Kieran Ferguson has gone from creating a Gumtree-style website for Edinburgh students to working at Richard Branson's new bank, Virgin Money.
|Year of Graduation||2005|
Your time at the University
I had a great time at university studying the LL.B. (Law and Business). At first, I wasn't sure if I had picked the right subjects as the first two years of my joint honours degree were quite challenging. My final two years, however, were fantastic - I enjoyed being able to specialise in subjects of my choice. I focused on contract and commercial law, which complimented my interest in business.
Despite the challenging academic schedule set by the School of Law, I found time to get involved in societies at university. I was appointed President of the Entrepreneurial Society in my final year, and led a team of creative thinkers to victory in the University Business Plan Competition. That was a real highlight from my time at university.
I also set up a business called 'Ed Exchange', an online platform for students to sell things to each other, books, furniture… anything really. It was essentially an early version of Gumtree, but solely for Edinburgh students. The service was free with James Thin the Bookshop, now Blackwell’s, kindly sponsoring the venture.
It was the first of its kind at the University and was featured in the student newspaper. Hundreds of students used the service and I still feel really proud of that.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
Since leaving university, I have held a number of exciting positions in the banking industry.
Edinburgh students seem to perform well at the assessment days and, in my year, a healthy proportion of the places went to us.
This began with a successful application to join Accenture, a leading management consulting firm with a global client base. I specialised in financial services and spent most of my time in London and Manchester, with the occasional trip to Chicago, where the company is based.
The opportunity to work at Accenture began in Edinburgh. Accenture attend the Edinburgh University milkround each year to select candidates for their coveted internship programme. Despite tough competition from OxBridge applicants, Edinburgh students seem to perform well at the assessment days and, in my year, a healthy proportion of the places went to us. My internship led to a full-time position, after completing my degree.
The experience I gained at Accenture was invaluable; the work was challenging and innovative. However, after three and a half years of constant travelling, I decided it was time for a change.
My time at Virgin Money has been an incredible experience.
The experience I gained at Accenture led to an opportunity at Sir Richard Branson's new bank, Virgin Money, headquartered in Edinburgh.
A relatively small bank at the time, Virgin Money has since grown to become a major force in the UK retail banking industry. The bank merged with Northern Rock in early 2012 and I was fortunate to work on that transaction. It was one of the most significant M&A deals to take place that year and I feel privileged to have been involved in it.
Eighteen months on from then, I'm now working in the CEO’s office at the bank. We are fortunate to have an inspirational CEO who is passionate about changing the banking industry for the better. I am enjoying working with the Senior Management Team in pursuit of that goal.
My one piece of advice to a new intake of university students is: Don't make plans: make options. Opportunities will come your way in life which cannot be planned. It is helpful to have a roadmap of what you would like to achieve, or which career path you may wish to follow, but sticking to a preconceived vision of how you get there may hold you back.
For example, in my third year at university I was offered the opportunity to work for Accenture. At the time, Accenture had recently re-branded and nobody knew who they were or what they did, and my friends thought that I was bonkers signing up!
Yet without that opportunity – which I very much enjoyed – it is unlikely I would have joined Virgin Money and been in the position to help shape the future of the banking industry. What is more, I would never have been offered the opportunity to camp in Richard Branson's back garden!
So, in my experience, the best approach is to develop your skill set in such a way as to maximise your chances for opportunities and, when they present themselves, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.