• Name: David Millns
  • Job Title: Finance Graduate Trainee
  • Location: Southampton
  • University: West of England
  • Degree: BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance
  • Areas of Specialism: Audit and Assurance

I would firstly like to start by saying Insurance isn’t as boring as it sounds! I’ve been working for Zurich Insurance Group since July 2011, and I can honestly say that time has flown by.

I am on the Finance and Accounting Graduate scheme in Zurich’s offices based in Whiteley, a town just outside Southampton.

I’ve been encouraged to make a real impact to the Finance function in Zurich. I’ve had a real job to do (not just fetching teas and coffees!) with real responsibilities and the support and development needed to help me on my way to become a future leader of the company.

I really have thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far and I can’t recommend the company enough.

What does Zurich do?

Zurich provides insurance services for the world. We are a global company that deals with people like me and you, schools, councils, governments, small companies, blue chip companies and everything else in between. It really is massive.

How did you get your job at Zurich?

I got my job at Zurich through being different, which also happens to be the same as being myself.

I went through the normal process of applying for the job online by sending in a CV and filling in a form. However, I made myself stand out by including a link at the top of my CV to a website I created.
On the website I had the normal CV content, such as work experience and education, but I also included extras such as what makes me different i.e. showing a picture of me in a pink tutu running a 10km race for charity and a link to my online cooking show.

I later found out that I got the role because of the impression I had given.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me is usually very busy, which means the end of the day comes round very quickly. The graduate scheme is structured so that there are three 12 month rotations. My first rotation has been in IT Expenses for the UK’s General Insurance (UKGI) business.

A typical day for me this year involves doing analysis into the whole of the UKGI’s IT spend, from finding out how much we have been spending on software licences, to helping process multi-million pound invoices correctly to the right area of the business, while checking they are on budget.

The great thing about the scheme is that in a few months my day job will be completely different to what I am doing now, which is a little daunting but at the same time very exciting.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to use my brain – I’ve been encouraged to think around problems and come up with alternatives. For example I was able to change the way we track our month-end result in order to help us analyse what we are spending and highlight variances that occur before we were able to previously.

I also appreciate the opportunity to get involved in extra curricular activities – I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in several different projects on top of my day job, such as helping to organise the annual finance conference or providing my opinion on redesigning the office floor.

What was the interview process like?

The whole interview process was very well organised from start to finish. It had the structure of:

  • Online application – sending in a CV and filling in aptitude questions
  • Telephone interview – answering questions about yourself. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask a few questions yourself.
  • Assessment Centre – a combination of two presentations, one-on-one interviews and group work
  • Meeting the CFO – once accepted through the assessment centre, the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) likes to meet the graduates in an informal meeting just to get to know them.

Any advice for the interview process?

  • Online Application
    • Take your time and get your CV checked by as many people as possible. Use the resources available to you, for example careers advisers, professors, friends and any family members in business.
  • Telephone interview
    • Do your research, be prepared to ask questions about the scheme and always try and get across your enthusiasm.
  • Assessment Centre
    • Be Yourself. This way, you will be more relaxed and come across well – however don’t turn up in jeans and a T-shirt!
    • Don’t be scared about presentations, just remember that the assessors want you to do well.
    • Zurich are looking for graduates who won’t just sit there quietly and do their day job to the minimum standard. It is looking for graduates who will be happy to challenge the way things are done and make a positive impact, so make sure you are heard.
  • Meeting the CFO
    • Zurich as a company is all about the people it employs; although it is looking for high quality graduates, it values people, not just cogs in a machine. This is true of the CFO meeting: don’t be scared by status, this is a great opportunity to sell yourself.

What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome these?

I’ve faced a lot of challenges since I’ve started working for Zurich. Surprisingly the biggest challenge wasn’t getting up for a 9 o’clock start!

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is the combination of studying for my Chartered Institute of Management Accountants exams at the same time as working, as passing professional qualification exams isn’t the easiest thing to do.

However from my experience Zurich offers the best study package I’ve heard of (this comes from talking to peers in other companies). It offers seven working days off including the day of the exam for study leave, as well as paying for all the fees which go along with the exams (which really does add up!).

Not only do they offer a great study package, but management are very understanding and can be flexible, which makes the whole process much easier to manage.

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