From the military to the London trading floor

Former Army Officer Laurence Whittingham joined Citi alongside graduate entrants and now works as a Vice President on their UK Corporate FX desk. He is the military lead to Citi’s UK HR teams, able to translate military training and expertise into the skills Citi are looking for from new hires.

“Having helped run Citi London’s military recruitment for the past four years, I have seen ex-military go into some of the most demanding roles on the trading floor and excel.”

I left the Army in 2015 after seven years with The Queen’s Royal Lancers. My time serving was varied and exciting, with two tours of Afghanistan, an exchange with the Australian Army and exercises across Europe and Canada to highlight a few of my experiences. I was always interested in financial services, having studied economics at university, and when I decided to leave the Army, my focus settled firmly on the industry.

At the time, there was a lot of interest in hiring ex-forces into the City, and I was lucky enough to join Citi on a structured ex-forces scheme that placed Service leavers onto the London trading floor. The scheme is based on diversity of thought; bringing people into the business willing to challenge the status quo and look at problems from a different angle to that of a typical business school graduate. After a short training period, I now deal with foreign exchange and advise on FX risk management for some of the bank’s largest corporate clients. It’s a challenging and exhilarating role that draws many parallels with my former life in the Army.

I am often asked how one transitions from the Forces to financial services, which skills have proved most useful and how to best position oneself for the top jobs. The answer is certainly not simple and primarily revolves around what sort of role you want.

I work in a front office job, dealing foreign exchange, structuring derivatives, and discussing how to manage FX exposures with multinational companies; for me, this meant starting at the bottom to learn my trade. While there are many naturally transferrable skills from the Army (teamwork, making decisions under pressure, initiative) if you want a technical role – you will need technical training.

This can put many Service leavers off applying for schemes like Citi’s, opting instead for more typical ex-military roles like management consultancy and project management. However, I would argue that many write themselves off unnecessarily. Having helped run Citi London’s military recruitment for the past four years, I have seen ex-military go into some of the most demanding roles on the trading floor and excel.

Leaving the Forces is a scary process. The civilian job market can be incredibly daunting, but you must be willing to take a risk and push yourself out of your comfort zone to reach the top jobs.

There are ways to make this process easier, such as using your resettlement grant or learning credits to study for an industry-recognised qualification, like the Investment Management Certificate or attending one of the many insight days hosted by banks and financial service companies. You would not accept second best in the military, so don’t contemplate it in your new civilian career; push yourself and be confident that you have the skillset to succeed, even if that means retraining.

Citi is hosting their Military Insight Event on 25th August – an event for serving and ex-military personnel who are interested in a career with a global financial institution.

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