• Students and Graduates

An Interest in Finance Yields a Different Spotlight

British Analyst Olivia Vickers thought her arts background would exclude her from a business career, but her transferable skills proved otherwise.

It’s Friday night in London and a group of singers, dancers and musicians are playing to an appreciative young crowd packed into the Wallace Collection. The performers bring to life 18th-century France, from where most of the art in the  museum originates. As the music rises to a crescendo, the rapt audience—mostly incoming Summer Interns from Morgan Stanley—breaks into loud applause.

Among those in the large gallery, Olivia Vickers may be one of the few who can identify with both the performers and the audience. The Oxford University graduate, who is both an accomplished ballet dancer and choral singer, is also a former intern, now a full-time Analyst with Morgan Stanley’s Fixed Income Division in London.

Vickers still seems a little bemused by her journey. “At an event like this, my friends and family would expect me to be in ballet slippers, not a business suit,” she says.

Four years earlier, she was pondering post-university career options. A student of Classics as well as dance and vocal performance, Vickers loved the arts, but was realistic about how far her talents might take her. “What I was certain about was that I wanted a career that was fast-paced and varied,” she says, adding, “I had always been attracted to finance and its practical applications. The fact that I didn’t study economics as a student and wasn’t formally exposed to finance was a concern, but I definitely wanted to be challenged and expand my horizons beyond the arts.” 

Campus Ambassador

For Lizzie Weeks, a Morgan Stanley campus recruiter, Vickers’ lack of a finance background wasn’t a problem. “Many students have this preconception that we’re only interested in a certain type of candidate who is already a financial expert, and that’s simply not the case,” Weeks says. “We’re looking for unique people who show character, want to embrace challenges, can learn new skills and are willing to adapt.”

Vickers was a match. She had been learning from finance professionals in smaller, boutique firms, and made sure to attend as many campus insight days and firm presentations as possible during her second year at university. But it was through Morgan Stanley’s robust campus programming that she felt most engaged and excited about a potential internship at a global investment bank. 

After participating in Morgan Stanley’s week-long London Spring Insight program in 2015, Vickers was offered a spot in the 2016 Summer Intern program. The firm also tapped her to be a Campus Ambassador, a role where she would help Morgan Stanley promote its brand and opportunities among her fellow students.

“The Campus Ambassador is not only a point of contact for potential applicants, but also someone who can really build networks within their peer groups to spread the word about the firm’s unique culture,” says Weeks, who also noted that Vickers’s personal approach made her the natural choice to represent Morgan Stanley at Oxford.  

Many Paths, Many Possibilities

For Vickers, her selection as a Campus Ambassador, as well as her successful run as a Summer Intern, helped allay her initial fears and sold her on the idea that she could succeed in an investment bank. 

Perhaps her most important realization was how much of her background in ballet and vocal performance could translate to roles in finance. “The ability to learn as much as possible in a short span of time, and think about disparate elements before, during, and after a performance is quite similar to keeping in mind different trades and client requests on the trading floor,” she says. Attention to detail and the habit of constant practice to master new skills and materials also worked to her advantage.

What further impresses Vickers about the firm is its emphasis on individuals bringing something unique to either their teams or clients. “At Morgan Stanley, there are so many possible career paths that can suit graduates from a variety of disciplines; bringing a new perspective from a different background is a genuine asset that makes you an important and integral part of the team,” she says. “Diverse personalities, fields of expertise, and perspectives all have a place here, and contribute to the collaborative, creative methods of problem solving that have become Morgan Stanley’s hallmark.”

Now, Vickers surveys the scene—the latest evening in the “Friday Lates” series sponsored by Morgan Stanley at the Wallace Collection, offering visitors free entry to the collection past business hours. The Interns in attendance tonight have all been offered positions in Morgan Stanley’s Summer Analyst program and are celebrating their achievements and networking with colleagues at the post-performance reception.

Vickers remembers herself mingling among them not very long ago. She also recalls a time when she would have felt at home among the performers who’ve just exited—and she anticipates with excitement what future roles she may be rehearsing for on the Morgan Stanley stage. 

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