Date posted: 9/02/2018

Road to Westpac: How a graduate program can pave the way to a career in finance and accounting

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As one of the 'big four' banks, Westpac is a potential job target for ambitious graduates. But how exactly do you get there? With your list of goals in mind and a passion to learn as you work, the search for opportunities could start with a graduate program application.

Westpac offers a range of graduate programs, each with a focus on a particular area of the company. The finance and accounting program typically takes successful applicants for a two-year period with three-to-four intervals of job rotation, that is, a different job every six months1. This allows graduates to gain a well-rounded learning experience.

Nathan Rodrigues completed a six-month internship with Westpac before he applied for their graduate program. He says the knowledge and skills he obtained during this internship, as well as the great company culture, encouraged him to apply.

"In the teams I've worked in, they have all been incredibly inclusive, open to fostering new ideas and approaches to existing processes and very social - particularly with a lot of team bonding events and opportunities to celebrate achievements," he says.

Shreya Sood explains how the job rotation structure of Westpac's graduate programs can help graduates gain knowledge that they can use in real-life situations.

"When doing a rotation in Group Finance at Westpac, I was completing my finance module and starting my tax module," she says.

"Both of these helped me gain a better understanding of our financial reports and how we apply the financial standards in our reporting and the impact they have on our organisation."

Daniel Josevski spent two and a half years working in a public practice accounting firm before deciding to go into the commercial side of accounting instead. He applied to the Westpac Finance Graduate Program and was given an offer which he accepted immediately.

"With Westpac playing such a pivotal role in the success of the Australian economy, I wanted to be a part of that. I also wanted to have the opportunity to take on a role where I could have a key role in decisions the business makes," he explains.

Westpac's Chief Financial Officer Business Bank, Richard Burton, explains that senior leaders, including Heads of Finance and the CFO, have an active role in the graduate program through consultations with the graduates.

"At the end of an hour with each of them, the graduates should be able to come back and tell us how each of the areas or divisions within Westpac work," he says.

Richard also says the graduate program provides opportunities for graduates to work on their problem-solving skills. They are tasked with finding something that requires improvement in their current division during the first month of their rotation and then encouraged to work on it over the next five months.

"Graduates work with their mentor to agree that the problem exists, agree on what the improvement opportunity is, and then actually get on and solve the problem, so that the graduates leave each rotation having provided actual solutions," he says.

The graduates had a lot to say about the rewarding aspects of working with Westpac at this early stage in their careers.

"I have had the privilege of working with many talented individuals with different backgrounds and leaders who have mentored and motivated me as I develop and grow with my career," Bhavana Bhat says.

For these graduates, pairing the knowledge gained through a Westpac graduate program placement and the internationally recognised Chartered Accountant qualification, is an effective combination.

"I'm currently planning on moving over to London within the next 3-5 years to gain experience in their banking sector. Being a qualified CA can help this become a reality for me," Nathan says.

Richard explains how the graduate programs add to the qualifications they already have.

"It's a massive advantage, not only because of what it stands for, but also because it builds on the knowledge you get through the CA Program. This experience is so important to develop all of the skills that you'll need throughout your career," Richard says.

Westpac goes to great lengths to support those in their graduate programs, as Daniel explains.

"Being on the grad program, I get support from a buddy. That is, a graduate who is one year above you, and a mentor, who is usually a senior leader somewhere within the bank. I also have support of my graduate peers and the people I work with day-to-day in my role," Daniel says.

"It's a place where if you want to do something innovative, people are always willing to help you and really want you to succeed."

Daniel also shares some advice for any university students who are hoping to enter the finance industry, encouraging them to take on volunteer work, get involved with clubs and play sports around their work and study commitments.

"If you can show that you are keen to develop yourself and strengthen your weaknesses and can show that you've had experiences which have exposed you to dealing with different types of situations, I think you'd be doing yourself a massive favour to get noticed by recruiters, especially when applying for graduate roles."

While you're looking at the graduate programs available to you, be sure to discover the benefits of becoming a Chartered Accountant.