From the Royal Navy to Wellington Management
James Bradbury is a Managing Director of Wellington Management International, an asset management firm managing over $1.4 trillion of client assets, with offices in over 60 countries. James is also a member of the Veterans Workstream for the Diversity Project, a cross-company initiative championing a more inclusive culture within the investment and savings industry.
Tell us about your experiences of transitioning from the Royal Navy.
I loved the Navy, but even when I joined, I thought it likely that after a few years I’d want to try something else. As I reached the 6-year boundary in my service, I was beginning to think about interesting civilian careers and settled on the City of London as an area that I wanted to explore.
I also wanted a more settled lifestyle in preparation for starting a family.
I did a two-day course in the dockyard before I left, which had helped me to write a CV, but as someone who wanted to pursue a career in the City, I soon realised I needed to build contacts able to provide specialist advice. “The List” was particularly useful. I bought their directory and went down the list of all the financial institutions and emailed or called everyone on The List.
I met up with around 25 people from the directory, so I was able to build my network quickly. I spoke to the OA and was put in touch with a Veteran Recruiter who spent time talking to me about why veterans are successful in the City, where he had seen success and why he believed I would be as successful. Having arrived at the meeting unsure what to do next, I left on top of the world feeling confident and energised. That meeting left an indelible impression on me.
What challenges did you encounter?
On leaving the Navy, I didn’t understand the financial markets, which was a bit of challenge for a future career in the City! In 2005 there wasn’t the variety of programmes or internships open to veterans that there are now. However, there was a network of people who were willing to help; you just needed to find it. London’s defence community was a huge support. What amazed me was how willing and supportive that network was in helping me understand the different roles across the City and advise me on the most suitable roles for me. That experience has left me wanting to help others on the same path.
What route did you take to your current role?
Initially, it was easier to market myself as a project manager, so my first civilian role was within the operations team of Goldman Sachs. It was an amazing experience, and I was lucky enough to spend time in Beijing, Tokyo and Bengaluru (running a team in India for 6 months). However, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t an operations manager, firstly I was never a whizz in excel and secondly, I felt my skillset leant itself to client-facing roles. I recognised early on that I really enjoyed the conversations with clients and the desire to find and develop solutions. Ultimately, I felt that aligning my skills with the right role would be a better both for me and for the firm.
I moved into the Client Services team of Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2007, a role that developed into a sales role over a few years, with me becoming the UK insurance salesperson. I left Goldman Sachs in 2015 and moved to Wellington, where I have been since. My sales role has since expanded to include UK insurance, UK DC (Defined Contributions Pensions) and UK Defined Benefit Pensions.
What skills were you able to transfer from your time in Service?
The military gave me the confidence and self-awareness no other occupation provides. It puts you under such pressure that you learn to understand yourself and trust yourself under difficult circumstances. Experience of presenting military briefings taught me to never go into a meeting underprepared, if you are going to have a meaningful conversation, you need to have done your research to be on top of your brief.
In the Navy, you plan, you get your charts ready, the detail is paramount, and you set everything up so that when you leave “the side,” you execute your plan, keeping the ship safe and the captain informed. In civilian life, before I go into a conversation with clients, I have the same mindset. I plan, I then have the structure of the meeting in my head so that I can brief my colleagues and guide the meeting to the place I want it to go, providing the right information at the right time to facilitate the right outcome.
Did you have to undertake any additional training or qualifications?
As part of my role, you must be accredited by the FCA, so I completed an Investment Management Certificate (IMC). This professional qualification allows you to be an advisor to clients. It’s a two-exam course run by the CFA society so anyone wanting to go into client-facing roles in asset/financial management will need to complete it. This can often be sponsored by the company you are working for; however, it is worth considering for veterans looking to move into asset management to utilise an ELC to gain the IMC as it makes applicants stand out from the crowd, showing their commitment to the industry.
Other than that, I undertook a huge amount of reading to get to grips with the financial markets and build up my professional awareness to contribute to discussions with my peers, some of whom had been in the industry for 20 years. There was a lot of personal research, along with a healthy dose of being thrown in at the deep end!
What are the drivers for recruiting from the former military talent pool?
It’s not only that military people tend to be good under pressure, organised, able to speak to people from all different levels and get stuff done well and to tight deadlines, but they also tend to be comfortable in their own skin and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. All these skills stand military people in good stead in their new careers. This is increasingly being recognised by employers in the City – hence why we’ve seen so many internships and vet orientated programmes across the finance industry.
What skills does Wellington Management International look for when hiring?
Overarching everything is the traits and personality of the person. We are looking for a diverse group of people from every strata of society, and veterans are part of this. We can train the professional skills, we can train people how to understand the markets and how to be a client services manager, portfolio manager or compliance professional, but we want people who can add value, and communicate and work as part of a strong team, while having the confidence to submit their own opinion to group discussions. These qualities and skills will enable them to develop further.
It really leaps out to me in an interview when people have really done their research and can talk meaningfully about what’s going on in the markets. It shows commitment to the industry, and if a candidate is interested and enjoys learning, they will do well in the industry.
What piece of advice would you give to officers looking to develop their civilian careers?
When you are in the military, your career path is chosen for you, but when you embark on a civilian career, the person that cares the most about your career is you. Trying to find your right pathway, even after gaining a role in civilian life, is very much self-driven, with the onus on you to manage your own progress.
It’s a scary thing to leave the military and move into an institution not knowing what the rules of engagement are and how to network and build a career; rely on the skills you have learned to help you develop a strong network that you can rely on as you build a successful long-term career.
Like me, you will probably have a good sense of yourself from your military career. Be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Work on your weaknesses but really concentrate on your strengths when you are forging a career, as it is your strengths that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Tell us about The Diversity Project
The Diversity Project is a cross-company initiative championing a more inclusive culture within the savings and investment industry. It was set up in 2016 by Baroness Helena Morrissey and a group of leaders from the industry and aims to achieve diversity across all dimensions, including gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, LGBTI+, veterans, age and disability.
I have been involved in veteran recruitment through my work at Goldman Sachs and Wellington, so I became involved with the Military Veterans Workstream of The Diversity Project. We work to raise awareness of the skillset and experience that veterans can bring to the City by running flagship speaker events and conferences that bring together veteran speakers and HR professionals.
How can Veterans find out more about opportunities at Wellington?
Wellington run several workshops with the OA to provide advice to veterans looking to develop a career in Finance. The next workshop will be held in May, but you can also find current opportunities with Wellington advertised on the OA Jobs Board. Or alternatively, just email us!