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Isabella Blakiston

As an analyst, I complete data analysis and valuation work to support the team. I also prepare documents and presentations that are presented to clients.

What's your name and job title?

Isabella Blakiston, investment banking analyst in the Natural Resources Group.

What did you study? When did you graduate?

I graduated from the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 2016 with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in economics and finance.

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your education.

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and attended Presbyterian Ladies' College. In 2016, I completed a summer course at the London School of Economics majoring in alternative investments. I highly recommend studying abroad for some part of your degree.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?

I participated in the UBS Investment Banking Challenge in my penultimate year, and my team and I were awarded the title of national runner-ups. As part of the prize I received a first round interview for the UBS summer internship program. I completed the UBS summer internship program during the summer university break in 2015/2016 in the Global Capital Markets Group (Equity Capital Markets/Debt Capital Markets), and in 2017 I started a full-time graduate role.

How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

At UWA, the first year of university is very generalised within the Bachelor of Commerce degree. I used the year to try as many different units as possible and determine my major. During my second year at university, I continued to try a number of different units within the economics and finance majors. I found the finance units the most interesting and that was the main driver for wanting to work in finance. I also attended as many networking and recruitment events as possible to gain an understanding of what type of roles were available to graduates. At the time I considered other jobs and explored many different options before deciding my skill set was most suited to corporate finance.

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

Following the submission of my application to UBS, there was a CV screening process and successful applicants were contacted to arrange a first round phone interview. The first round interview was a one-on-one phone interview with an executive director at UBS. The interview was a mixture of both behavioural and technical questions and went for about half an hour. Following this I was invited to attend a ‘super day’ at the UBS offices in Sydney. The super day was a morning of case studies, group and one-on-one interviews followed by a networking session with members of the investment bank. The second round super day interview was also a combination of technical and behavioural questions.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Should they pursue any sort of work experience? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop?

I would advise them to study economics, finance or accounting. Although these majors are not required, I believe they provide a strong foundation and skill set that is needed to navigate through the first few years of a career in investment banking. I would recommend obtaining work experience as early as possible and choosing a range of different internships to complete. If you are not sure what you want to do, the best way to narrow your options is by gaining practical experience. I believe the most important soft skills to develop are public speaking and the ability to talk to a range of different individuals of all age groups.

What does your employer do?

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide. In Australia, I work in the investment bank (Corporate Client Solutions) which covers Equity Capital Markets, Debt Capital Markets and M&A Advisory.

What are your areas of responsibility?

As an analyst, I complete data analysis and valuation work to support the team. I also prepare documents and presentations that are presented to clients.

Can you describe a typical work day?

Each day is very different – it depends on what deals are happening. My day normally involves research tasks, valuation pieces, and liaising with clients and other teams to complete project related tasks.  

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Someone who is extremely self-motivated, enjoys problem solving and thrives in a high pressure, challenging environment. Most importantly I believe, a person who works well in teams, who has the ability to leverage the knowledge of others, and works cooperatively towards a common goal, will succeed.

What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?

The skill set you learn as an analyst at an investment bank is applicable to a range of different roles in business, not only in the finance sector. UBS promotes rotations within the investment banking division to either different sector teams or product groups within Australia and globally. There are also a number of different roles within UBS that you can pursue. For example, sales and trading, equities research and asset management.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, of course  – you don’t have to have a background in finance to work at UBS. UBS looks for certain qualities in applicants rather than specific degrees.         

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

The thing I love the most about my job is the fast-paced nature of the work and working with people who are intelligent, enthusiastic and driven. I enjoy the level of responsibility that was given to me from the beginning of my career, and enjoy working on cross divisional projects that involve multiple sectors.

Do you bear a lot of responsibility with your job? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?

There are times when projects are stressful and occasionally I am required to work weekends – for example, if there is an urgent client matter or I am working on a live deal. There is a lot of responsibility placed on juniors from day one, but with this responsibility comes a huge learning opportunity that is unique to the job.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

If I wasn’t working within the finance industry I would have stayed at university and studied law, and I would have definitely completed a student abroad program.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • Get involved in as much as you can at university – it doesn't have to be degree or job specific.
  • When deciding what job you want to do, make sure you talk to as many people as possible and explore every option.
  • When choosing where to start your career, be sure to get to know the firm culture and the people who work there before making a decision.