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Stuart Hitchcock BA (Hons) Philosophy

Managing Director and Head of London Office, US Investment Manager

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Hi, I'm Stuart Hitchcock and I studied BA (Hons) Philosophy within Philosophy at the University of Southampton.

If you fully embrace the subject, read the texts, and really think about what you are reading you suddenly become extremely good at structuring fields of thought. The skill of taking complex material, breaking it down, framing it within the context of a much wider argument or subject , is an unbelievably useful skill. In fact, I probably use it everyday in some way, shape or form.

Please give a description of your professional life post-university, including any achievements or stand-out moments.

Directly upon leaving university I began working in the City as a recruitment consultant, not what I wanted but a job nevertheless and one that gave me the opportunity to develop relationships with a number of large financial organisations and understand a little about finance. Through this role, I developed a contact at one of my clients, who gave me the opportunity to apply for the corporate banking graduate scheme.

I cannot overemphasise the power of achieving a good degree at university and its effect in getting those first graduate style job opportunities. Employers will tend to stop focusing on education (particularly as a negative differentiator) and more on what you as an individual can bring to their organisation. It's a fabulous weapon to have and it really does allow you some greater flex to be yourself.

I joined RBS in 2001 as part of their graduate scheme, moving off of the scheme after less than a year to pursue a full-time active role in a team. In total I worked for two years in a corporate banking team as a relationship manager before being given the opportunity in 2003 to join the investment banking division of the firm. Specifically, I joined the Private Placement bond team (part of the Debt Capital Markets division), which is responsible for helping European corporates raise money in a predominantly US investment market. The team is responsible for helping clients raise anywhere from $50m (equiv) to $1.5bn in single financings, for private and public clients and has led the European market since its inception in the mid 90's.

Learning the ropes until 2006, I was then given the opportunity to move to the US (New York) to distribute the financings to US investors. This was one of the best development opportunities I could have imagined, and changed me both professionally and personally.

I moved back to London in 2008 to take up a position as a Director in the same team, and am now responsible for originating financings with the bank's client base. Over the past 4 years I have been lucky enough to lead a number of news-worthy transactions, including a number of financings in the real estate sector that have generated very positive publicity.

I have continued to further my CV by undertaking numerous exams and degrees. I am FSA and Series 7 qualified, and have achieved the AMCT degree qualification from the Association of Corporate Treasurers. However, having completed these more vocational/finance-centric qualifications, I have decided to have a go at one more, and am currently in the second year of a MPhil/PhD in the Philosophy of Film at Southampton.

Did you know what you wanted to do with your degree after leaving university, and have your aspirations developed or changed since then?

I had no idea whatsoever!

I had very modest aspirations when leaving university, mainly because I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I certainly wanted to earn enough money to get by and pay off my student debts, but that was about it.

However, as my career progressed my aspirations have changed (and increased) as I began to achieve some success in my particular field. It's amazing how the various avenues you pass down during a career bring you into contact  with such a vast array of opportunities, people and lifestyles - these help you refine what you yourself want from life.

My aspirations now are much more varied than in the recent past as I strived to reach a particular position in my career. My key driver is to continue to do something intellectually challenging. I want to live a fast paced work-life which allows me to interact with interesting people (that's what makes it fun), and to build a business or franchise over the longer-term.  I would like to be able to supplement this with continued non-academic study in something I love - namely, film. I think it's a relatively simple set of aspirations, which have changed over time, but continue to be underpinned by being challenged and not bored!

What initially interested you in your subject?

I was pointed to philosophy by a school careers advisor, who suggested that I look at the subject because I had an active mind and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do! He considered a subject that he described as ‘effectively a degree in thinking' would keep me intellectually challenged and allow my mind to find something it was interested in.

Initially unsure, I began to read an introduction to the subject by Nigel Warburton ("Philosophy: The Basics") which had me intrigued from the first page.

What skills did you acquire whilst studying your subject and through what means?

This is a good question because I don't consider philosophy a subject so much as a discipline.  

If you fully embrace the subject, read the texts, and really think about what you're reading (i.e. why it was written) you suddenly become extremely good at structuring fields of thought. The skill of taking complex material, breaking it down, framing it within the context of a much wider argument or subject , is an unbelievably useful skill. In fact, I probably use it everyday in some way, shape or form.

Logical argumentation, the stripping out of irrelevant information from a text, and communicating a point or position clearly, are all priceless skills. Philosophy takes those basic skills and hones them, like working out a muscle.

Group discussions such as debates on subjects as utilitarianism or justice were a great way to put your skills into practise. More often, we'd debate various subjects over a drink or on a walk home from a lecture. This lead to much less dead time than friends studying other subjects.

Saying all of this, however, I think the best means of acquiring the skills mentioned were through reading and thinking when alone. Trying to understand a complex concept, then testing it or challenging it, was the greatest means of stretching the intellect.

Do you believe these skills have assisted you in your career and if so, how?

Absolutely, no question.

I work in an environment where I need to be intellectually sharp, grasp new concepts quickly and to communicate these within the context of what I do. I need to be able to take complex information and often influence others with a specific strategy or analysis of a situation. I use my skills every day.

Funnily enough, philosophy helped me get onto the graduate scheme all those years ago.  During the final stage assessment centre a practical problem was given to a small group of approximately 5 people to discuss / debate. The problem was quite obscure, concerning re-establishing civilisation after a major disaster, and we were given 20 or so jobs from which we would choose 3 from which to structure society again.  It was here that I applied a solution based upon Plato's Republic to, which confused the group but seemed to impress the assessors!

Strangely, the one thing philosophy does give you an ability to engage in discussion. I cannot count the times that philosophy, or specific philosophical issues such as tragedy or punishment, become the subject of conversation over a client dinner or drink. The subject matter covered during the degree is so vast that it allows you to speak quite intelligently on such a wide range of subjects, and it is amazing to find so many non-philosophers have an interest in various branches of the subject.

Would you recommend a degree at Southampton to others and what advice could you offer to students and recent graduates of your degree subject about moving forward and choosing a career path?

Yes.

The key recommendation is to work your socks off and try to get a first. It's the vocational equivalent of winning Willy Wonka's golden ticket, and is more important than ever in a world with increasing job competition. It is so important to differentiate yourself at the earliest stage. Yes, you might miss a beer or two here or there, but you'll be able to have far better beers later on and that degree will be with you for ever. Moreover, it will give you such incredible satisfaction and confidence, and that feeds through to your general behaviour in future.

I would advise relaxing about defining a career during the initial stages of your degree. The degree focus is absolutely key, which means choosing a degree you're going to enjoy and jump two-footed into.

You'll find your way and, hopefully, develop interests as you move along. Some of the very best people I've worked with have studied something totally irrelevant to their career. However, the one thing that defines them all is a great work ethic and a thirst for what they do - they have all worked hard and undertaken further vocation-related education as their careers progressed (e.g. AMCT, CFA, MBA etc).

Once you begin to get an idea of what interests you, ensure you have a well-structured CV and think about supplementing your study with work-related internships. The better you're doing at university (even mid-way through), the better the chance of getting that good internship at a great firm.

 

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