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My job explained: Resource banker

resource bankerDerek McCrone trained as an aeronautical engineer before moving into the world of finance. Here he describes how he still uses the skills he learnt as a student in his banking job.

What stage are you at in your career?

I work at Rothschild bank and have been here for five years. I am in the resource lending department, where we lend money to mines and mining companies. The money we give out is secured against commodities such as gold and steel.

What inspired you to study engineering?

At school, the subjects I liked best were maths and physics - engineering was a good mixture of the two of them. It was a good choice, as I really enjoyed my degree.

What was your course like?

It was a four-year course – aeronautical engineering at Bristol, with one year studying in Berlin. During the year in Germany, there was a lot of focus on the language as well as the actual engineering. So I got to learn German, which is an extra bonus.

I felt that we worked harder than lots of art students. This wasn’t a bad thing because you do interesting stuff. Basically you learnt about something during lectures in the morning and then practiced actually doing it in the lab that afternoon. One of the things I remember working on was wind tunnels, where we had model aeroplanes and model cities, which we blew air over to see what happened.

What is a typical working day like now?

A typical day is hard to describe! I guess a lot of my time is spent meeting with clients and other banks. We often have lunch meetings, so that’s quite a nice way to spend a couple of hours in the day. Then there is always some time at the desk, writing emails and phoning people – communicating the results of your meetings and talking to your colleagues.

Each piece of work runs in phases. In the beginning stage, we try and find new deals. We look for companies that need to borrow money and find ways to lend it to them. We then approach them with a suitable loan. After that I put together the transaction and stay close to the company in order to monitor the loan.

We find a lot of these mines are in far flung places. Last week I was in Mali (West Africa) where a client has two gold mines. I was in South Africa in February and went to Russia last year, where I got to try lots of vodka and local beers! So you do get to travel, which is fantastic.

Do you use any skills you gained in engineering for your job now?

Definitely. Lots of technical stuff around using computers has been really useful. Engineering gave me a good grounding in the use of spreadsheets and things, so now at work people often ask me for help with applications like that. Finance generally seems to use the same bit of the brain you need for engineering.

Also, engineering teaches you good interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a team. Working together in a lab isn’t so different to working with your department on a project.

I think employers like hiring people with an engineering degree. They like the fact that you’ve done group work, and that you have more technical skills. Also, you do actually have to work quite hard to get an engineering degree, so I suppose that shows that you will get the job done.

What do you like best about the job?

I love the travel. You get to see the kinds of places people don’t often visit. It’s all paid for and you get treated well, so it’s nice way to see the world. I also like the fact it’s very varied. We deal with lots of different countries that produce lots of different things; gold, copper, iron, all the metals. So every time we do a new deal, I have to educate myself on a new subject, which is fun.

What personal qualities do you need for your role?

It’s important that you can express yourself and say when you’re not happy or if you’re worried about something. You also have to do presentations, so being able to put forward an argument is useful. You need to be patient and have a sense of humour. Each deal can take a while, with all the lawyers from various countries, and things don’t always go to plan, so you need to take things in your stride.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

Do it. If you’re interested in engineering, then there’s a whole world of opportunities for you once you’ve got a qualification like that, be it as an engineer, in finance or a range of other professions. You’ll have a great set of skills, which will give you a boost for the future. You really won’t look back.

What is your favourite engineering feat?

It could be anything from dams to suntan lotion; every engineer would have their own thing. But for me, it will always be the aeroplane!