By Olivia Sleet, Career Centre Researcher
As a result of her career exploration on the Masters in Finance (MiF), Ivelina Delcheva (MiFPT2016) pivoted from a planned career in Corporate Turnaround to an entirely new one in FinTech. During her studies she left her Underwriting and Deals Structuring role at BNP Paribas in Cologne, moving to their London Asset Management office before using her LBS network to embark on a career in FinTech. This ignited her interest in helping growing companies overcome challenges. She tells us about playing ‘the long game’ in your career and staying true to what excites you.
What was the initial reason for joining the MiF programme?
I initially wanted to strengthen my skills in Corporate Turnaround and Restructuring and to change jobs in order to work in that field. I am still interested in helping companies in challenging times, especially in situations with high stakes. However, through the programme I discovered that I could also apply my skills to starting/growing companies as well.
You’ve since changed your career by moving into the FinTech space. When did you move into FinTech and what and where did you secure a role?
I moved to FinTech in 2018 after I realised that working for big financial institutions didn’t allow me to help real companies in resolving their problems. I found the first FinTech company I worked for advertised in some of the LBS discussion groups on LBS Portal.
What sparked your interest in FinTech?
The MiF broadened my career perspectives and showed me that I had a lot more opportunities than I initially thought. The programme actually helped me take back the control over my career development. What matters to me are one, the transferrable skills and two, to do what I am passionate about. I always wanted to help companies overcome their challenges – to grow, become profitable, transform. In my case, FinTech ticked those two boxes.
What do you think helped you secure your role in FinTech? This is particularly interesting as FinTech firms often tell recruiters that they are not typically attracted to candidates with big bank backgrounds.
I actually see the trend reversing. Quite a lot of FinTech companies, especially the ones in later stages, turn to experienced financial services professionals. What usually helps is showing your transferrable skills to the recruiters in relation to what matters to a role at a FinTech company. You might not land the desired job immediately; in my case I had to make compromises several times in my career and take on roles which I knew didn’t quite fit my profile, but those roles helped me land better ones afterwards.
What do you think made the difference between you and other candidates?
Having a compelling story and being able to explain how your skills fit the profile requirements always helps. Knowing about the industry is also important – I visited quite a lot of conferences and events in order to understand the industry, trends and players better.
What challenges did you face when searching for and securing a FinTech role? How did you overcome those challenges?
The biggest question for me was how to choose a company that would survive the next couple of years. Not every company will be the next Revolut – in fact, very few startups succeed beyond three or four years. You have to be aware that FinTech firms are not those stable and mature companies, things in the sector change at a very fast pace and the crucial thing that aids that survival is the team. So, researching the team is key.
How did the MiF programme help you make this career change?
The programme, my outstanding classmates and the broader LBS community have been directly or indirectly involved in every career move I’ve made, during or after the MiF. Developing my network during the programme, not only with MiF students but also with students across all LBS programmes and maintaining those relationships after graduation has been crucial for me.
What was your job search and networking strategy when it came to targeting FinTech roles?
It really depends on the country you’re targeting. I always prefer to find a direct contact at the company instead of working with recruiters. In Germany for example, simply applying to a job advertisement online works really well. This isn’t always the case in the UK though, where some networking is required in order to find a contact in the company and increase your chances of success.
What advice would you give to MiF students who are looking to break into the FinTech sector?
Be persistent. Try to research the industry, the players and the trends beforehand. Think about your transferable skills and how you can apply them to the company you are interested in.
How have you stayed connected with the LBS community since you graduated? And how has this helped your career?
I regularly visit events organised by the LBS community and organise events myself. It helps me maintain the valuable relationships I made while at LBS. I’ve been lucky to be able to rely on great advice and support from my LBS friends – things like insights on industry, trends, companies, business opportunities.
Interested in our MiF programme? Submit your profile to our recruitment team for an informal chat about your eligibility.