The Gateway Student Society of the Year 2012-3

We've chosen Warwick Finance Societies to be the first winner of our new award

Warwick Finance Societies' (WFS) over 2,500-strong membership makes it the largest student group ever to operate at Warwick, and it's also one of the most active. WFS is an umbrella organisation incorporating six sub-societies, which together ran over 80 events over the 2012-13 academic year, including conferences, careers fairs, and trips to the City and even Hong Kong. But what struck us was that, despite its size and scope, WFS seems to be at heart a community, which is what, after all, a society should be.

"I received a lot of help from WFS when I was applying for first year spring weeks," says Will McTighe, a second year PPE student and vice president in 2012-13 of Warwick Banking & Finance, one of WFS's six sub-societies. "I asked members of the then-executive committee for their advice, and they were all really helpful, looking over my cover letters, putting me in contact with people who'd done interviews at the firms I'd applied to. Seeing people being ready to give so much when they were so busy was great, and made me want to give back and make a difference too."

Getting social

So how does Warwick Finance Societies make a difference for its members? The organisation comprises Warwick Banking & Finance Society, Warwick Finance & Law, Warwick Investment Club, Warwick Women in Finance, Warwick Investment Forum and Warwick International Venture, which gives a sense of the scope and breadth of the organisation's activities. They're all, however, focused on WFS's key goals, which Will outlines: "We try to connect our members with employers by developing relationships with sponsors, getting them on campus, and running events with them. We also provide members with the resources they need to do well in applications and interviews." Key sponsors over the past academic year have included Barclays and asset management firm BlackRock. But Uzair Chiragdin, a second year economics student and WFS social secretary for this past year, adds that "building a tight-knit community" is also very important to WFS. "For example, we have movie nights every two weeks with a finance trivia quiz beforehand, which is a really good way of meeting new people."

WFS is also significantly committed to diversity initiatives. The society aims to help its members, whatever their academic or social background, to enter the finance industry and runs a number of programmes to further this goal, including ones targeted at non-law students interested in careers in City law, and postgraduates, who are sometimes neglected by careers services. "Helping people who weren't from a finance background and didn't have any personal connections in the industry get into it was really satisfying for me," says Will Fairbairn, a second year economics student and president this year of Warwick Banking & Finance Society.

Another of WFS's sub-societies, Warwick Women in Finance (WWF), is, as its name suggests, dedicated to helping female students enter the finance industry. Charlotte Carter, also a second year economics student and 2012-13 vice president of WWF, says she's particularly proud of the bonds between its members that WWF has helped build over the past academic year. "Our Facebook group has grown into a forum for girls to ask others about their experiences, and has brought people from different social groups together."

WFS is also involved in charity projects. This academic year the society donated over £2,000 generated through a sporting event to community organisation Kids Company, which provides support to vulnerable inner-city children. WFS will also be sending a group of its members to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this summer to raise money for a range of charities.

Next steps

Those closely involved in the society have seen direct career benefits from their involvement. "Running events and organising a team really develops the skills that you have to use in a job," says Will McTighe. "It's a very different skillset to the one you develop by doing your university course." "I'd definitely say I've grown my confidence by working on the sponsorship team and liaising with companies," adds Charlotte. Their WFS experience has helped all the committee members we spoke to win internships in banking for this summer.

They will, however, return to Warwick in the autumn for a final year of study and to take up roles in the society's executive committee - Will McTighe and Uzair as chairpersons, Will Fairbairn as president, and Charlotte as treasurer and head of sponsorship. And they and the rest of the committee have big plans for how WFS can help its members even more in 2013-14.

The society has three key initiatives for the coming academic year: developing a WFS iPhone app to improve accessibility to online WFS resources and to make it easier for members to sign up to events; building a WFS "experiences portal" for members to share details of interviews and internships they've done; and growing their fledging database of graduate members - "we're quite a young society," says Will Fairbairn, "but now that we're beginning to mature we've got alumni in the finance industry."

"The idea behind the database," adds Will McTighe, "is that if you go on a spring week or to a networking event, someone will let WFS alumni know you're there and they'll come and chat to you. I know that for me personally, if I'd arrived somewhere and someone had known who I was and said, 'Hey Will, how are you doing?', it would have given me a huge amount of extra confidence." Being part of a finance society like WFS is, he says, about getting "a foot in the door" - and then helping others do the same.

About the competition

At The Gateway, we work closely with many student finance, law, business and entrepreneurship societies. We know how much they help their members, so we're keen to recognise them all, and reward the very best.

So this year, we decided to inaugurate The Gateway Student Society of the Year competition and chose Warwick Finance Societies as the best out of a number of excellent entrants.

We'll be running the competition again in 2013-14, so keep an eye on our issues next year and our website for details of how to enter your society. Good luck!