When I applied for the grad scheme I know I would have liked some help so I thought i’d write a little piece giving a high level view for applicants. Anyone who wants a bit more info can message me direct and i’ll try and to tailor something specific for you. Makes the whole ordeal a bit more manageable.
About the FSA
The FSA is at the front line of the UK’s financial services industry, covering everything from stockmarkets to small insurance broker firms. It is a quasi-government body which means it is run to a parlimentary act, the Financial Services and Market Act of 2000. The FSA supports itself by charging firms fees to operate financial services in the UK. Any money it has left over, or anything it earns through fines, is used to subsidise next years fees, making it a not for profit organisation.
The FSA operates to its 4 statutory objectives:
• market confidence: maintaining confidence in the financial system;
• public awareness: promoting public understanding of the financial system;
• consumer protection: securing the appropriate degree of protection for consumers; and
• the reduction of financial crime: reducing the extent to which it is possible for a business to be used for a purpose connected with financial crime.
These should be the corner stone of your application as not only everything the FSA does is orientated towards these but you’ll also be expected to be aware of them at various stages of the application and it really impresses when you bring them up in interview without being prompted.
The FSA is set to split into two bodies so it can regulate in a way thats known as a ‘twin peaks’ approach (hugely important buzz word). These two bodies will be the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the former joining the bank of England. The idea of this split is that it allows us to regulate with other tripartite (buzz word - the 3 government bodies who look after the financial system - Bank of England, Treasury, FSA) entities more smoothly.
What the FSA does
The FSA does a huge variety of work, thats what makes this graduate programme so sort after as you can get a really wide range of exposure. Just a few activities undertaken are:
- Fighting financial crime
- Day to day regulation of firms (there are around 29000 of them)
- Checking customers are being sold the appropriate products
- Inputing into policy making at euro level
- Creating policies and regulations
- Authorising firms/individuals
- Monitoring markets
- Taking legal action against firms
Some advice for your application is to highlight one or two that you are particularly interested in and why, i can help you by telling you a bit more about your chosen one. At the same time they’re looking for someone who’s enthusiastic for any role so its a balancing act.
About the programme
There are a number of graduate programmes that you can apply for, all of which can be seen on the website. The majority of individuals are on the General programme and i would advise applying for this one unless you have very strong specialist skills. All programmes rotate which is a great opportunity to get involved in different areas of the business. You have almost all the say in your rotation choices except the first one which is based on your interests and qualities observed at the assessment centres.
This is pretty long. There are the questions on the application form which are designed to test your level of understanding and to get more of a feel for you as a candidate. Then there is the financial reasoning test, this is no harder than the standard SHL maths ones so practice these if you haven’t taken any before.
Once you make it though that there’s the phone interview which tests for soft skills. Then there’s the first assessment centre where you participate in a group exercise, a written test and resit your financial reasoning test (to make sure you didn’t cheat). Finally after that there’s another assessment centre where there’s an interview and a case study. At each stage they are fairly transparent and often tell you what they are assessing you on.
Qualities they look for
Listed on the website are the following attributes they look for during the assessment process:
Collaboration and team work – working with others in the group exercise and showing evidence of team work in the past. Try to include everyone and question the points they raise inquisitively.
Communicating clearly – For me I found this was all about trying to fit less points in to an answer, and doing them well rather than cramming in lots of little points.
Personal accountability – This means supporting your decisions with evidence and showing examples of times you’ve been trusted with responsibility and why.
Decision making – Similar to the previous point as its all about supporting with evidence and reasoning. Also taking all factors into consideration before making a decision.
Additional qualities that they look for the graduates to develop once they start at FSA are listed below. It’s a good idea to give examples of these/mention them as it will make you stand out as being an advanced candidate:
Adaptability – Being flexible.
Business acumen and awareness – Thinking about how your department’s work fits in with other departments.
Action orientation – Anticipating the impact of things you do.
Obviously there’s a lot to think about there. I’m sure you’ve done loads of applications so are experienced but if you want to message me with questions or want some tailored advice or a few things to make your application stand out then send me a message.