I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to visit McInroy & Wood, a Personal Investment Management company, to get a sense of what they do on a day-to-day basis. The organisation, based in Haddington, takes on Financial Services students, and is a prime example of the kind of organisation a Foundation Apprentice in this subject area may end up working in. Therefore we thought it was the perfect opportunity to give students considering undertaking the Foundation Apprenticeship in Financial Services the chance to see what they may experience on the course.
My visit began by walking up the grand driveway to McInroy & Wood’s offices. The company has locations in Harrogate and London, but Haddington is its main headquarters. The building itself is incredibly beautiful and modern, with large windows and a stone exterior that is very inviting. Once I arrived I was warmly welcomed by the staff, including Nicci Lawler, Operations Manager at McInroy & Wood. My lasting impression of the workplace is how incredibly friendly everyone was; I really got the sense that everyone enjoyed their job.
Once I had arrived, I sat down with Nicci to ask her a couple of questions about the company. From this, I learnt that McInroy & Wood focuses on investing money for long-term growth. This can be for individuals and families, pensions, trusts, and companies. They grow money so that their clients have long-term growth of their finances. Nicci’s role involves looking after her team and building their knowledge of the systems in place to ensure everything runs smoothly, as working with other people’s finances requires a significant amount of knowledge and attention to detail. The organisation itself, I learnt, has grown significantly over the years, now reaching 54 members of staff, 46 of whom are based in Haddington. One main focus of McInroy & Wood appears to be work-life balance. it is important to the organisation that all members of staff take care of themselves; there is a shower, as some members of staff like to go for a walk or run during their lunch break. I asked Nicci about the staff at McInroy & Wood, and she responded that the company is made up of individuals from many different industries; they don’t necessarily have degrees in finance, nor do they have to have a degree at all. As long as staff show a willingness to learn, they are happy to have them on board.
Nicci then gave me a tour of the offices, which were incredibly open and light, creating a really nice atmosphere to work in. I asked her how she felt about having Foundation Apprentice students in the office. She stated that the whole company had been incredibly impressed by the young people they have had working for them, as they’ve come in ready to learn and therefore have integrated well into the staff, who look forward to the apprentices coming in each week. They don’t get to sit back and relax however; they’re put to work quickly, working with confidential systems soon into the process, but this seems to work well, as the Financial Services Foundation Apprentice I met on the tour – Taylor – seemed to fit in well within the team, and was more than happy to chat with me and have some photographs taken.
We asked four members of staff at McInroy & Wood in various job roles some questions about their work. These staff members are: Guido Bicocchi (GB), Director of Investment, Margaret MacLeod (MM), Receptionist/Secretary, Sharon Hogg (SH), Investment Administrator, and Nicci Lawler (NL), Operations Manager.
How did you get into this industry?
GB: As part of my Chartered Accountancy training I was involved in the purchase and sale of companies. I enjoyed analysing the businesses and moved into investing once I had completed my qualifications.
MM: Following in my Father’s footsteps, I joined the Royal Bank of Scotland when I left school and worked my way up until I left to focus on my family. With my family grown up it was time to return to full-time employment. McInroy & Wood appealed to me as I could use my financial experience while doing much loved admin work.
SH: After leaving technical college I applied to an agency who put me in touch with Scottish Amicable and I got the job.
NL: I studied commerce and then I saw a position advertised in the East Lothian Courier to work for a small investment firm in Haddington.
What does a typical day involve for you?
GB: Reading the paper! I keep up to date with world affairs in order to understand the implications they may have for our investments. I also spend time speaking to clients about their investments and managing their portfolios.
MM: I open and distribute mail, check and forward emails, answer the telephone and take messages. I also arrange and support meetings, update databases, and undertake projects for directors when necessary.
SH: Each day is different. I can be involved in projects, then looking at archiving. I also help the team with things they are unsure of. I help with the general day-to-day work when we have members of the team off.
NL: I review reports on activity from the previous day to make sure this is in order. These reports contain trading information and cash positions as well as static data information we hold for clients. After that, the day can be varied from reviewing and authorising payments to clients, changes to information, and responding to queries. We do regular reporting to clients and this takes up around two weeks of every month. I also answer technical queries on our systems and give guidance on processes and procedures to the team.
What skills do you think people need to work in your industry?
GB: To be inquisitive, personable, and be able to think laterally (e.g. to decide how knowledge gained about one industry or county may be applied to another).
MM: You need to have good timekeeping, high level of accuracy, the ability to prioritise workloads, and a good sense of humour!
SH: Common sense goes a long way. Patience is required, as some of the work can be repetitive, good team work, and a sense of humour.
NL: Ideally a good understanding of maths and English so that you are confident to check figures and to write emails to colleagues and clients. Also, be interested and pay attention to detail, and an inquisitive mind to be confident to ask questions.
What do students get out of having work experience with you?
GB: We aim to provide some basic financial education about the types of investment. Additionally, we hope to show them that everything in the world, from a change in Prime Minister to plastic pollution in the seas, will impact the value of investment.
MM: Hopefully an enjoyable time dealing with different people and undertaking a multitude of different tasks which ultimately make for a successful firm.
SH: A sense of what it’s like in the real world of work. I also tell them that not everything we do is glamorous but it is essential, so they understand the reason for some of the things we need to do.
NL: They get an insight into the financial services industry and how an office works, as well as how departments link with each other to achieve results.
What advice would you give to students wanting to get into a career like yours?
GB: The investment industry has lots of different careers, so speak to as many people as you can to try and find which parts may be of interest. Work hard (lots of people want to work in investment) but remember you don’t have to have a finance degree.
MM: To gain good people skills. They will in turn help with confidence with new situations and learning new skills. To appreciate that every day is varied and it can on occasion be stressful when trying to balance timescales, but to ask for support when needed.
SH: To go for it. I have worked in this industry for 40+ years and wouldn’t change to anything else.
I would like to thank the entire staff at McInroy & Wood, especially Nicci Lawler, for welcoming me for the afternoon. It is greatly appreciated. if you have an interest in the Financial Services framework, have a read about what your Foundation Apprenticeships are here. If you’d like to apply, speak to your guidance teacher for advice and an application form. If you have any questions, feel free to email email@example.com.