The Power of Asking Qs

Starting a career in financial consulting at Quorsus, like any first job, was a leap of faith. The pace of learning, and timelines to meet deadlines, were faster and more condensed than I had previously experienced at University. As I entered the worlds of both the financial industry and consulting, the breadth and depth of learning opportunities was huge. Now, as I look back at how I have navigated this and how I continue to approach advancing my own learning, I am going to share a few of my own experiences and considerations with the hope it provides some practical takeaways or generates thoughts about your own growth. I will explain how the projects I have experienced and the people I have worked with have been fundamental to my learning, how asking questions has deepened my understanding, and how being curious and growing in confidence have benefitted my personal growth and will continue to do so.

Within a relatively short time at Quorsus, the projects I have been involved in have greatly contributed to my professional and personal growth in a number of ways. These projects have impacted me by: i) introducing me to a variety of post-trade subject matter; ii) improving my ability to pick up new information quickly; and finally, iii) giving me the opportunity to work with a number of people with diverse professional backgrounds in the industry.  Expanding on these with greater context and industry examples further:

  1. Learning whilst on projects has increased my understanding of our clients’ processes and use of technologies in the Securities and Regulatory Reporting domains. For example, when working on a Securities project for a global bank I became familiar with their Securities Settlement Lifecycle process. We compared their management of Standard Settlement Instructions (SSIs) to industry best practices and recommended how best to optimise their processes to improve the timely and accurate settlements of trades. Equally, in the Regulatory Reporting domain, working on a Voice of the Customer project for a pre and post-trade reporting platform gave me an understanding of the infrastructure required for the trade reporting process, and the importance of sufficient controls to ensure accurate, timely, and complete data. These experiences provided an opportunity to gain insights into a variety of subject matter and developed a foundational understanding on which I could build on.
  2. Additionally, past projects have required me to quickly learn new content and be flexible to the clients and colleagues who I worked with. For example, when supporting the Project Management of a Joint Venture initiative in the FMI space, I was required to quickly grasp business, legal and financial topics, of which I was previously unfamiliar to. Being aware and adaptive was essential. As I continue to work on projects with new information, these are skills which I use every day and look to develop and tune.
  • Finally, during projects, the colleagues I have worked with have played a pivotal role to further my understanding. Quorsus has recruited people with years of industry experience, all willing to share their knowledge and anecdotes. Leveraging our experts has been paramount to my understanding of the wider ecosystem which our clients operate in. Initially, when working remotely in the pandemic, this was more challenging; but latterly, by going into the office and having more candid and open conversations, I have benefitted immensely. Therefore, when working across a variety of subject matter at Quorsus, with experts at hand this has provided an opportunity to accelerate my learning. Thus, contributing to a solid foundation of post-trade knowledge and key consulting skills.

Whilst simply working on these projects provided a valuable experience, what maximised my learning was asking questions and being curious to know more.  With a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips, and considering how best to derive this, I became conscious that it is unavoidable that those who hold information on a topic are not wholly aware of the extent and depth of their knowledge. This exemplifies the importance of asking questions to help elicit information. I realised that some seemingly simple questions could add a huge amount of clarification and insight for me and others too. For example, coming in as a Consultant on a project where the client understands their environment extensively requires a rapid understanding of their systems, processes, controls and, organisational structure.  Here a simple question can, at times, trigger an expansive and insightful response which may otherwise not have been considered significant from their perspective. These questions could be as simple as querying an acronym, the purpose of a technology, or the scope of the topic. It also signals active listening and engagement, creating discussion, rapport and trust, subsequently resulting in further information sharing. Simultaneously, questions can bring awareness to the person imparting their knowledge of whether the audience has fully understood the topic and where potential gaps may need filling. Additional information can shed light on vital knowledge which accelerates understanding. ‘Tacit Knowledge’ (a term coined in 1958 by Michael Polanyi) is knowledge that is notoriously difficult to express or extract, and often acquired from personal experiences. Asking questions from different perspectives draws out deeper information, and helps you build a more comprehensive understanding.

On a project, this could take the form of asking an end-user about nuances in their experience of a technology, their frustrations, and their workarounds. When asking more obscure questions I have found the answers to be more revealing, which has encouraged me to think more curiously about the subject. At Quorsus, when there are training sessions, I remind myself that those sharing their knowledge could never know the true extent of what they hold, nor comprehend their audience’s pre-existing knowledge. Whether during internal calls or when on client projects, this highlights the importance of asking questions; a simple question or a more nuanced question will undoubtedly be valuable to you and to others, and could significantly benefit the value of the outcome delivered.

Admittedly, asking questions can be challenging when the content is new and the audience is large and/or unfamiliar. Additionally, when most calls are virtual and the default is ‘on mute’, an internal thought process qualifying whether a question is worth coming ‘off mute’ for means it can be all too easy to not speak up. Therefore, I personally believe the main hurdle to address and vocalise an internal question or thought can be apprehension. To help overcome this and motivate myself, I have acknowledged that active, independent learning requires interest and drive from within in order to continue developing and moving forward. As I have been on more projects at Quorsus, I have become increasingly aware of the transferability and reusability of so much information. I have consequently realised that by not asking questions, I am limiting the benefit to myself on future projects. I have found that building experience and knowledge is rewarding; the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. With more background experience, I gained the confidence to dig deeper into potential links across different topics. Then, in turn, when becoming the person sharing the knowledge for others to benefit from, this adds a sense of value and fulfilment, especially when people have been generous with their own time and knowledge in the past. Therefore, I have found that overcoming apprehensions and being accountable has helped me address any internal queries and curiosity. Finding your own motivation could do the same to propel your learning. In the long-term, it may re-appear on future projects, building familiarity with the content, or it could lead to sharing knowledge for others to gain from.

To conclude this reflection of how I have approached my development at Quorsus, I have found that learning when on projects and from the people you are around can be hugely impactful to the development of foundational knowledge, and especially formative when beginning a career. To maximise the learning opportunities and deepen an understanding of the subject matter, I have found that asking questions, either simple or more complex, is an effective approach to elicit the sharing of information and gain knowledge that may not have previously been disclosed but nevertheless is hugely valuable. This is especially the case in an industry where so many linkages exist and yet the environment is dynamic and continually changing. Importantly, finding a motivation to ask these considered questions to colleagues and clients will ultimately benefit your understanding, advance your learning, and positively impact the outcomes you deliver. And finally, I have realised that developing softer skills such as being curious, learning quickly, and finding confidence are all beneficial for personal development. On reflection, I believe that a combination of these factors has been key to helping me convert the ‘leap’ of faith to more of a ‘step’ of faith into the world of financial consulting.

Any Questions?