Welcome to this week’s ‘The Monday Interview’.
I imagine if I asked people to picture a career within a bank, the majority would come up with one of two scenarios - the City-based investment banker, or the suburban bank cashier. Well, today’s interview makes us realise that there is more to a career within banking than just these two options.
Karen’s employer is, indeed, a bank but she work as a product manager for an insurance product. Yep, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to go on to ensure that each of a banks numerous products is performing to its best while retaining, and hopefully growing, its customer base. In today’s interview we hear about the skills that are essential to succeed in this role and Karen describes her own wriggly route into it.
Thanks for your contribution, Karen. It is fascinating to hear about a lesser-known part of the banking industry.
So, briefly, what is your job?
“I work for a bank within the Insurance product management team. I am product manager for a life insurance product and this involves essentially managing the annual sales, customer retention and P&L for this product.”
How did you get into it?
“My career has taken a winding path, from starting off in marketing for a building products company, moving into telecoms at BT and One.tel where I began to specialise in customer retention, and this is what got me into the bank - first role was retention manager on Insurance.”
Describe a typical day.
“A typical day will involve looking at daily sales figures, conference calls with our sales channels to develop and agree actions/ initiatives, liaising with colleagues, explaining to senior manager why performance is where it is and answering a lot of emails.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“Variety - no day is ever really the same and I have a lot of freedom to manage my job the way I want to do it.”
And the least?
“Pressure to deliver - we have set objectives to deliver each year and our performance reviews (which in turn drive pay/ bonus) are driven by whether or not those objectives and targets have been hit.”
What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?
“Maybe that working for a bank or in insurance is boring? My work involves a lot of variety, uses a lot of skills such as analytical skill, communication skills, planning and organisation so it doesn’t get boring. Also I really believe in the benefit of my product which is life insurance, so that helps me stay engaged.”
What are the main skills you need to be a bank product manager?
“Planning & organisation, numeracy, analytical ability, problem solving ability, good communication skills, ability to influence and negotiate effectively.”
Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.
“A Junior Manager with a bank may earn £30-50k. A more senior manager will earn in the region of £45-70k. Banks tend to pay reasonably well. Bonuses are based on performance. Other benefits are pension, sharesaves, health care, good training, career progression.”
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?
“Get into a job that enables you to develop the right skill base - even if it isn’t your ideal job, it is the skills that you can develop and then demonstrate to future employers that will open the doors. Use contacts and network with people.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
“My aspirations have changed since having children. Before children I was very career focused, but now a balance is more important to me, so I may still be with the bank and I would hope to have moved up maybe one notch in the pecking order, but if I haven’t so be it!”
AND JUST FOR FUN…
First in the office or last to leave?
“First in the office.”
Tea or coffee?
Staff canteen or packed lunch?
“A bit of both.”
The lift or the stairs?
“The lift. Always.”
Out after work or straight home to bed?
“Straight home to bed since having kids!”
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Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, but can provide careers advice, guidance and support via Skype, across the UK and beyond