Credit Suisse Perspectives

From Arts degree to VP on the trading floor: Follow your own path

Having the confidence to take a different path is all about self-belief and the right support. Discover how one colleague pivoted from studying History and English to the trading floor, and now helps young B.A.M.E. talent.

Many of us don't have a completely straight career path. We might start with one goal in mind and then discover we actually want something very different along the way. This might be because we loved a particular academic subject that was little use when it came to getting a job or simply because certain industries weren't on our radar. Or it might be because we wanted to join a profession but didn't see anyone who looked like us working in the field, so counted ourselves out.

One of our Credit Suisse colleagues knows just how this feels. Andrew O'Flaherty is currently a Vice President in the Special Situations and Leveraged Finance team in our London office, and has recently been listed on the EMPower 2022 Top 100 Future Leaders list. But he started out completing a BA degree in Modern History and English Literature at Oxford University – not a typical choice for someone who ended up in banking!

What happened next was down to hard work, the willingness to learn from knockbacks and help from fellow members of the BAME community.

Overcoming obstacles

As a black British man, Andrew is an inspiring example to people from underrepresented communities hoping to change careers or to enter the finance industry. Despite his illustrious academic credentials, he found his studies didn't automatically open doors into this new world. He took numeracy tests for internships – and failed. But he didn't give up. He spoke to as many people as possible to learn more about the industry. He studied independently so he could boost his numeracy skills. And he kept applying for jobs.

His diligence and determination paid off. Between 2015-17 Andrew worked in various internships before getting a full-time role in Equity Research. This gave him a great grounding for his move to Credit Suisse in 2021, when he transitioned from a research-only role to a position where he was directly investing on behalf of clients. Andrew's success stems in part from an inspiring quote that informs how he approaches not just his career, but life in general:

'Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.' ~Christopher Hitchens

The BAME network and support for underrepresented communities at Credit Suisse

We're committed to increasing diversity in the workplace, advancing inclusion, creating an environment where everyone can have a voice and removing barriers to equality. Through impactful in-house initiatives and outreach projects, we're working to encourage a diverse range of people to join us – and to have long, fulfilling careers.

As well as supporting colleagues within the BAME network, our colleagues work to raise awareness of racial, cultural and ethnic diversity across all divisions of the bank. This isn't just a moral imperative; it makes business sense too. When everyone feels they belong we drive success and deliver the best possible results for our clients.

After joining Credit Suisse, Andrew became a Black Talent mentee, receiving targeted support and guidance from other black colleagues within the bank. Having seen how beneficial this program is he became a Steps to Success Scholarship Program Mentor, helping young disadvantaged people gain insight and experience in global finance.

He also sponsors the 10,000 Black Interns project, helping young people from underrepresented communities get a foot onto the banking career ladder. Andrew is also an active member of our BAME network, focussing on entry level talent and recruiting, as well as engaging in other ways to support colleagues, like volunteering with the Black Talent Program.

Tackling stereotypes and increasing visibility

Andrew recognizes the importance for future employees to see themselves reflected in the workforce, and to challenge assumptions about the type of person who goes into banking:

'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.' ~Andrew O'Flaherty

One of his key messages is to be confident in your talent and abilities – whatever your background or start in life. Every experience can inform and change us. At Credit Suisse, we aim to provide opportunities to build on these experiences and to support employees to soar in their careers.

As Andrew says:

'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.'