involvement in your university’s debating society – to show you can analyse and critique other people’s viewpoints. Adding your passions to responses can demonstrate enthusiasm and authenticity.

Meet three Baillie Gifford graduate employees: Sharon Justine-Nyar, business operations graduate trainee, Joanna Abudar, graduate investment analyst, and Tarun Mistry, trainee application developer.

Profile pictures of Sharon Justine-Nyar, Joanna Abudar, and Tarun Mistry: three graduates at Baillie Gifford

Apply knowledge to different circumstances

While recruiters won’t expect you to start out fully informed about all things investment management or be an expert in the programme you opt for, they will expect to see your ability to learn and apply your knowledge to new circumstances.

‘Physics has improved my aptitude to learn new concepts quickly and to apply knowledge to unknown and new scenarios,’ said Tarun. ‘This is important since I commonly encounter new types of technology and new scenarios, which I apply my learning to every week.’

Each of the four graduate programmes are rotational, meaning you spend a set amount of time working with a team or department before moving on to another. This gives a strong foundation of knowledge and connections with which to further your career, yet it also means you will need to consistently gain knowledge and use it in new situations.

Invested in training and you

All three of the graduates featured here have been able to build on their skills at Baillie Gifford. ‘Every day I learn something new, and I am encouraged by my colleagues to pursue projects I’m interested in and develop my understanding of the world,’ Joanna said.

Joanna has experienced a ‘culture of curiosity,’ at Ballie Gifford, something which Tarun also alluded to: ‘Baillie Gifford puts a strong emphasis on learning and personal development. This gives me time as a graduate to develop skills I believe I am lacking in by signing up to training courses.’ Sharon described a ‘truly supportive environment where people go out of their way to help or answer whatever question you may have.’

One of the ways Baillie Gifford supports graduates to keep learning is through the integration of professional qualifications into programmes. Investment researchers work towards investment management and financial analysis professional certificates; graduates on the technology programme gain a qualification in investment operations; business operations graduates work towards investment operations and management qualifications; and accountancy graduates are supported to gain chartered accountancy status.

‘There is a strong emphasis on training, networking and being able to get involved in different things, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your day-to-day work,’ Tarun reflects. ‘It has been an amazing environment to start my professional career in and I would highly recommend it to anyone newly transitioning into the working world or to the world of investment management.’

Find out more about working at Baillie Gifford .

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