How I did it: From History degree at Oxford to UBS graduate

Bright Network member Olivia Townsend took a less common path into finance, and she was surprised to find a job in banking that used the skills she'd been building during her history degree at Oxford.

Why did you choose this firm and this role?

I took a less common path into finance, having not undertaken any banking Spring Weeks or internships before applying to UBS. It took me a while to research the different roles available to graduates and decide which one suited me best. I chose Investor Client Services because the skills the job required seemed most aligned with those I’d developed during my history degree. I was surprised to find a job in banking that sounded very similar to what I’d done, and enjoyed, for the past three years. 

Having met UBS employees at various career fairs and Bright Network Festival, I immediately felt they were the kind of people I wanted to work with – they were all genuinely enthusiastic about their jobs. Also, every person I spoke to mentioned the strong community feel within the office – which was something I had decided was particularly important to have in my future workplace.

What was the toughest part of the application process? And your favourite part?

The toughest part was probably also my favourite part – the assessment centre. The time pressured exercises were demanding, and the thought of presenting my ideas to current employees was intimidating at first. I’ve always enjoyed discussing my ideas with other people, and ended up wanting to talk for a lot longer than we were allowed to.

It was also great to be able to meet more UBS employees and learn a bit more about what their days are like, what they enjoyed most about working for UBS and career aspirations within the firm. 

Were you surprised by anything in the process?

I was surprised by how quick the application process was. I think there was barely a week between applying and being offered the job. Having spent so much time researching the different roles and agonising over minute aspects of the application, actually being assessed and interviewed was very quick.

What top tips would you give to graduates applying now?

  1. It’s important to apply for the right reasons. Don’t apply for a role just because a) all your friends are b) that’s the type of job you feel your degree ‘should’ lead to or c) you aren’t really that interested but it seems like a good job. It’s important not to feel pressured into applying for a role, because ultimately it’ll be a waste of time. Take time to consider why you really want to apply and why you've chosen the role.
  2. Don’t be intimidated. If you do have a genuine interest, but for some reason you feel you’re unlikely to be successful (I didn’t believe anyone with a history degree would be accepted into a role that’s quite so accounting heavy) don’t be put off! You might surprise yourself with how suited you are to the job.
  3. Do appropriate preparation. Before attending an assessment centre or having a phone interview, know your CV inside out and spend time identifying things you’ve done in the past that demonstrate the certain characteristics you think make you ideal for the job.
  4. Don't be fooled into thinking that final years can only apply to graduate roles. Summer internships are also a great way to get to know the company and for the company to get to know you. You can try different areas of the business before committing to an 18-24 month graduate role in a more specific area.


Inspired by Olivia's experience? Find out more about UBS and their live opportunities.