Oct 16, 2015

This is the second of a two-part article about the experience of a consultant at their 3-year anniversary of starting in financial services compared to a consultant who has reached their 3-month anniversary. Despite there appearing to be a big difference between someone with three months’ experience versus three years’ experience, we have found there to be many similarities. Among these similarities are being aware of your surroundings and thinking of the bigger picture; the importance of communication; teamwork and having confidence that you can influence change. This article describes the experience of a consultant at their 3-year anniversary. By reflecting on their experiences, those readers who have just finished university or are new to the financial services can gain an insight into this career choice. In addition, experienced consultants can also learn as, due to the varied nature of roles as consultants, it is unlikely that their career experiences are the same.

The first three years of my career have been exciting. I joined a successful “start-up” consulting firm and over this time have watched it grow from about 30 employees to around 250 employees. The opportunity to work for such a fast growing organisation from the outset has been a very interesting experience that I have personally benefited from in a number of ways:

  • We were given greater levels of responsibility in comparison to our counterparts working for established organisations;
  • We worked closely with senior management; increasing our visibility and learning valuable lessons from them;
  • We played a role in shaping the strategy of the organisation.

As a consultant who is based on client site, you have the opportunity to work and learn from two organisations; the one you are employed by, and the one you are consulting at. I had the benefit and opportunity of working for a start-up, while also gaining insight and knowledge that comes from working in large corporate organisations. It was surprising to discover that large corporate organisations do not always function as cohesive units as I believed they would, but often operate as a collection of disjointed silos. I regularly see breakdowns in communication creating duplication of tasks and unnecessary political atmospheres. Individual departments vie for their own independent agenda rather than working together to achieve a common goal. From hands on experience I have learnt a number of lessons from this environment.

Top 5 lessons I have learnt as a Consultant in financial services:

  1. Be very aware of your surroundings and think of the bigger picture; why is someone asking me to perform this task; what is the background; how can I work optimally with those before and after me in the process.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no. Set expectations that give you the chance to over perform rather than setting yourself up to fail. If you are asked to estimate how long a task will take, it is wise to add in additional time as things often take longer as priorities change or more information becomes available.
  3. Give progress updates. You should ensure that the good work your team is doing does not go unnoticed. (Also featured in “Part 1 – three months in financial services consulting…”).
  4. Work as a team. A team of 8 individuals deliver more output than 8 individuals working alone. Spend time training others. It may be quicker to do a task yourself but training others develops them, and gives you the ability to deliver additional value yourself.
  5. Having personal, one on one meetings with those who report to you; providing constant and consistent feedback, while at all times being professional and leading by example.

As a consultant I have had the opportunity to gain, in only 3 years, the breadth and depth of knowledge that may take an individual in a large corporate organisation 10 years. This gives me the confidence and ability to influence change. By being flexible and thinking on my feet, I can adapt to new environments and teams, continually evolving the infrastructure and best practices to grow both the organisation I am employed by, and the one I am consulting at.

It has been an exciting and tremendously rewarding 3 years. Growing my career in an environment and within a firm that is both providing me with challenging opportunities whilst open to listening to, embracing and implementing my ideas. Going forward I look forward to honing my specialist technical skills, while also taking the opportunity to assume greater management responsibilities. Whether 3 months experience or 3 years experience, we all have a part to play in developing ourselves, the organisations we operate in, and the organisations we consult at. I am looking forward to continuing to develop all three.