It wasn’t just the prospect of lunchtime jogs in glorious, green fields that attracted Nick Apps and Simon Feaver to Nationwide’s Wiltshire headquarters. Although, they’re certainly a bonus.. Here, two former officers discuss their career as Project Managers in Financial Services.
Initially, neither Nick Apps or Simon Feaver considered Financial Services as a suitable career prospect in their transition. Both thought it would focus purely on Finances and budgetary skills, and that living in London, the country’s monetary heartland, was an inevitability.
This was before they learnt more about Nationwide’s need for Project Managers, and more importantly, its growing commitment to supporting ex-military in finding employment.
As well as the diverse number of areas they could get involved in, they were also assured of swapping the skyscrapers and claustrophobia of Canary Wharf for the green fields of Wiltshire countryside, as Nationwide’s main headquarters are based just outside Swindon.
It may surprise you to know that within project management at Nationwide you won’t just be involved in projects of a finance and banking nature – there is also scope to be involved in:
- IT infrastructure
- Business change
- HR process management
- Property management
As Simon points out though it’s a ‘fast paced environment’ so the above is by no means an exclusive list. Simon says: “It’s also technically challenging as institutions move into digital banking.”
However, in a highly regulated environment Nationwide’s main focus is to meet customers’ requirements.
Simon says: “As a Project manager you plan to an extent that wasn’t there in military – the appetite for risk is at the lower end of scale.”
He adds: Projects often have a short shelf life as the business may decide it doesn’t stack up in military terms. That was an awakening for me in the civilian world – that the value of a project is measured in pounds and pence.”
Where Simon and Nick do see similarities between Nationwide and the military, is in their core values.
Nick says: “The core cultural values are very similar to the military’s – pride, putting the customer first, and pushing for responsibility and accountability.”
He adds: “The Society (Nationwide) engages with its workforce and members, and ensures a healthy work/life balance for employees. As long as you’re doing your core job no one’s bothered by flexible working hours.”
The project manager is responsible for pulling a team together. Simon says: “Just as in the military, you’re the spider at the centre of the web – you bring people together from a number of departments and build and mange their output. There are also the conflicting challenges of bringing people from different backgrounds together, as well as coordinating time zones.”
Both Nick and Simon are keen to emphasise that previous project management experience is not imperative.
Nick says: “I found Prince useful, in terms of being able to speak the language but it wasn’t a barrier to entry. When you’ve left the Services you may need to work a bit harder in the initial stages but organisations are increasingly waking up to the value of hiring ex-military.”
Simon adds: “The key lesson to learn, is that things will go wrong so it’s important to have control, know what the risks and issues are, and have a contingency plan in place. A good manager will communicate effectively to the rest of the team.”
There are also opportunities to get experience across the board of project management – although there are probably areas you’ll prefer as you progress, or feel more suited to.