Parade Profile: Fyona Knight (BA Modern Languages and European Studies 2000)

Posted in: Humanities & Social Sciences, Parade profiles

After graduating in 2000, Fyona embarked on an unconventional journey from modern languages and European studies to a career in the financial sector. She tells us how studying her course became her ‘superpower’ in her professional life and helped her stand out in the industry.  

Having built a successful career in risk management, Fyona spends her spare time championing female leadership in the financial sector.  

Fyona Knight Why did you choose to study at Bath?  

I attended an open day and found the city and campus to be extremely friendly and welcoming. It seemed like a wonderful place to begin my new life; where I could come out of my shell and develop as a person.

Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?

No. I grew up in a rural area with limited career choices and needed to explore the wider world in order to find my path. I chose a course that taught skills which could be applied to many professional situations in the future, but which allowed me to keep my options open.

Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?

Along with learning to speak French and Italian, the course equipped me with in-depth knowledge of the economic and political functioning of other European countries. This proved invaluable for interpreting and reacting to geo-political developments, which is a crucial part of managing financial risk. 

Outside of my studies, taking a small role in King Arthur for the Bath University Opera Society was a huge confidence boost for me as a shy first year, as well as spending too much time queuing outside Cadillacs, Club Blue and Po Na Na. This was probably the reason I was always asleep on the bright orange bus up to campus each morning!  

Describe your career journey since graduating. What is a typical day like in your current role?

After graduating I moved to London, where I found an administrative job at an investment bank. From day one I loved the energy and excitement of working in international finance and pretty soon realised I'd found my purpose in life.  

I then progressed to trading floor support roles and took financial qualifications to advance to more senior positions in investment banking and asset management. Today I work for Standard Chartered Bank, managing the risk of our private equity fund portfolio, appraising new deals and deciding the amount of business we should do with each client.  

How did your studies help you to develop? 

Studying European history revealed many challenging socio-political issues that I had not previously been aware of and, while living abroad in my third year, I encountered situations which challenged my beliefs and worldview. These experiences left me wanting to use my skills to help solve societal problems, and the opportunity to do this came once I began working in the city.  

The finance industry has a serious problem with gender inequality, and I use my spare time helping to develop more female leaders. I spent several years volunteering as Head of Networks for Women in Banking & Finance, a non-profit organisation that has championed women in financial services for over 40 years.  

In 2017 I co-founded a new London Livery Company, the Guild of Investment Managers and, in 2025 (subject to election), I am due to become Guild Master. It's quite a rare thing for a women under 50 to become the Master of a livery company, I hope to use it as a platform to highlight the issue and be a role model for others wishing to progress to senior levels. I'm already being invited to share my story on industry diversity and inclusion discussion panels aimed at future female leaders, which is really satisfying.

What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath? 

While banking is not the conventional choice for graduates of my course, it became my superpower in terms of standing out. Financial institutions are increasingly hiring based on a holistic assessment of the candidate's personality, rather than just on qualifications. This course is perfect for developing the diversity of thought and alternative worldview that hiring managers want in their teams, and for opening you up to so many ways of making a difference in the world.      

Posted in: Humanities & Social Sciences, Parade profiles

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