Starting your first graduate job in corporate finance: what to expect

Joshua Dadzie, who works in corporate finance (acquisition finance and loan origination) at Deutsche Bank, remembers his first few weeks as a graduate employee.

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I chose to work in finance because I was interested in the concept of money and the economy. I started secondary school during the financial crisis of 2008 and as a 12-year-old began to realise the economy dictates our everyday life. I graduated with a degree in history and economics from the University of St Andrews.

What surprised you about working life, starting out?

The amount of real responsibility I was given within my team was a surprise to me at first, but as I’d done an internship the summer before I’d had an insight into the corporate atmosphere and Deutsche Bank as an institution. There were six of us in the acquisition finance and loan origination team (there’s seven now), and I was the most junior. After a couple of months of supervision, I was trusted to start taking a lead, directing people in other areas of the bank who had been there much longer than I had. As an intern you learn to handle things; after a couple of months as a graduate employee you’re adding value by running processes.

You come in as a graduate with a lot of juniors, people your own age, fresh out of uni, though the number depends on the team you work within. Our team is small, but other teams are up to 30 strong. While a lot of graduates start their careers in banking, the hours are long and demanding, and some go on to other jobs, or go and do other things. The higher up you go within the bank, the older, more experienced and senior people tend to be, so there are fewer of them.

What skills have you developed in particular?

I developed more soft skills working in a corporate environment, for example how I speak and communicate and how I send emails. In the workplace you interact with people who have done this for many years, and in investment banking you’re serving your clients, so you learn how to speak to them to win business. Attention to detail matters a lot in this role, along with making sure there are no mistakes in your work. It is impossible for everything to be 100% perfect all the time, but that is what you should aim for.

Any tips for new starters?

Going into any new situation you shouldn’t be afraid to clarify things or ask questions when you don’t understand. There’s a way to do it well – don’t just ask, ‘What do you mean?’ say, ‘Just to confirm my understanding’ then explain what you do understand and let your senior fill in your missing knowledge. It’s part of the process – picking up how to question things, how to email, how to speak.

I’m still living at home so I do see my family, but my advice to new graduates is this: even if you have been working late and you are tired, don’t just go straight to bed. I have learned to relax at the end of the day by watching YouTube to take my mind off what I have been doing, and I go to the gym, so I’m not working, dreaming of work, waking up and going back to work. &

What was it like starting a job just as the pandemic hit?

I was lucky because I started working pre-Covid and initially I was in the office five days a week. I had met the team, so I was relatively up to speed with what our team does. Then from March 2020 we all had to work from home. There was an early adjustment period, working with a smaller screen and managing IT issues, for instance, but you get used to it, like anything. For the next intake of graduates it was more difficult, because they couldn’t have small interactions such as asking the person on the desk next to them a quick question – instead they had to send an email and wait for a reply. Deutsche Bank has since introduced a hybrid model of working and we’re sometimes in the office and sometimes out. I’ve had to get used to waking up earlier again, and travelling in, but it’s good for the newest graduates. There are benefits to a hybrid model too, because the flexibility is better for our work/life balance.

Any advice about choosing an employer?

If you find yourself with three or four job or internship offers, don’t choose based on, say, the biggest bank, law firm or consultancy, without taking into consideration how you were spoken to or how you felt after interviews. That feeling is important, because within an industry you’re working on the same sort of deals and the people you work with make the difference. Ensure the company aligns with your values, what you want to achieve and whether you feel comfortable, because, ultimately, that is what is important for your career. The personal touch I experienced after the spring week interviews made all the difference to my choice of employer. The three interviewers from Deutsche Bank each called me personally, and that showed me they really thought about who they were hiring and they cared for their junior staff.

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