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Why more firms than ever have joined the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme

Finding graduates with “hunger, talent, the confidence to challenge and question”- why more firms than ever have joined the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme…

London is often the first-choice destination for those looking to launch careers in finance, but a consortium of forward-thinking Welsh businesses are investing in a flagship financial graduate programme to make the country’s future financial talent an offer they can’t refuse.

Designed and delivered by the Welsh Financial Services Forum and participating employers, the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme exists to create a graduate talent pool of elite industry professionals by encouraging graduates to recognise the returns careers in the Welsh finance sector can offer.

Over a two-year period, graduates are given the chance to develop a unique level of industry insight as they rotate through a series of structured work placements, while undertaking additional academic training. The result is a pipeline of work-ready new talent with proven experience in areas such as risk, compliance, innovation, account management and finance, and a customised MSc in Financial Services Management delivered by University of South Wales on graduation.

Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “The financial services sector is key to the Welsh economy and will help to boost growth and jobs. With the support of EU funding, the Welsh Financial Graduate Programme is helping to develop and retain talent within the sector, allowing more graduates to pursue professional careers here in Wales.

“The programme also ensures Welsh businesses have access to the highly-skilled graduates they need while incentivising new businesses to establish themselves here.”

This September, sees the launch of the third incarnation of the two-year scheme with 12 employers now signed up to capitalise on the pioneering programme.

To date, the programme has recruited and developed more than 70 graduates, 90% of whom have secured permanent roles with participating companies. The first version of the scheme was launched in 2013 as a Welsh Government-backed pilot programme; £2.4m of EU funding has since being invested to expand the programme.

Sandra Busby, managing director of Welsh Financial Services Forum, which manages the programme, said: “Financial services represent one of Wales’ fastest growing sectors. As many of the businesses driving the industry are members of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, we understand future growth is dependent on attracting and retaining highly skilled graduates.

“The graduate programme is proof that providing a desirable route into rewarding career paths is key to creating the high calibre talent pool the industry needs. Addressing the UK-wide skills gap places Wales at the forefront of the sector and demonstrates that London doesn’t hold a monopoly when it comes to careers in finance.”

Participating companies include some of Wales’ largest financial organisations and a growing number of ambitious home-grown SMEs including: Admiral Group, Atradius, Composite Legal Expenses, DS Smith, Finance Wales, GM Financial, Hodge Bank, Legal & General Investment Management, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, Optimum Credit Ltd, Principality Building Society, and V12 Retail Finance.

Here they tell us why they’re part of the Graduate Scheme.

Admiral Group:

A founder member of the consortium, Admiral Group has recruited seven graduates since the programme was launched in 2013.

Admiral Group’s graduate programme manager Leigh Manley, said: “Graduates always bring a fresh perspective to the way we operate and they often come armed with an enthusiasm and energy that allows them to question what we do. We love that at Admiral.

“The experience graduates gain through visiting organisations with different products, cultures and approaches allows them the chance to assess their skills and understand the work to which they are best suited.”


Trade credit insurer Atradius played a key role in the creation of the initial pilot of the graduate programme. To date the company has recruited and retained 10 graduates at the company’s UK headquarters in Cardiff Bay.

Anne Middleton, head of HR at Atradius, said: “In particular, graduates bring new ideas from academia, such as the importance new technology will continue to have for our sector. Crucially they have the confidence to ask questions and challenge current practices.

“This fresh insight from bright newcomers is welcomed by our long-serving colleagues. Our organisation thrives on the sharing of experience and knowledge built up over many years coupled with the learning and questions from our graduates.”

Composite Legal Expenses:

First launched in 1996, Composite Legal Expenses has established itself as one of the UK’s leading providers of legal expenses insurance, legal advice and claims handling service.

Tim Mullin, head of product development at Composite Legal Expenses, said: “The programme has helped us maintain a vibrant and diverse place to work with each graduate bringing their own unique personalities and skills. It has also allowed us to link into and learn from the academic side of the programme.

“Crucially, the scheme offers graduates a unique opportunity to gain experience from up to four different employers over a two-year period, invaluable when it comes to applying for permanent roles in the financial services sector. As a result, graduates enter the workplace through a phased approach from full time education through the academic lead programme into permanent employment.”

Finance Wales:

Finance Wales was set up in 2001 to invest in Welsh SMEs. Operating from offices in Cardiff, Llanelli, Newtown and St Asaph, Finance Wales can invest from £1,000 to £3m via a range of loans options. Since joining in 2015, the investor has retained three graduates through the programme.

David Staziker, investment director at Finance Wales, said: “Financial services are a high growth sector in Wales. We have good infrastructure and lower housing costs than other financial bases like London. There’s also a healthy working partnership between different financial services companies. We come together to help attract high quality employees to the area.

“The scheme puts us in touch with the investment professionals of the future. We can work with talented people who are interested in our sector and offer them the training they need to develop whilst helping to drive the company forward. Over a six-month placement we’re really able to get to know graduates and assess their true potential.

“Research conducted by graduates on the scheme has a real benefit to us and highlight possible areas for development – both as a business and the training we can offer existing and future staff.”

GM Financial:

GM Financial is the wholly-owned captive finance subsidiary of General Motors. A co-founder of the Graduate scheme, the company has hired five graduates since the creation of the initial pilot programme.

Sue Gunning, GM Financial’s HR director for the UK, Sweden and Ireland, said: “The Cardiff city region is an academic centre of excellence. We have top-rated universities and business schools providing technical abilities that we are looking for in financial and professional services. Wales also has one of the largest foreign and mature student populations of any UK university, thus providing language and cultural skills required for a European business.

“The programme offers candidates the highly-attractive chance to gain real experience with quality employers and help drive visibility of career opportunities in Wales and the financial services sector, while offering individual mentoring and training and a marketable vocational post-graduate qualification.”

Hodge Bank:

Since joining the programme in 2015, Cardiff-based Hodge Bank have hired three graduates. David Landen, Finance Director of Hodge Bank, said: “The finance sector in Wales is thriving, with major Welsh and national employers supporting thousands of jobs across the region. As the only bank with its headquarters in Wales this programme is key to identifying future talent and supports our commitment to retaining and developing local graduates.

“Graduates taking part in the programme benefit from exposure across a range of sectors and businesses across Wales. This helps to instil confidence, deep knowledge across a range of different organisations, and crucially transferrable skills that prove attractive to future employers.”

Legal & General Investment Management:

The financial services giant has joined the scheme for the first time – graduates joining the 2017 cohort will have the opportunity to gain experience working as part of the Legal & General’s 1,500-strong Cardiff-based workforce.

Head of financial operations at Legal & General Investment Management, John Craven, said: “The sector in Wales continues to expand and I’m excited by the growing diversity and variety it offers to those who have chosen to build a career here.

“The scheme provides many benefits, not least the opportunity to work with the high-calibre, enthusiastic graduates who have been selected to participate in the programme. Additionally, the programme will allow Legal & General to play its part in nurturing the next generation of leaders for Wales’ financial services sector.”

LexisNexis® Risk Solutions:

Also joining the programme for the first time is leading information provider for the risk management industry, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions. The multinational first established a presence in Wales in 2014 following the acquisition of Cardiff-based, Tracesmart Ltd.

Cherim Trew, risk and compliance manager for LexisNexis®, said: “Our participation offers graduates exposure to a global business which is part of a FTSE 100 organisation [RELX Group], with further opportunities to develop an international career in the technology and information solutions market.

“We hope our participation in the scheme results in our brand becoming more widely recognised as an employer of choice for talented graduates in all disciplines. Additionally, the scheme offers an opportunity for us to develop a pipeline of talent to support our strategic aims.”


One of the programme’s founding employers, Principality Building Society has recruited and retained five graduates to-date via the scheme. Mike Fenton, Senior Manager for Leadership and Talent Development at Principality Building Society, said: “The energy, enthusiasm and drive we see exhibited by the graduates placed with us never ceases to amaze me. This programme offers young people the opportunity to gain financial services experience across a wide spectrum of disciplines in a fast-growing business environment.

“We view the programme as a key component of our talent growth plans and the graduates have exceeded our expectations in the quality of work they’ve produced and their positive attitude. It is therefore no surprise that we have retained five graduates in the last four years and are proud to be a founder member of the scheme.

“The scheme is also an excellent way to share best practice and build relationships with like-minded businesses.”

Optimum Credit Ltd:

Cardiff-based second charge mortgage provider, Optimum Credit, has recruited two graduates since it first joined the programme in September 2015.

Helen Hartshorn, head of HR, said: “We have ambitious growth plans for the future, and believe the programme is a great source of potential future employees for the company.

“We believe the programme is invaluable in developing a talent pool for Welsh-based financial services organisations, and for helping to meet our recruitment needs, many of which can be quite specialist.

“These talented individuals bring a real sense of energy and hunger to do a fantastic job – they tend to relish everything that’s sent their way and it’s great to see them implement the theory they have picked up from the MSc studies in a real-life environment.”

V12 Retail Finance:

This year V12 Retail Finance will join the graduate scheme. Since being acquired by Secure Trust Bank Group in 2013 the firm, which provides retail point of sale finance for more than 2,000 retailers, has grown from just under 30 staff to a 190-strong Cardiff-based team.

Hannah Poulton, marketing and communications director at V12 Retail Finance, said: “Taking part in the scheme gives us the opportunity to benefit from new talent coming in to our organisation, with enthusiasm, a positive outlook and lots of recent study experience in subjects that can help our business.

“The fact that the placements are project type roles means that we will be able to have someone focusing on a particular task or challenge which is going to be really important in taking our business forward.

“The programme also gives us the chance to become involved with a great consortium of companies locally. V12 is growing rapidly so it’s great for us to be able to get involved in something like this with our peers.”