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An Interview with Andrew Harrison

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Have you considered a Graduate programme and wondered where it might take you? How it can link in to your studies? And what it’s actually like to work as a Managing Director (MD)?

Starting on a Graduate programme can often feel like a jump into the unknown, with no tangible idea of where it can lead and how it could potentially develop. I spoke to Andrew Harrison, who joined NatWest in 1992 on a programme and now, 24 years later, is an MD for the Midlands & East of England, Corporate & Commercial Banking.

The Graduate

I was interested to hear from Andrew about the initial stages of the Graduate Programme, to give people an idea of what to expect,

‘After I finished my A Levels I started looking at options in terms of career, and narrowed it down to Banking, Legal or Accountancy. The main thing that attracted me to Banking was the fact that from an early stage in your career you’d have direct interaction with customers. I decided to apply for the programme, and was successful, and spent 12 months in the bank doing a variety of roles and in different locations.

I worked in a branch in Darlington, and also spent time at Head Office in London; it was great experience to gain at age 18, albeit challenging.’

Andrew chose to study Banking Insurance and Finance at Bangor, and he carried on working in either a branch or at head office during the summer break which helped to consolidate his learning in topics such as Foreign Exchange. Andrew utilised theory he learnt at University in a practical context, and after graduating in 1996, he joined NatWest, Corporate Banking services in Leeds, before moving up to a Corporate Manager job in Sheffield.

Branching out

Progressing up to MD takes time and a lot of hard work. Andrew talked about his particular route and the post University experience that established his career,

‘I assisted the Corporate Manager, and we looked after a portfolio of corporate and commercial businesses across South Yorkshire. I found it fascinating to come out of University and be working in a frontline position, with a wide variety of different types of customers – Manufacturing to Retail. The breadth of customers was a great grounding in terms of learning the ropes, and how to interact with them. The time spent in this role really provided a foundation for the rest of my career in lending, credit and operational risk.

Through the work experience I’ve gained by this point, as well as my studies, I knew that I wanted to continue working in the corporate banking side, as I specifically enjoyed economics and subjects such as International Trade.’

Take your time

Banking, to a lot of people, may appear to be quite a tough environment, where everyone has a Mathematics degree and crunches numbers all day. As with everything however, misconceptions can be prevalent. Andrew added,

‘I’ve heard people say that they didn’t realise how many different things the bank did, from the day to day transactions to International Trade and Asset Finance. I think perhaps the scale of the operation is also quite surprising, as there is a real breadth of what we do.

I’ve also heard graduates say they are – pleasantly – surprised by the culture, as there is a perception that banking is a hard environment but in reality, it’s a really supportive place to work and they have found that staff are always willing to help them.’

It has been quite a path since Andrews’s first introduction into banking, with solid experience and insight; he summarised:

  • Use your first few years to build on your technical skills
  • Try different things – gain a full understanding of where your strengths and interests lie
  • Take your time - don’t be too focused on moving forward or fixated on a certain division
  • Look out for opportunities to add value and contribute more than what is expected
  • Bring ideas or solutions on your own initiative – this will be noticed
  • Be open to moving geographically

Think long term

And once you’ve got this grounding and have started to progress, what is it that helps to maintain a career with longevity like Andrew:

  • Keep fresh and engaged – don’t slip in to routines
  • Push yourself to learn new things
  • Consider how external voluntary work could help to build knowledge and skills to

Andrew enthused how he was struck by so many great people who work for the bank, who are focused and motivated on their customers. It struck a chord how proud he is to feel he has had the opportunity to work with so many good people. He finished by saying,

‘If graduates out there are looking for an opportunity to work with some of the best people in the market and best customer franchise, then this really is a great place to be.’

Graduate Opportunities

Find out what opportunities are available with us here.