From Soldier to Risk Manager, by Beth Spencer, European Reputational Risk Manager at HSBC

Beth Spencer served for nine years as an Army Intelligence Officer, before leaving to work in Risk Management.

Why did you decide to leave the Army?
I had done everything I wanted in the Army, and needed fresh challenges. I was interested in working in Risk Management and Communications. Plus I had recently married another officer, and it is difficult to find suitable postings together in the same location every two years.

What steps did you take as part of your transition?
The CTP training really helped me, especially to write an effective CV. I also joined the OA, to access job opportunities and understand the career options available to former officers.

How did you get your first job after leaving the Army?
Soon after leaving the Army I saw a job advertised in the OA newsletter to work for Lehman Brothers as a Threat Assessment ‎ Manager. The role focused on Corporate Security; establishing and managing guarding contracts; designing access controls; personal protection and travel advice.

After applying, I got an interview and then was offered the job. I later discovered I had been really lucky, because the internal recruiter was looking for candidates with experiences outside of the financial sector when they saw my CV.

How did you gain new skills and experiences?
I wanted to work in different areas, but I needed to first get my foot in the door. While at Lehman Brothers, I consciously went beyond working in traditional corporate security. I volunteered to be involved with other projects, which gave me experience in other departments.

How did your approach help you develop your career?
This approach meant I could adapt to the changing work environment caused by the 2008 financial crash, when Lehman’s Brothers went into administration. After going on maternity leave, I secured a job with a niche IT company, focused on defence procurement.

Three and a half years later, I became Director Communications at the Army Families Federation. This drew directly on the marketing experiences I had gained at Lehman Brothers, working on those extra projects.

Tell me about your career at HSBC
In June 2016 I joined HSBC, and I was recently promoted to Head of European Reputational Risk.

HSBC champions flexible working, which is vital for me as the wife of a serving officer and a mother. The flexibility varies depending on the role and situation, but there can be a possibility to job share, work different hours or work from home. The bank is also dynamic with job opportunities across the business, and around the globe.

What is Risk Management?
Risk Management is understanding the external and internal environment to better protect the bank from risks that could damage its reputation. On a practical level, this usually involves completing risk assessments of customers, products, services and projects.

Managing risk is not limited to regulatory matters. PR is also important, because a bank can lose business due to a poor reputation. As a consequence, the two biggest stakeholders are the regulators and the media, and I often balance the two.

Why do people from the military excellent at working in Risk Management?
The Armed Forces has many crossovers with Risk Management. Risk is integral to military life, and you become effective at double consequence decision making. You are often in a situation where all plans have negative outcomes, and you must choose the one with the least. You are also experienced at doing this in high-pressured situations, which can be unfamiliar for people without military experience.

In addition, I used to regularly brief the commanding officer, giving reports that were important but often not positive. This experience of presenting complex cases has been essential for my jobs in Finance.

What other military skills have helped with your career?
Having been an officer, I was already experienced at leading teams and taking responsibility. I had also learnt to be an effective communicator with people from all sorts of backgrounds. People from the Armed Forces also have meticulous attention to detail.

What are Insight Days?
They involve a series of presentations and discussions, so you can understand the industry and learn about different careers. Most importantly, you get vital insight into the company’s culture, so you can immediately see if you will be a good fit. Don’t panic if you find that it does not suit your personality, better to discover this before committing to a career in the industry. Instead, use it as motivation to find Insight Days in other industries.

What advice would you give to people looking for new careers after leaving the Armed Forces?
Be pragmatic, you might need to take a junior role, which you may not exactly what. However, it could get your foot in the door, and be a stepping stone to a better opportunity. You can give yourself short, medium and long term plans. However, don’t be afraid to change them as you gain industry insight.

Develop your softer skills. The direct authoritative approach is often a barrier to building good working relationships outside the Armed Forces. Decide what outcome you want from a situation, and then adapt your attitude based on people’s feedback. Don’t be defensive if someone criticises your behaviour – learn from it.

Build your network by joining LinkedIn and attending Insight Days. Also, find a business mentor, preferably someone who has already gone on a similar journey so you can learn from their experiences.

HSBC UK Military Recruitment Scheme Insight Events

HSBC is likely to open a 2019 Military Recruitment Scheme intake in November 2018.