Take the leap: Reflections from a 2017 Graduate

Photo of Margaret Bei smiling in front of a BNZ branch desk

Margaret Bei, Commercial Senior Associate at BNZ, joined the Business Banking Graduate programme in 2017. Margaret shares her advice below to students who are in their last year of study, and unsure on what their next step will be.   

It is now almost exactly two years since I started at the bank, although it doesn’t feel like it at all. I still feel that applying for the graduate programme was one of my all-time best decisions – right up there with doing an exchange program at uni. In both cases, the rewards have been amazing despite my initial reservations.

Looking back over everything, there are a few things I would to tell (reassure) myself if I could go back in time:

  • Be more confident about yourself and what you bring to the table. No one expects graduates to come in the door knowing everything, and ultimately, grades/awards are only one part of a bigger picture. What’s more important is your passion to learn, ability to work in a team, and drive to put your best effort into whatever you do.
  • BNZ really looks carefully at every individual applicant and considers how they fit into the team and the bigger picture. In my case particularly, I was just slightly outside the two-year post-graduation cut-off for most grad programs but applied anyway. I think it’s wonderful that BNZ has flexibility with their criteria. They also gave us the opportunity to request which location to be based out of, which was amazing (I’d just signed a one-year lease on an apartment).
  • You don’t need to have a finance, accounting or economic background. While it absolutely comes in handy and I have used a lot of what I studied at university, a lot of training is done on the job, and many of my colleagues come from law, engineering, management and science backgrounds. Aside from a background in business, having a second language can come in handy as quite a few of the directors we deal with have overseas experience and are bilingual.

Everyone’s experience of the grad program is different because we are spread out and support different teams. As a grad, after an initial training period, you start by supporting one Partner and one Senior Associate. Partners look after a portfolio of customers and are the main point-of-contact for any new lending or business. Senior Associates support the Partners by preparing lending requests (credit) for approval, admin and helping customers.

In my case, I was given a big opportunity to step up within a few months of starting, filling in for Senior Associates across the Auckland CBD and Newmarket teams. At the end of the program, you will be fully ready for a full-time position, generally as a Senior Associate, but you are not limited in where you can go in the bank. Although a role isn’t guaranteed, the bank really does its best to find a place for each graduate at the end of their program.

I was fortunate to work with great Partners with different backgrounds, and who I got along with very well. I’ve seen many Senior Associates build very strong mentor/mentee relationships with their Partners as working directly together every day allows many chances to learn from their experience, advice, and guidance.

In the end, being a graduate is about taking chances to find the right place for you. If you are thinking of applying, I really encourage you to go for it, you never know where it might take you!

Applications are now open for our 2020 Graduate Programme . We’re looking for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to help reimagine banking for our customers – find out more about the opportunities available: https://bnz.co/2020Grad