Dan Scanlan is a International Banker who has worked from New York City to Hong Kong managing Banking operations in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Dan is now retired and living in La Jolla. The Professional and Continuing Education Department at University of San Diego asked Dan to reflect on his career and life as a banker. Was it all he thought it would be? See what he has to say.
Initial Impressions: A Banker, No Way!!!!!
Some years ago when the major US Banks came on campus to recruit, I ran the other way. I refused to meet with them because I thought that Banking was a lifeless soul sucking occupation. My idea of banking at the time was of a man wearing a suit and tie reporting to the office every morning to spend countless hours in a cubicle writing emails, occasionally speaking to colleagues that were equally boring and watching the clock, praying for a fire alarm so I could escape outside even if for only a few moments.
Having majored in Economics at university I wanted to work in finance but not in what I thought was a dull and listless occupation that would lead to a slow and agonizing death.
As it happened when I graduated a major recession (some say depression) hit the country and I suddenly found myself in a situation where the only place I could find a job was a, don’t say it, a bank- yikes!
What the Banker’s Life was Really Like
- Challenging Environment
Much to my delight my initial impressions were all wrong. I found the bank to be a challenging environment where new and old financial products, are constantly being tweaked to provide customers what they need. The environment is surprisingly supportive and offers many ways for a recent graduate to explore and develop their financial skills. Plus, it has the added benefit of presenting new and different problems to be solved.
Think of it. If you work for a company in the finance or treasury department you can in the beginning be in a challenging environment but after you are there a couple of years you have probably learned everything you’re going to learn about how that particular company conducts its financial life.
- Multiple Roles from Sales to Analyst
With a bank you have the opportunity to help a lot of very different companies solve some of their most pressing financial problems. For example, if you work in the bank’s treasury team you can help many companies design their cash management programs. How do they get their own cash to the right place at the right time? If they can use their own cash they can reduce their cost by borrowing less.
If you’re a relationship manager you might have a few dozen clients for whom you help structure loans and other financial programs that help them to fund themselves during the lean times of their sales cycle. This is particularly true if the client’s sales are seasonal.
What if the company you’re working with wants to expand overseas? Maybe you can help them mitigate the risk of selling abroad by providing them with a letter of credit. What is that you say? It’s only the oldest bank product dating back to the Medici family in Italy but it’s still in use. It allows the bank to take the payment risk away from the foreign sale. A good thing even in today’s business environment.
If you’re a real numbers geek you can be a financial analyst for a business in the bank. That’s right, many of the divisions of banks are run like independent companies with finance departments, operations teams, HR departments, sales teams etc. The opportunities in banks are vast.
- Financially Lucrative
Depending on your natural inclinations, your education, your desire to expand your horizons, banks can offer a young graduate a lot of ways to grow and prosper. Oh and did I mention prosper? Yes, banks are very competitive with both starting salaries and bonuses and some even offer stock options. They all have 401k programs not to mention health insurance. Most importantly for young graduates they can be a great place to discover what you like and what you’re good at. And there is a lot to learn across a broad spectrum of products and services.
My career in Banking over the past years has taken me down many paths. Initially I was a financial analyst for the operations of the bank. I wanted to hone my financial skills and deepen my understanding of how real businesses ran. Soon I discovered that my Uncle was right. I was not a numbers geek but more of a people person so I enjoyed running the operation rather than pouring over the numbers.
- Potential for Growth
About seven years in I was running a small business in the bank managing a team of 30 people including the operations team, the sales team and my very own finance person (actually I shared the finance person with another business manager). The key for me was to find and do more of the things I liked rather than the things I didn’t like and the bank gave me the opportunity to do that. Much to my surprise I find myself growing my management expertise and today I run a much bigger business that generates over $500 million dollars per annum and I don’t think I’m that unusual.
- Make a Difference in Someone’s Financial Life
My advice, don’t do what I did and wait to get hit over the head with a 2 by 4 to become a banker. Instead take advantage of courses at the University that give you a chance to see inside the banking system. Learn about how the world’s payments systems work. Understand what makes Foreign exchange rates change. Take a look at how a banker evaluates the financials of companies and determines whether to lend that company money and how much she should lend them. Explore the opportunities to learn more about Money and Banking because contrary to popular opinion it’s not a gateway to a life of boredom but rather a way to explore multiple opportunities, to learn a lot about a very important aspect of life, i.e., financial life, and to develop yourself in ways that you could not have imagined
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