Thanks to an innovative financial services graduate programme, over 40 of the country’s top graduates have turned down London to start their careers in the vital and ever-growing Welsh financial services industry.

A graduation ceremony at the University of South Wales’ Treforest Campus saw graduates collect their MSc in Financial Services Management. The occasion marked the conclusion of their two-year Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, which has allowed them to launch their careers working with the UK industry’s leading companies with bases in Wales.

Managed by the Welsh Financial Services Forum and industry partners, the Programme exists to ensure that Wales retains its high-calibre graduates to support the Welsh financial services sector, creating an elite talent pool to support the growth of indigenous companies and attract further businesses to establish a presence in Wales.

Sandra Busby, managing director of the Welsh Financial Services Forum, said: “It is a truly rewarding experience to see our class of 2017 celebrate all that they have achieved. Thanks to the support of EU funding and our growing list of partner employers, we have created a proven route for fresh, ambitious graduates to realise and secure the sought-after careers Wales has to offer.

“The Welsh industry is constantly searching for new talent, and I believe the calibre of these graduates proves that the Welsh Financial Service Programme has answered that call.”       

Since first launching in 2013, the programme has recruited and developed over 106 graduates, 90% percent of which have secured permanent roles with participating companies or local industry.  The first version launched in 2013 as a Welsh Government backed pilot programme, with part-funding now received from the European Social Fund.

Over the last two-years, each graduate has capitalised on the opportunity to rotate through a series of structured work placements.  As a result, they have developed direct experience in key skill areas, employers in the sector are calling for, including: risk, compliance, innovation, commercial and finance. 

Welsh Government Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, said: “More than £2m of EU funding has been invested in this programme which is allowing more graduates to pursue professional careers here in Wales and helping businesses attract and develop ambitious young people.

“This is an important investment in the future of a key industry and I’m delighted to hear how so many graduates are making their mark in our financial services industry as a result.”

One of the participants to collect their Masters was Liam Evans, who thanks to the Programme, has secured a full-time role as Strategic Officer for the Development Bank of Wales. However, had it not been for the Graduate Programme, he may well have left the UK entirely to pursue a finance career in the USA, Canada, or Hong Kong. 

Having graduated from Swansea University in 2013 with a degree in International Relations and Modern History, Liam spent two years working in various finance roles, and even contemplated a permanent role in Vancouver.

Explaining his decision to return to the UK and enrol in the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme, Liam, said: “Once I’d decided to return and start my career in the UK, London seemed like the natural choice. It wasn’t until I discovered the Graduate Programme that I began exploring opportunities here in Wales. The thought of studying for a Masters had crossed my mind, but the expense and time demands were prohibitive. Learning that there was a way to gain experience here in Wales, while working to gain a funded Masters, was too good an opportunity to pass.

Having initially secured a work experience role as an Impact Investment Graduate, Liam’s aptitude quickly saw him progress to a permanent role as a Strategy Officer. This role then allowed him to play a key role in designing the Development Bank of Wales and developing fund models which illustrated the positive impacts generated by its strategic investments.     

Liam added: “I was aware that the Development Bank of Wales [then known as Finance Wales] had a strong commitment to corporate responsibility, and that was a major driving force for me to pursue a placement with them. I got that chance and I haven’t looked back since.”

Today, participating companies include some of Wales’ largest financial organisations and a growing number of ambitious home-grown firms including: Admiral Group, Atradius, Composite Legal Expenses, DS Smith, Development Bank of Wales, Vauxhall Finance, Hodge Bank, Legal & General Investment Management, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, Optimum Credit Ltd, Principality Building Society and V12 Retail Finance.

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