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Our Graduate Underwriter Jacob talks to ‘The Intermediary’ about his path into specialist finance

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

First Published 05/01/23

"Baptism of Fire - my first 100 days in the world of property finance…"

"So, what now?”

It was a question I knew had been coming - a question I had repeated to myself for months leading up to my university graduation and now, in the absence of a role falling into my lap with a six-figure salary, one that I finally had to address.

It was clear from the research I’d undertaken before going to university that a high percentage of graduates from my course went straight into employment, many with the company they had spent their placement with. This 4-year business management degree, with a year in industry, had been my cunning plan to head off the “what now” question.

It was a plan that probably would have worked, but with the emergence of the first global pandemic in a century just as I came to the end of my second year, it was sadly not to be. With Covid went my placement; bringing undergrads on board for work experience was, understandably, not really a priority for most companies.

With limited options I decided “key worker status” was the way to go and so, through the second half of 2020 I delivered a lot of pizzas before progressing to a delivery van for one of the big supermarkets in early 2021. Not quite the desk at one of the big 4 I’d hoped for, but some valuable customer service experience (and a few extra pounds) for my final year of study.

So, by the end of last summer, after lots of time spent studying, some real-world experience at the sharp end of a pandemic and armed with a first-class degree I set my sights on graduate schemes in the management consultancy sector. Cue a flurry of job applications, a gauntlet of online assessments, reaction speed tests (yes, really), scenario-based questions, mathematics problems, and ‘nonverbal questions’ that reminded me of my 11+ test. These were followed by video interviews of pre-recorded questions, with each step bringing you a little nearer to an in-person interview online.

Whilst in the middle of this process, following a lengthy assessment at a centre in the city, I ended up meeting my father and his colleagues in the pub for a much-needed beer. Having completed what felt like a full day’s work in the hope of being deemed worthy of an on-line interview, chatting face to face with directors and senior personnel was a welcome change.

The result of this chance meeting was a quick review of my CV, an invite to an interview which took place over a meal the following week, and an offer to join Saxon on a temporary basis whilst I continued to push for a graduate role. No involvement from my Dad, no psychometric profiling, no pre-recorded video interviews, just an honest in-person assessment of what I could contribute to the business.

So, on the 21st of September, I boarded my first train to Blackfriars from Kent blissfully unaware that just two days later Kwasi Kwarteng would deliver his “Growth Plan” mini budget. Anyone who’s read this far will know exactly what happens next, and I started to fear that my first month could be my last…

Fortunately, despite briefly being afforded Jonah status by the team, a strong pipeline kept us busy. New enquiries did drop away quite significantly for a short period but bounced back strongly throughout the rest of the autumn, resulting in a good month for completions in December and a strong pipeline going into January.

I’ve also been able to take on a variety of tasks. I’ve helped to set up and run an updated CRM system to track our pipeline. I’m creating adverts for the web, print and social media having learned Google Web Designer and Photoshop. I’m creating and modifying terms to ensure they meet our various funder requirements and producing DIPs on new deals. On top of this I’m assisting in a refresh of our website both in terms of design and content, helping to create email campaigns using Mailchimp, learning to underwrite, and much more besides.

I’m in the office 4 days a week (when the trains allow) and there is no substitute for this experience. I’m learning from a vastly experienced team and although I’ve only just got 100 days under my belt it’s also becoming clear to me that the specialist finance industry is innovative, customer focused and impressively robust. It’s an exciting place to be.

Of course, I have much more to learn but as can be seen above it’s not just a one-way street - I offer Saxon Trust a skillset which they would previously have had to outsource. Ultimately, it’s great working in the city for a dynamic and progressive lender. My role is more diverse than I ever anticipated, and I feel like I can make a real contribution to the team’s continued success. The highly paid consultancy role will have to wait for now. Here’s to the next 100 days and beyond!



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