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Alex Stickler, winner of the One to Watch award, shares his experience with First Names Group

From the moment I arrived at the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards final, I knew that it had been worthwhile applying to. The raw talent that filled the room was incredible, and it was a great place to network and celebrate the achievements of the 120 finalists. With a group champagne breakfast in the Sky Garden (organised by our award category sponsor First Names Group), a fantastic three-course meal at the awards, and being announced as the overall prize winner, I can’t say that there are many days that could top this for me.

I originally applied for the One to Watch award as I loved the genuine interest taken by First Names Group in future potential. Having suffered with a brain injury while studying for my A levels, I’ve perhaps not previously been as successful as some of my peers, so I was thrilled to be able to demonstrate my passion and flare for a people-based work environment, and show what I am capable of when a task is given to me. The ability of the other applicants at the assessment centre was phenomenal, and I remember thinking that I didn’t envy the directors for having to choose a winner – I thought everybody performed with equal excellence and I wasn’t even sure I would make it through to the top ten!

First Names Group is a leading independent trust and corporate services provider, and as part of my award I am spending 10 weeks working in their head office in Jersey. I am honoured by the amount of responsibility and encouragement I am being given here; there is definitely no babysitting and I have been given projects to work on that will provide genuine value to the company.

Spending a day shadowing the chief commercial officer, two days with the head of business development, and time in accounting, administration, bookkeeping, compliance and fund management to name a few, the amount I have learned about the workings of a financial services company is staggering. This exposure to different divisions of the office is invaluable, as it enables me to not only get a general understanding of everything as a basis for future management roles, but it has helped me hone my business interests towards areas I would consider specialising in.

The highlight for me, however, has got to be being flown to Hong Kong to spend a week working in the Asian private client market – the contrast to a small island such as Jersey is just obscene! I was able to exceed expectations, completing a project designed for the week in just a few hours, and so was able to join in and help with a much broader range of activities. I loved the exposure I was offered, for example being able to give my input in intermediary meetings, offering fresh insight into how things could work. I was able to get a real flavour for the diverse nature of the financial industry and contribute to a sector that is rapidly expanding. The team were incredibly hospitable and I want to shower huge praise on them for ensuring I received the full Hong Kong experience in just a few days.

In my free time I was sent off to explore the surrounding areas, becoming immersed in the culture of local markets, remote islands, temples, and taking in stunning views from the top of The Peak. It is an incredibly diverse area of the globe and it’s somewhere I would highly recommend to everyone to see.

The One to Watch award has broadened my horizons in terms of working abroad; previously I had never considered the idea, but after spending a week with the First Names team, and learning about the incredible career progression that can be made, I am highly tempted to return to Hong Kong to progress within the financial industry.

I would absolutely recommend Undergraduate of the Year to anybody. Even if you aren’t successful, you can learn a lot from the application stages and, if you do come out on top, then you can enjoy and utilise an experience that vastly increases your business acumen, for use in your degree and future career alike. The calibre of applicants was higher than had been anticipated and so First Names Group decided to offer another two internships to other finalists. I am definitely behind this – the whole award was about nurturing future potential and so I am proud that this has been noticed throughout the process and rewarded with extra places. Talent shouldn’t be wasted just because there aren’t enough positions open.