Alastair Majury’s Combined S&I Review and Inside Careers Interviews

Alastair Majury has an excellent track record in Financial Services

This story combines extracts from my very first interview which was with Inside Careers and then my profile that was featured in CISI’s S&I Review.

An Extract of Alastair Majury’s Interview for Inside Careers:

Why did you choose a career in Business Analysis?

When I graduated from university I wasn’t anywhere near the top of my class and at the time, as now, there were too many graduates for too few opportunities.

I started out as a temp for HSBC, a tier one investment bank, where I quickly became a subject matter expert for both OTC Credit Derivatives and the systems and processes involved, and then ‘fell’ into business analysis. I decided to follow this career path because I enjoyed improving processes and working with stakeholders.

What is a typical day like for you?

Business Analysts:

  • Understand the business
  • Analyze & solve problems
  • Communicate effectively
  • Manage client relationships
  • Enable discussions
  • Negotiate & build consensus
  • Model data & processes
  • Plan & manage activities
  • Develop business strategy
  • Manage organisational change.

I enjoy my career so much because of the variety. One day you may be requirements gathering, another day providing updates to senior stakeholders, or writing a business requirements document, a test plan, and more.

Requirements gathering and BRDs

Requirements gathering is a vital part of successful project management and application development. It involves:

  • Interviewing experts
  • Organising complex information into understandable subject areas
  • ‘Translating’ technical language into business language and vice versa
  • Ensuring stakeholder involvement at all levels
  • Drafting clear and concise written documentation for users and technicians
  • Working with multidisciplinary teams.

Business analysts also write Business Requirements Documents (BRDs). These are exhaustive written studies of regulatory, business, user, functional and non-functional requirements. It is a detailed profile of primary and secondary users and comes directly from the data the business analyst has already gathered.

After the document is completed, the business analyst and the client, or user, meet to review and formally approve the BRD. The document is then shared with the rest of the development team.

Providing end-user support

It’s a common misconception among project teams that the project ends when the product is completed. This isn’t true. End-user support after the product is delivered is almost as important.

Business analysts work with end-users after deployment to clarify any high-level questions that need to be addressed. They also work closely with training managers and facilitators to deliver the training support.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Having an independent contract means that not only am I able to experience a wide variety of different projects but also different company cultures as well. I have been lucky in that I have been able to work in the Investment Banking, Retail, and Private Wealth areas within the Financial Services industry.

I particularly enjoy working with people from a variety of departments and levels across the institutions that I have worked with.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

In the long term I would like to manage large and interesting pieces of work.
Academically, I hope to pass exams set by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and the Association for Project Management (APM) professional bodies. I would also like to support and contribute more to these bodies in future.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

The successful performance of a business analyst depends in large part on soft skills (non-technical skills such as team-building and listening).

Many organisations require business analysts to be technically oriented as well, but this varies on a case by case basis.

Most business analysts originally started out in another role first, so if you’re in another role, the following will help you make that leap to becoming a business analyst.

  • Always learn as much as possible about the underlying process of any tasks you are working on.
  • Volunteer for any project work that your manager or department may have available.
  • Suggest improvements to the current operating model.
  • Have plenty of curiosity and a healthy dose of lateral thinking.
  • Be objective, professional and ethical at all times.

Go the extra mile by learning both professionally and academically, logging continuous professional development through a recognised scheme.

Extract of Alastair Majury’s profile by CLAY ‘MUDLARK’ HARRIS in CISI’s S&I Review:

Below is an extract of a profile of Alastair Majury by Clay ‘Mudlark’ Harris, originally published in the January 2013 S&I Review. It was a great opportunity to be able to share my story with ‘Mudlark’ and for this to be shared with other people in my industry. I talked with ‘Mudlark’ in 2012.

Here is a link to the January 2013 S&I Review, you may need to be a member of CISI, which if you work in Financial Services and are not already a member I would recommend that you do so.

Anyway without further delay here is Alastair Majury’s story up to 2012.

Alastair Majury ACSI is not one to sneer at ‘McJobs’. It is only recently, after more than six years spent in financial services, that his time in the sector has exceeded the length of employment at his first employer — McDonald’s.

Alastair Majury now works as Senior Business Analyst for Barclays in Glasgow. It is a contract position, as most of his roles have been since his first and longest financial services job, with HSBC Securities Services. That, for many, is the nature of a back-office career in 2013.

Superficially, at least, there’s a contrast with the security and the structure of his experience at McDonald’s, during which he rose from crew member to administrative manager at its Stirling drive-through restaurant.

When studying at the University of Glasgow for his first degree, in economics, Alastair Majury travelled the 30 miles back to Stirling each weekend to work shifts. During summer holidays, he worked there full time.

Overall, he spent six years at the restaurant, while earning an MSc in information technology at the University of Stirling. Once he completed his studies, Alastair Majury continued working at McDonald’s before changing direction and moving into financial services.

What did he learn at McDonald’s? The importance of each step in a process — “some of them you hate, but they all need to be done” — and how to organise different teams of people. He also developed a strong work ethic that has served him well in the financial world.

Alastair Majury has a strong work ethic that serves him well

At HSBC, Alastair Majury worked as a market data administrator in an office that was a legacy of the bank’s takeover of Bank of Bermuda. Most of its clients were hedge funds. He largely worked as a business analyst for the over-the-counter derivatives team and global market data department.

After nearly three years, however, he could see little prospect of making progress, so he took a year’s break to earn a post-graduate diploma in banking from the University of Stirling.

It was an opportunity not only to enhance his qualifications in areas specific to investment banking, but also to demonstrate to future prospective employers his commitment to the sector.

Alastair Majury returned to the job market as a change analyst for Royal Bank of Scotland Change Services. In the role, he was an active intermediary between the business unit that specified its needs and the IT department.

That first financial position was as a contractor, but the job was outsourced after a year, and he went on — again as a contractor — to manage and implement an initiative for Citibank. During his stint as Project Manager, Alastair Majury made sure the work was completed on time.

Alastair Majury then joined Barclays as a senior business analyst, working on its Project Gamma expansion programme.

When his part of the project was put on hold, he left at the beginning of 2012 to travel in California for a month. “When I got back in February, it took me to until July to find a job,” he says.

The role, which Alastair still holds, was again with Barclays on Project Gamma — this time working on the creation of a central data warehouse.

Planning a career is difficult in a less predictable and more insecure job market than enjoyed by some earlier generations of professionals.

Alastair Majury acknowledges: “Our industry as a whole is operating in a tough environment, and the back office faces extra challenges and change because of offshoring. But change brings opportunities, so it’s important to keep your eyes open and grab any that come your way.”

Alastair Majury resides locally in the historic Scottish city of Dunblane, and is a Senior Regulatory Business Analyst working across the country. Alastair Majury is also a volunteer officer at the local Boys’ Brigade company, a charity which focuses on enriching the lives of children and young people, and building a stronger community. Alastair Majury also serves on the local council (Stirling Council) as Councillor Alastair Majury where he represents the ward of Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, topping the poll.

I am a Chartered Member of CISI, which is the UK’s leading securities and investment professional body. Alastair Majury resides locally in Dunblane.