What’s It Like to Work in Finance?
Ever wondered what the world of banking and finance is really like? Meet Shaina McQuillan, a seasoned banking specialist who works in the Westpac Corporation.
Having started her career as a Bank Teller and Customer Service Officer, she’s now (nearly 9 years later) a highly regarded Private Wealth Service Manager. In 2014, she was one of 60 employees recognised with the company’s prestigious CEO Award. Shaina was kind of enough to sit down with us and shed some light on what life is really like in the banking world – and what you need to potentially get your foot in the door and kick-start your career success.
What’s each day like for you in the office?
Every single day is different in banking. It’s definitely not routine. I could be overseeing a complex transaction one minute and meeting with private bankers the next!
I also respond to client requests, attend workshops and conferences, deal with escalated queries and run investigations. And as a manager, I spend a significant amount of time monitoring and coaching my team, helping them to succeed both individually and as a group.
How did you get started in the banking and finance world?
It’s funny, because when I finished school, I wasn’t really interested in finance. I love customer service, and saw myself working in retail. So, I obtained a Certificate in Retail Operations. But after a few years, I realised I needed a change.
I saw an ad in the paper for a Teller/Customer Service Officer at St. George Bank and after a little bit of contemplation, I applied! I didn’t really have any experience in finance, but I was passionate about customer service and this suited their profile perfectly. Two interviews later, I was offered the job and I’ve never looked back.
How would you describe your first year in banking?
My first year was definitely challenging yet fun. I was placed in one of the busiest branches in the Sydney CBD and I had to hit the ground running.
There were lots of policies, processes, and systems to learn and we all had sales-based scorecards to guide our performance. Thankfully, I had a great team and a wonderful manager who supported me. Overall, that first year was a great learning curve. It gave me an amazing foundation in banking, and I was able to move up from that and push forward with my career.
What keeps you motivated every day?
My incredible team. In a huge company, good people make all the difference. I’m part of a fun, high-performing team and we work to keep each other motivated.
How do you navigate through a huge corporation like Westpac?
Easy – network, network, network! I try to meet as many people as I can at various work functions. I participate in projects within other areas of the business. I also make an effort to stay in touch with my past colleagues who have moved on to other departments or areas. Networking regularly is crucial in any big company and the more people you know, the easier your job will be.
What was one of the biggest things that surprised you about banking?
The opportunity to be really innovative and transform the way things are done is one of my favourite parts of banking.
I think the banking industry has a reputation for being limited or restrictive, but I’ve discovered it’s far from that.
The culture here is one that fosters innovation, trust in its employees and it allows you to make your own decisions in order to keep succeeding – and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about the company and the job.
I think the banking industry has a reputation for being limited or restrictive, but I’ve discovered it’s far from that.Shania McQuillan
What are three things you really liked about your job?
What advice would you give those looking to start a career in banking?
First and foremost, be customer service focused. Customer service is a bank’s top priority, and it’s one thing they consistently look for when hiring. Look into graduate programs. These programs are excellent opportunities if you’re looking to get into banking. They can have you working in different areas of the bank, which can help you decide what path you’d like your career to take.
And finally, be prepared for change. Things are always changing in banking and finance and you have to be ready to get on the bus and go for the ride. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself quickly left behind.
Any last tips for our budding bankers?
Networking is Key
If there’s a networking event, go to it. If there’s a meeting or workshop, attend. If there’s a chance to help somebody or work on a new project, go for it.
Take Every Opportunity
Go above and beyond every chance you get! If you’re willing to work hard, you can achieve absolutely anything. There’s so much room to grow in the banking world and there are plenty of opportunities to expand your career. Having the right attitude, dedication and focus will take you far.
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