In this post, we’re excited to bring you an interview with an exceptional Credit Suisse employee, Andrew O’Flaherty, who shares the different ways he helps empower young BAME people to kickstart their careers in banking. As a Vice President in the Special Situations and Leveraged Finance team in London, Andrew recently featured on the EMPower 2022 Top 100 Future Leaders List – but his journey hasn’t been completely smooth.
If you’ve ever thought a certain path is closed to you because you did the ‘wrong’ degree, or you’ve suffered a setback that has knocked your confidence, read on! Andrew’s story will change your mind.
Can you describe your journey into your current role?
After graduating from Oxford University with a BA in Modern History and English, I completed an MA in International Relations, with a specialism in Political Economy. Although my initial degree wasn’t finance-related, my MA enabled me to develop my interest in corporate finance through my thesis on Exxon Mobil.
For the next two years, from 2015-16, I worked in various internships and part-time roles, learning the ropes of FinTech and investing. Between 2017-2020 I worked in equity research, gaining expertise in this field through writing research, but not investing directly. Having built up my skills and experience I was ready to move forward, and in 2021 I got a job at Credit Suisse on the trading floor working in Special Situations, Private Finance and Leveraged Loans.
What are the three biggest challenges you faced navigating your career to date?
The first challenge was getting into the industry coming from a non-finance background and after a bunch of failed numeracy tests that stopped me getting internships!
The big challenge I’m currently facing is ‘the good being the enemy of the great’. By that I mean that when you reach stability in your career you can become complacent in that comfort. You need to stay focused to keep excelling.
Accepting that the workplace can be an institution that doesn’t always cater to all your wants or dreams is an important lesson. You need to understand that this is ok and learn how to navigate it so you can reach your individual goals.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I solved the first challenge by going big! I spoke to more people, applied for more jobs and learned not to take rejection personally or become disheartened if things didn’t work out as I’d hoped.
The other two challenges I’m still working on!
Discuss the biggest highlights or milestones of your career so far
Moving from equity research to trading was a big deal for me. Handling the steep learning curve of a move to a new asset class, and going from a research-only analyst to the trading floor, was a massive change and I’m proud of how I tackled it.
Early in my career I worked with a large fund that folded. Rather counterintuitively, this was a big lesson and important experience in grounding myself. It could have been the point where I gave up, but instead I kept going.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with imposter syndrome?
Try to engage with the facts about how you stack up on your metrics and performance alone. Weed out internal biases you may have based on your identity versus others – be objective when dealing with facts about your performance and have confidence in your abilities.
Remember the importance of having confidence in your own perspective and experience. There are so many ideas you may have that others don’t see, and that counts for a lot.
Are you a part of any volunteering/mentoring schemes at work? If yes, please name and explain your role/experience within this
Yes, I love giving a hand up to people who are just starting out and supporting colleagues. These networks and initiatives have also been great for me, giving me a space to share experiences, bounce ideas around and build relationships within the industry. As a mentee on Credit Suisse’s Black Talent initiative, I’ve benefited from the advice, wisdom and friendship of colleagues in more senior positions.
To give back, I’m a Steps to Success Scholarship Program Mentor and I sponsor the 10,000 Black Interns initiative, both of which help young people from underrepresented communities gain experience in banking. I’m also a member of the BAME network where I volunteer to help with entry level talent and recruiting, and do various other activities to support colleagues, like working with the Black Talent Program.
Do you take any daily actions to help change the Black narrative within or outside your establishment?
Yes, definitely. One practical thing I make sure to do is always being available for campus recruiting of young, diverse people. You might be really busy but we’ve just got to be completely accessible to diverse youth, so this is a priority for me. Everyone needs to be a mentor and mentee!
On a more abstract level, I think the most powerful way to change the narrative is just to try to be excellent, and to stay humble within that. Societal preconceptions have historically equated Black success with musicians, actors and athletes. I think it’s important for black people to be visible and engaged not just in those professions but in a whole range of other fields.
Trying to be pioneering is no bad thing!