From left to right: Ellie Grice, Jana Torcikova and Chloe Millington. The photo was taken by Katie Binnion, an even more recent addition to the TAEFL team

Bringing a fresh perspective to the TAEFL organisation

“I felt part of the team in my first week – it seemed as though I’d been with the company a great deal longer.” That’s the encouraging view of Chloe Millington, one of the three staff members who have joined Trade & Export Finance Ltd in the past few months.

Absorbing a steady stream of recruits into the business is potentially a challenge for senior management, not least because TAEFL is a classic SME, with fewer than twenty in the team at present. It operates in a fast-moving financial services environment where there is no room for square pegs trying to fit into round holes.

Like her colleague Ellie Grice, the longest serving of the ‘Aston Three’, Chloe had joined TAEFL  after being introduced to the company as a ‘temp’ supporting the company’s administration. In contrast, Jana Torcikova came to the TAEFL table after gaining extensive credit management experience in her native Slovakia and in the UK where, for the previous decade, she had worked in the automotive and print media sectors.

Origin of the Species

With their widely different experience and academic disciplines, this ‘Class of 2015’ was worth meeting to learn more about what had drawn them into the Aston Cross Business Village.

Ellie had pursued a degree course in Theology at Durham University; not perhaps the most obvious route into the world of peer-to-peer lending and letters of credit. As a humanities course, Theology provides a foundation for many different career paths, she believes, including teaching; an option she had considered. “The course has an immediate relevance to my involvement with TAEFL. Apart from the fascinating subject area itself, you develop competence in historical analysis, writing, presentations and team work.

“And while I hadn’t envisaged a career in finance either before or during my studies, the course provided the academic rigour I would need when I joined TAEFL and became involved in the more detailed aspects of credit analysis, for example. Questioning primary texts provides a good foundation for monitoring legal documents in the financial world.”

Like Ellie, Chloe Millington is a recent graduate. She completed her MSc in Human Resource Management and Business at Aston University at the end of 2014, following a first degree in Business Psychology and Advertising. Did she feel that enrolling for the Masters degree had delayed her career at a time when there were more graduates than suitable vacancies in business?

Chloe had not made the decision lightly, it seems. “Having decided after a placement with an advertising agency that I really did not want to go into that industry, I decided to concentrate on the human resources aspects of business. To be able to pursue such a career, it was inevitable that professional qualifications would be required.

“These could be gained either through part time study while working, or secured as part of the Masters degree. I chose the second route, which also gave me the opportunity to spend five months studying in Canada. That experience boosted my self-reliance no end.”

Time for a change

Jana’s route into Trade & Export Finance was on the strength of her credit management experience rather than her degree in Economics and Accountancy. Having spent ten years with two organisations in the UK, the time had come for a career move. A vacancy in the small but expanding TAEFL organisation provided a springboard into the financial services sector where that experience could be applied.

Notwithstanding her solid track record in credit management, Jana Torcikova was likely to find TAEFL a very different place from her previous posts on several counts. What did she expect to find in the organisation? “I kept an open mind. The role of credit analysis and management is necessarily different from publishing or vehicle engineering – or indeed from the wood products group I had been working with in Slovakia.”

For Ellie Grice, fresh out of her course at Durham, there was no past experience of the financial world to draw upon. “When I was asked to go to TAEFL as a temporary clerical assistant, It was clear that the company was involved in finance, but I assumed it was a consultancy. It soon became apparent that Trade & Export Finance had specialist finance companies within the group that worked to assist their clients. I wanted to be part of that supportive environment and applied for a permanent appointment.

“Despite not having a background in finance, I was not at a disadvantage because of the intensive 12-week training programme in the company. The course had been created and was first taught by two former members of the team. It continues to evolve, as we pass on that knowledge to those who have joined after us. That process is critically important to the success of TAEFL: throughout my training, I had the full support of immediate colleagues and senior management.”

Chloe shares Ellie’s experience of being ‘absorbed’ into the TAEFL environment. “Never having worked in financial services, I was potentially being dropped in at the deep end but it did not feel like that in practice. What I enjoy particularly about the company is that a high proportion of the staff are young, but the directors listen to what we are saying. They recognise that finance is a fast moving sector and that many of our colleagues are recent graduates and have up-to-date knowledge of financial techniques, for example.”

Watch this space

If this focus were being written even a few months down the road, the chances are that we would find all of the ‘Aston Three’ developing their careers within TAEFL. Ellie is already involved in training the next round of recruits. “I’m currently teaching one of the newcomers and working through the twelve week training programme with her. This direct training touches upon the teaching career ‘opportunity’ which my degree course had provided, and we have been redesigning and editing the current training programme together.”

Chloe seems set to utilise her human resources training as the company continues to grow, while Jana will take on greater responsibility for some of the complex client activities in which the group is involved. For Chloe and Ellie, working with TAEFL has been their first taste of the commercial world, so let Jana cast her more experienced eye over working for the company. “I have been impressed by the lengths to which senior management will go to help all incoming staff give of their best. It is an approach to which we are keen to respond.”

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