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Words such as risk, culture, crisis and resilience are very common in nowadays world and they tend to be even more common when dealing with the financial world. On March 8th 2019, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Chris Westcott who gave us his perspective about these words and their applications to our MSc in Finance and Banking students.

 

Mr. Westcott has over 30 years of experience in the banking industry, most of them spent as a treasury risk manager. He held senior positions both at Nat West and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Some of his responsibilities included developing in house treasury functions post acquisition and being the Basel 3 program director for RBS. He is now a full-time lecturer.

 

When speaking with Mr. Westcott, we had the chance to contextualize the words risk, failure, resilience and culture in a completely different sphere. He said: “I have been working for years within the banking sector where people are generally rewarded for their ability to generate money. I was a treasurer and risk manager, so I had to ensure this was achieved within the right control framework and the company didn’t finish-up by losing money instead ”. This approach to see things made him aware that students who want to enter the banking world must develop the following characteristics:

 

1. They must not fear failure.

2. They must develop a certain degree of resilience.

3. They must value the importance of soft skills.

 

According to Mr. Westcott, failure is the moment from which we could learn the most, so fearing it is not constructive. In his experience, a significant problem with the banking sector is that people are not recognised for reporting problems. There is a culture completely against doing it, it is even penalized sometimes, and this is probably one of the reasons some of the  mistakes leading to the banking crisis keep repeating themselves. The banking culture does not incentivize bankers to learn from failure. Therefore, students should start appreciating the benefit of learning from unsuccessful situations while they are still in the classroom because there are no tragic consequences in failing there and there is plenty of room for learning from that.

 

Secondly, students should learn how to build a certain degree of personal resilience. They will be constantly put under pressure even before they even enter the banking world. In fact, they will face an incredibly high degree of competitiveness first to obtain a job in banking and then they will feel a high degree of pressure in their every day job. For this reason, they must learn to be able to face these challenges rationally and be aware that if they give  100% then that is all they can do for the company even if people will keep pressuring them endlessly.

 

Lastly, especially in the most technical roles within the banking sector, students tend to think that acquiring the technical tools is everything. They need to realize that acquiring the technical tools is just the beginning. They will need to work on their soft skills to be able to properly communicate their results and ideas and influence  people. “I always tell students that knowing the right answer is 10% of the task and the other 90% is how you persuade or influence people to agree with you .”

 

Chris Westcott challenging our MSc in Finance and Banking students

 

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