Case study

Masters graduate — Ryan Sidey

After graduating with a degree in mathematics, Ryan took up various finance roles before deciding to study the MSc Finance at the University of Liverpool

Tell us about how you got into higher education.

I come from quite a low socio-economic background. I grew up on a council estate in Burnage, with a single mother and often had issues at school. These were unfortunately times of financial hardship and would include a lot of distractions.

Growing up in that kind of environment isn't all doom and gloom, and I found myself living quite an adventurous, active and outdoors-focused childhood. However, you don't tend to find yourself surrounded by academics or highly educated professionals.

I'd consider the main struggles to be a lack of information. I didn't have much access to advice, and I can see how much of a disadvantage that can be. I originally wanted to join the Royal Air Force.

Towards the end of school, I started to realise my abilities and happened to make friends with a different social group. As they prepared to go to university, I would entertain conversations about future goals and the kind of doors that it could open.

I followed a close friend to UWE (University of the West of England) Bristol, and I would have to consider my university days to be the best.

Why did you decide to study for a Masters degree?

After studying a degree at undergraduate level, and then working in finance for a couple of years, I still felt like there was a lot to learn about the industry. It was my goal to educate myself enough to have intellectual conversations about finance with more experienced colleagues. Being from Manchester, I looked at the different options available in the north.

Why did you choose this postgraduate course and institution?

I initially came across the University of Liverpool's MSc Finance from their operations in London. The institution appeared to have a lot of good connections with the financial sector in the capital, where I'd find myself working over the coming years.

It was my ambition to obtain a Masters degree from a prestigious 'red brick' university, and where better than the original - the University of Liverpool. They offered a fantastic course with a focus on investment banking fundamentals. I also found them to have a diverse student population.

How did you fund your postgraduate study?

For a short period of time, I was working full time alongside a full-time Masters degree. As you can imagine this was quite intense and often involved watching lectures from 7-9am and then working a full day, before watching more lectures after work - and saying 'goodbye' to my weekends.

In addition to this, I was eligible for a reduced course fee of £9,000 through a university scholarship scheme. I obtained a postgraduate loan of £12,000 to add to the mountain of debt - but fortunately it really helped me.

What did the course teach you that your first degree did not?

As much as a mathematics degree can teach you, I found it to only provide me with the fundamentals and the tools needed to get into finance. Clearly, within this industry you need to be good with numbers - but maths will never teach you about the world of financial knowledge and jargon, which your average person wouldn't usually come across. My Masters was the perfect way to build my knowledge about financial markets and gain an understanding of investments, how the industry works and really break down specific topics in detail.

What finance jobs have you had since graduation?

Following my undergraduate degree in Bristol, I returned to Manchester and was discussing career plans with some close friends. I knew I wanted to get into finance and was fascinated with the stock market. I just didn't fully know how it worked.

A close friend put me in contact with her family friend who was relatively high up in a private bank. I was invited into the office to learn more about their operations and meet some employees. They discussed the types of roles to me and offered advice on the various routes to take. I was hopeful of getting onto their graduate scheme, which unfortunately had just ended around the time I was showing interest.

I kept faith and continued with my job search, and soon found the same company was hiring for a data analyst position. I immediately applied and was invited to multiple interviews before eventually securing the job.

I worked there for two years, where my role progressed to a portfolio analyst. This involved helping support the senior fund managers with their £500million multi-asset investment portfolios.

I then moved into a financial planning role for an IFA (independent financial adviser) before deciding to go back to university to study for a Masters.

Why are you looking to study a professional finance qualification?

You'd think that getting a Masters degree would be enough - but it soon became apparent this was not the case.

In addition to the professional qualifications I already hold, such as the IMC (Investment Management Certificate) Unit 1, the next one on the list is the CFA Institute's CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Level 1 qualification. This will further my industry knowledge and upon completion will mean that I'm legally competent, in conjunction with the IMC, to give investment advice and manage portfolios.

The CFA is one of the mostly highly regarded financial qualifications you can obtain and will give you instant credibility. Unfortunately, it's also one of the hardest. Thankfully, my university has offered me a scholarship to pay for it.

What are your career ambitions and how do you hope to achieve these?

My short-term objectives are to move to London, get settled with my new job and rapidly expand my network. I'm also going to spend the next year studying for the CFA Level 1.

In the next two to five years, I hope to progress in my role and land a promotion to take on more of a leadership role. Following this, it's always been a dream of mine to study in America, so I'm researching MBAs at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Longer term, I'm setting my sights on becoming a hedge fund manager where I can personally manage money with my own ideas. Who knows, if I dream hard enough maybe this could be as a part of my own company.

What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a finance career?

  • Plan - Before you set out your career path, do you research on what it is that interests you. As much as financial freedom might be a motivational factor, there's no point doing something you're not interested in. I can assure you that you won't enjoy it and you certainly won't excel in it. Once you have a plan, take one step at a time to achieve the job requirements - whether that's a qualification, experience or ability.
  • Be ambitious and confident - Working in finance isn't all about education and accolades. It's about being able to talk to people and be personable. Clients are at the forefront of any business activities, so you need to present yourself in the most professional way possible. It's important to have the perfect balance between knowledge and communication.
  • Expand your network - Follow the right people and organisations. The power of networking and putting yourself out there can go a long way. Attend industry specific networking events. Manchester/London Young Professionals is a good starting point and can be found on social media platforms such as Instagram. Follow relevant people and have a look at their LinkedIn profiles to see what they did to get there. Professional organisations such as the CFA Institute and the CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment) are always posting relevant content.
  • Keep up to date with current economic/political affairs - I like to start each weekday listening to the FT (Financial Times) News podcast, providing a 10-minute rundown of the latest and most relevant global events. In addition, I also follow Bloomberg and large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan. This is always useful when you're interviewing and having conversations with other industry professionals.

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