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Memory bank

When I was asked to write this piece and came to think about it I could not believe that I have been in financial services for more than 25 years.

I started my career with Natwest bank straight from school before I even knew my A-level results, as the most junior clerk. I can remember that I started work on Monday August 2, 1982.

How can I remember this so accurately? After I had the various interviews for the job I received a very nice letter confirming my terms and asking when I would like to start. I thought that I would like some time off after my A levels and wrote back accepting the offer and confirming that I would like to start on August 1.

A few days later I received confirmation of my appointment to the staff of the Brislington branch in Bristol. In addition, they said banking hours were Monday to Friday. As August 1 was a Sunday, perhaps it would be better if I turned up at 10am on Monday, August 2 instead.

I stayed with Natwest for a couple of years but soon realised that this was not for me. What many of you younger readers may not appreciate was that in those days we only had one computer in the branch and that was the size of a small desk that you sat at. As a junior clerk it was my job to input various information onto this computer but I had never learnt to type at school and therefore this proved to be a slow process.

My duties also included printing cheque books for customers and sending out statements when they arrived at the branch. In addition, one particularly interesting role was what was known as “calling back the rems”. This involved one clerk sitting with a computer printout which confirmed the amount in figures for a pile of cheques (more than 500 per day). Another clerk then went though the pile of cheques saying the amount in words so that the clerk with the printout could check this and together we could confirm that the amount in words on the cheques matched the amount in figures. I spent many happy hours doing that.

I quickly decided that this type of banking was not for me, and therefore went to work for a merchant bank in Bristol. From there, I prog-ressed into stock broking and fund management before finally moving into my current research role.

Like many in financial services, I can’t say that I planned my progression through the industry but as I do not have a degree I have always strived to pass professional qualifications in order to progress up the ladder.

I enjoy my current research function as the world of financial services is always changing. Recently, for example, I have been involved in looking at how the risk profile of a client is best determined using psychometric assessments and how to link this with the investment that the client is recommended.

What lessons have I learnt in the past 25 years?

Well, I guess one is that in terms of work it is not possible to be happy all of the time but provided that in your work you are not unhappy then you have probably cracked it.

I also always remember a senior stockbroker that I worked for in the 1980s telling me that the majority of his business was conducted on the golf course and if I wanted to progress in stock broking then I should learn how to play and join a local club (good advice as it turned out).

He also said that at the end of the day if you know 5 per cent more than the other man then you are the expert – again good advice.

Although I would add my pearl of wisdom to this and say if you don’t know the answer to a question be honest and say so, but always say that you will find out the answer and get back to the person asking the question as soon as you have it. In my experience people don’t mind this approach but everybody hates being misled.

Finally, what is the best thing that I have gained from my career? Well, I met my wife at work. Need I say more?

Andrew Gadd is head of research at the Lighthouse Group


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