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Ever wondered how a global investment firm operates? Take a two-year guided tour.
Business Operations plays a vital role in the success of Baillie Gifford. We’ve been described as ‘the oil in the machine’ – not seen on the outside but keeping everything within the business running smoothly. All the areas of Business Operations are interlinked, and what we do here is critical to the success of our whole business. Whether it’s liaising with clients on accounting to processing trades or analysing operational risk, we add value at every stage of the process. It’s all about connectivity. Our focus is on building strong people networks, giving you the chance to meet people at every level and within every area of the business, including the partners who own the firm.
During your two-year rotational programme, you’ll gain broad-ranging experience across the diverse operational functions that underpin our business. Your placements will vary in length from a week to a couple of months, so you’ll be constantly experiencing new areas and expanding your knowledge. As you progress, you’ll increasingly get the opportunity to add real value to the business, contribute to key projects and bring in new ideas.
“The benefits of the links that the graduates build up over the two year programme are immediately apparent, with connections into nearly every team.”
There’s constant on-the-job training, as well as study leave to help you achieve professional qualifications, such as the Investment Operations Certificate (IOC) and Investment Management Certificate (IMC).
Everyone’s journey here is different. We don’t expect you to know what area you want to specialise in when you join us. These two years are about exploring, learning and discovering just where your long-term career could take you within Baillie Gifford. It’s your opportunity to explore your full potential, while searching for ways to help us achieve ours.
If you’re an inquisitive thinker and strive to understand how things work, then you would be an ideal fit for our Business Operations team. It’s your individuality that’s your strength here at Baillie Gifford.
For us, it’s not about looking for graduates from a particular degree. Instead, we look for particular graduates – people who are critical thinkers and team players. It’s your thirst for knowledge and problem solving skills that we’re looking for, which is why our trainees come from a wide range of disciplines – everything from Geography and Physics to Business and Accountancy.
We’re proud to have a diverse team, where each member brings their unique set of talents and experiences to their role. Although we’re completely open-minded about what you studied, you must have an interest in business. You also need to be fascinated by the way organisations work and want to strive to make them better.
Complete a short online application form. We will review your application to find out more about you and assess whether you have the skills, attributes and curiosity to make a good Business Operations graduate.
If you are successful in the first phase, we will invite you to our offices in Edinburgh for a first interview with one of our Business Operations professionals and a member of the HR team. They will look at your CV with you and discuss the academic and professional choices you have made so far. They will also ask you to answer competency-based questions that assess your abilities and experience, as well as present to them on the topic of Business Operations.
The final stage of interviewing is also the most in depth. You will attend an assessment centre with other applicants which will include a second interview and a group exercise. You will also have the chance to speak informally to current graduates, managers and HR representatives about Baillie Gifford.
The four-week induction is a massive learning curve, but everything soon starts to click together. Then there’s the ongoing training – everything from fund management, bonds and equities, to things like presentation skills and I also studied towards external professional exams during this time. The knowledge gained from these courses provided a good base for my role upon finishing the graduate programme.
The programme rotations give you a broad understanding of how the business operates, and at the same time the variety of work helps you to understand your strengths. Every time you move on, it’s almost like starting a new job so it allows you to challenge yourself and work on any weaknesses.
As part of the programme I attended an Outward Bound course with a great group who work in a variety of roles here. I now spend time socially with people from areas such as IT, Compliance, and the Investment teams. These relationships proved useful during my time on the programme and are extremely valuable in my current role.
Business Operations seems to me to be about the balance between people and process. The programme itself requires a balance between being confident, willing to learn and being able to take feedback. You can get up-to-speed in the graduate programme, absorbing all around you, but you certainly won’t know everything!
In each rotation I completed, everyone was willing to spend time explaining things, so it’s been very easy to fit in. Throughout the graduate programme, I took advantage of the opportunities that came my way and learnt as much as possible. Upon finishing the scheme I joined the Business Improvement team and, aside from my main role, I have also been appointed as one of the managers of the Business Operations Graduate Programme.
The application process was straightforward. Some companies have 20 page online forms that take hours to complete. Here I had a lot of scope to put into my own words why I felt I was suited to the role, and at interview to say what I really thought.
With my degree background, I was a little worried that I’d be at a disadvantage – but I’ve not had a problem at all. I learnt so much in the two-year programme about the whole business cycle, with great training opportunities, and I had the chance to find out what interests me.
I liked the rotational nature of the graduate scheme. At the end of it you’ve experienced everything from Settlements to Risk to Systems to Audit. At first everything is new but you soon develop knowledge in so many different areas and build your own network of contacts around the business.
The people are friendly and approachable at all levels and I had lots of opportunities to attend meetings and lunches with senior partners. And it’s OK to ask questions: at times you might be helping colleagues to think about things in a completely new way.
If you’re interested in something, ask to be involved. For example, last year I helped co-found the Baillie Gifford LGBT network. Being gay, I understand that joining your first workplace after university can be a daunting experience. So for me it was important that those who identify as LGBT are encouraged to be themselves here. By creating the network we want to promote conversation around LGBT inclusion and support an open, respectful working environment.
I finished my masters in 2013 and began working for the retail arm of a large bank. However, when I had my son in 2016, I was inspired to find a new career path. I found out about the good reputation Baillie Gifford has for looking after their staff through friends and family and was lucky enough to meet up with one of the previous Business Operations graduates. Our conversation quickly made me realise that Baillie Gifford is full of really open and friendly people.
You get a lot of autonomy with your workload; however if you don’t know where to start, there are lots of people to ask for help. As the graduate trainees in other years have first-hand experience of similar projects, they’ve been an invaluable source of guidance and support.
Curiosity is fundamental to your role here, as you have to ask ‘why’ all the time. You shouldn’t just press the button if you’re asked to, you should always ask why that needs to happen. Before I started at Baillie Gifford I didn’t think I was a very social or communicative person, however on the programme you meet so many people that you have to be able to ask questions and build relationships. So now I’ve really developed my communication skills and enjoy meeting new people all the time.
In terms of culture, we’re very fortunate. In one of my first placements, I ended up sitting next to two partners in the firm. Although this might sound intimidating and wouldn’t happen in most other big firms, here the partners sit within the teams and are really friendly and happy to answer questions. As a company, they’re also very understanding about my responsibilities as a mother, which couldn’t be more reassuring as a full-time, working parent.
After working for Scottish Athletics and Edinburgh University Sport & Exercise I decided I wanted to take a step back from sport and reassess my options. So, I did some research and discovered Baillie Gifford’s graduate scheme. I was concerned about my lack of experience in financial services, but my background in sport proved to be an advantage. It was clear from the start that Baillie Gifford are looking for people who can think differently and bring something new to the conversation.
The ‘try before you buy’ approach of the scheme means you can explore where you’d like to develop a career – rotating on various secondments. As the rotations progress, you build up a fuller view of the business and experience a variety of projects. I moved from Settlements to Systems and saw how the two departments interlink. During my marketing placement I was involved in keeping contact lists up to date and completing monthly factsheets on the various funds and strategies for Client Service.
The Investment Operations Certificate (IOC) and Investment Management Certificate (IMC) exams have been one of my biggest challenges. But it’s been good to further develop my study skills and self-motivation. There’s plenty of support too, with a pre-exam course and the opportunity to ask plenty of questions. It’s also comforting to know that, if you don’t succeed first time, you’ll have the support to try again.
The first nine months of my training felt a bit like someone had tipped out a jigsaw puzzle! It’s about putting the pieces together and building up a fuller picture of how things work. The opportunity to mix with so many people and teams, and make use of their varied experience, has been a vital part of the process. The past graduates I met in my induction have also been an invaluable source of help and support. The culture and hierarchy here is very open. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and, with the opportunity to move departments, you never feel pigeon-holed.
The Business Operations Graduate Programme presents a great opportunity for me to learn about how an investment management firm functions and discover what I’d like to do as a career. I’ve had the chance to work in five different teams so far and have started to build up a detailed overview of the company. It’s an idea-centric firm where everyone is looking for ways to improve. In the long term, the breadth of experience you gain at the outset will allow you to contribute greatly in the future.
The culture and values of the firm were a massive attraction. Baillie Gifford is not afraid to stand out from the crowd, with their long-term decisions always being based on what’s best for their clients and, as an employee, you feel valued as an individual. It’s a progressive and inclusive place to work where everyone’s ideas count. My induction period quickly dispelled any fears I had about a strict corporate environment, when I found everyone to be open, friendly and welcoming from the start.
Because the company values people as individuals, they value our time too. I’m trusted to get my work done to a high standard within normal working hours. People tend to wrap up their work at a reasonable time and go home to pursue their other interests. For me, still having the time to play sport and relax outside of work contributes to a healthy balance.
During the programme, you meet a lot of different people, which helps you to build the networking skills required and maintain your business relationships. Communicating and finding common ground with people is an important skill, so you need to be personable, self-confident and able to really take ownership of a task. The key is to stay curious and keep asking lots of questions!
In order to get some work experience outside my degree subject, I completed one of Baillie Gifford’s summer placements in the Client Information Management team. During this time, I realised that many of my skills were transferable, so when I was told about the Business Operations Programme, I decided to apply. Much of my Chemical Engineering degree was analytical – looking at different processes to get the best outcome. You need to be adaptable, detail-driven and able to spot inconsistencies. These are all skills I’m now using at Baillie Gifford.
During the first four weeks of the programme you go through a standard induction where you receive department overviews from different managers and department heads. You’re given a general ‘introduction to investment management’, where you learn all about Baillie Gifford’s long-term investment strategy and, if you’re new to the industry, get the chance to ask lots of questions – such as ‘How does active management compare to passive management?’. It’s important, I think, to be able to ask anything that’s on your mind, and I always felt supported in this. We were also offered a number of professional training courses, such as presentation skills and networking.
The rotational nature of the placement has given me the opportunity to work across many different disciplines and experience lots of different projects. During my time in the Information Systems team, I worked on a project to implement a new system, which streamlines all the post-trade processes. And, during my time in the Finance team, I helped with work to set up our new office in Shanghai.
I’ve always felt encouraged to be myself and share my personal interests with others at Baillie Gifford. That’s why I’m now a member of the Environmental Sustainability Group, looking into the environmental impact of the company and how this can be managed. I’m also on the company’s ‘Charity of the Year’ subgroup, which helps to run various charity and fundraising events.