Jessica Dale joined Rothschild straight after graduating in autumn 2004, having done an internship in banking during the summer of her third year at university.
She works in the bank’s consumer team, and has progressed during her time at Rothschild from analyst to director.
Here she talks about what she does and what it’s like working at Rothschild, and offers some advice for female students interested in a career in banking.
How I decided banking was the right career for me
“When I thought about which career path to take, I liked the idea of something involving numbers where I’d be stretched intellectually with plenty of variety, so I thought financial services would be a good place for me.
I got an internship at another bank for my third summer at university, which really confirmed to me that banking was what I wanted to do.
Then I decided that I wanted to work for a bank where mergers and acquisitions was a focus, and the independence of Rothschild, its very long-standing reputation in this area, and its deep relationships with its clients were very important to me in making my decision.”
What I do now
“I work on a very broad spectrum of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) projects across the consumer product sector. These might involve the food, beverages, alcohol, luxury goods, or agriculture sectors, or other types of businesses.
We might, for example, be helping a client selling an asset through an auction, a client in negotiations with just one bidder, or a client buying an asset. Or we could be involved in a more complex deal such as a purchase of two or more companies at once, or a transaction where a corporate buyer is teaming up with a private equity buyer.
I feel I’m constantly being challenged by new segments of these industries that I’m less familiar with, or new clients, or different deal structures. So even though I’ve spent ten years in the consumer products team, it’s actually been a very varied experience.
Day-to-day, as a director I have overall responsibility for the progress of the project my team is working on, which means interacting with the clients and, at the same time, coordinating the work that we’re producing within the team, reviewing it and checking it, and then presenting it to the client in meetings or conference calls.
I feel I’m stretched in a number of directions, but I find my work very satisfying because I feel I’m at the heart of my projects and integral to what’s going on.”
What working in mergers and acquisitions is like
“The work is very collaborative – we operate in teams and I really rely on other people here, both above and below me. You’re working with very bright people – in our internal discussions people are always coming up with interesting new ideas or challenging questions, which is an important part of what we do. And you know that everyone is going to be pulling their weight which is reassuring, and keeps you motivated.
Though there are moments of stress, we work in a fairly informal atmosphere – it’s not a hothouse environment where everyone is glued to their computer screens all the time because we think people can’t function effectively like that.
We sometimes work late, but it’s rare for someone to be working late by themselves – if we’ve had a very short-term request from a client, everyone pulls together to get the work done by the deadline.
In M&A at Rothschild specifically, our primary focus is on building long term relationships with our clients. For this reason, we sometimes recommend courses of action that aren’t immediately in our interests – for example, if we’re advising a client that undertaking a deal for which we would be able to charge a significant fee to advise on doesn’t make sense at the moment.
We place a greater value on the long-term relationship we have with that client and we trust that keeping this relationship strong will ultimately bear fruit. We would rather be someone’s trusted advisor than just make a buck off them at any opportunity.”
What I enjoy about my job
“Here we’re in the happy position of being very well-regarded, and involved in a very broad spectrum of deals with a large number of exciting clients. I like the variety of the work and the scope for learning it offers me.
But the fact that I’m somewhere where I like working and where I get on with my colleagues is actually the most important factor to me.”
The career support I’ve received in my job
“Here both men and women have access to mentoring schemes. I have a mentor who I meet for coffee every six weeks or so, and I also have a mentee.
In addition, there’s a women’s network at the bank that runs a range of events, including a speaker series where very successful women come in to talk about their experiences, and more informal sessions where senior and junior female bankers get together to discuss various topics. We also connect with other women’s networks in the City.
I’ve also just returned from maternity leave and the firm has been incredibly supportive as I get used to my new commitments. I usually leave the office at 5.30pm and then, once my baby is in bed, work from home in the evenings.
There are occasionally times when clients make requests that are now a bit difficult timewise, but because I have home arrangements with a degree of flexibility, I call pull my “emergency cord”. I’d say that you do need to put time and effort into organising things in this way when you have a baby, which can be hard work. But it’s absolutely possible to do so, and there’s no reason to think that you can’t have a job in banking and children.”
How women are progressing at Rothschild
“My team is fairly balanced between men to women, and the male/female ratio in banking is much better than it used to be. I’ve even noticed significant change in the ten years that I’ve been in the industry.
The proportion of women joining through the graduate programme at Rothschild has increased over the last few years, and there’s now very significant female representation among junior staff.
There are fewer women at the higher levels of the bank, which probably in part reflects the recruitment landscape of 20 or more years ago rather than anything about banking today. I’m hopeful that in the next five years we’ll see material change here with significant numbers of younger women reaching director level and above.”
How I see my future
“I was promoted into my current role relatively recently, so my short-term focus is making sure I’m stepping up into the role of director effectively.
Looking further forward, people tend to have long careers at Rothschild, which is quite unusual in banking. For example, a managing director who I do a lot of work for has been here for 29 years after joining as a graduate, and there are plenty of others who’ve been here for at least 20 years. I find it inspiring that so many people have found working here suits them so well, and I hope to be here long-term also.”
My thoughts for female students interested in a career in banking
“Don’t be put off by the perception that banking is male-dominated. Banking is an intensive, challenging, and demanding career, but if you’re bright, hardworking, and attracted to what banking can offer, you should apply.
I think women at university, and in general, can have less confidence than men when it comes to choosing what jobs to apply for. But I think more women should have the confidence to take a leap into banking.”