Military service in a war zone is the definition of working under pressure, and Benjamin Anyan knows a thing or two about that. He joined BNY Mellon in 2015 through the Returning Military Programme. He spoke with “Behind the Scenes” about how the experiences and lessons he learned in the British Army have carried over to civilian life.
You served eight years in the British Army before joining BNY Mellon. What did you gain from your military service?
I had a really good experience with the Army. I tried to get the most out of it while I was there, and I feel I developed leadership management skills and confidence. I joined up in 2008 after earning my bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) in my home country of Ghana, because I knew I could find interesting work and develop lifelong skills in a world-class organization.
During my Army service, I was able to complete a master’s degree in forensic accounting at the University of Portsmouth. In the midst of my studies, I was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months, and during that time, I was working seven days a week as a technical support specialist, while writing my dissertation. My job was providing logistical support to the electrical and mechanical engineers within the regiment. I had to make sure they had the materials to do their job wherever they found themselves.
Writing my dissertation under those circumstances was quite challenging, and I had to use every free minute wisely. For one thing, internet download speed was so poor that I really couldn’t do much in terms of research. I would get a title of an article I wanted to read and send it to my research supervisor or my brother, James, and he would send it on to me. And most importantly, we had a big job to do in Afghanistan, with many lives on the line. There is really no time off, but experiencing other cultures and having to stay focused would stay with me forever.
How does the Returning Military Programme work?
When I decided to leave the British Army in 2015, it was with a year’s notice. I had time to focus on possible career options, and a mentor urged me to look at internship opportunities for veterans before launching into any full-time role. My research led me to BNY Mellon. It stood out to me because of the quality of the Returning Military Programme, the corporate culture, and the opportunities to work in compliance and audit.
The Returning Military Programme is a six-week program that’s designed to give you exposure to an organization. About 65 ex-military men and women have come through the program so far. It helped me develop my interviewing skills and build my CV. It was really a great advantage and opportunity.
Once I was accepted, I had some choices about paths I could follow. I knew I wanted to walk away having achieved something, and I decided to go into compliance advisory with Newton Investment Management. I had earned my certified fraud examiner qualification in the Army, and with my financial crime risk management experience, I worked on similar issues at Newton. My projects included a review of the fraud risk assessment to ensure there were no possible control gaps and a review and update to the financial crime training material. The support of the Compliance Advisory team was invaluable, making me feel part of the wider team.
One of the big challenges for any returning military member is to adapt to civilian work life. When you need to get direction or get something done in the Army, you may just walk up to the right person and speak to them and trust that it would be done. Additionally, Newton and BNY Mellon are highly technology based, whereas technology is used to a much more limited extent or in a different way in the military. Also, of course, I had to learn about financial services and about the corporate culture, which I found very positive.
What happened after your six weeks were up?
I was keen to find my next role. My initial idea was to work within compliance, but I was also looking at other opportunities. I met with an audit director here in London, and after our conversation, I was so excited about working in internal audit. I had studied corporate governance and internal controls extensively at university, and I realized from experience that you need the support of top management and the board to achieve excellence. I could see there was tremendous support for the work of internal audit. In February, I became an internal auditor in the EMEA Asset Management group. I’ve also become involved in the IMPACT and VETNET employee resource groups, which focus on multicultural and veteran employees.
Are your military skills still working for you?
Absolutely! In the military you are trained from day one to work under pressure with limited resources, to work as a team, and to lead and manage. These are the same things that are important in the corporate world.
In hindsight, being self-motivated and having the appetite to learn from others are some of the most important lessons I learned in the Army. These lessons are applicable wherever you find yourself and whatever career stage you are in.