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Kate Robertson: From Pathology and Physiology to Credit Risk

With a background in medical sciences, Kate Robertson may seem like an unlikely Credit Risk Analyst. But, since joining Macquarie’s Graduate Program in 2020, she’s found her skills to be a great fit for a career in financial services.


By the time Kate Robertson completed her Bachelor of Science, she realised she didn’t want to enter scientific research or go further into a medical field. While she had majored in Pathology and Physiology, she had also studied a couple of Commerce subjects, so began looking for a job in financial services through her university’s careers ads.

“I searched for large companies that would take a science graduate,” says Kate. “There weren’t many and most had ads that were entirely skills-based.”

“Macquarie stood out,” says Kate. “Rather than looking for a set of skills they asked for someone who was looking for a challenge, who was innovative and who wanted to be pushed.”

Kate did some research, and thought the fast-paced environment at Macquarie, and the emphasis on learning would suit her, so she put in an application. When she was successful, she moved from Melbourne to Sydney to take up her new job in early 2020 - just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It was hard to move cities, then have to work from home and not be able to see family because of the pandemic,” says Kate. “It showed me how important my coworkers and support from my team in Sydney was, but also how much I could do myself and how important resilience is.”


From Pathology to Credit Risk

Kate joined Macquarie’s Graduate Program in the Credit Risk team, part of the Risk Management Group.

“Science revolves around research, rather than internships,” says Kate. “So I had nothing to compare it to and starting the Graduate Program was a completely new experience.”

Coming from a non-financial background, she wondered which part of financial services she would be most interested in and suited to.

“It was the graduate recruiter who first suggested I consider the Credit Risk team and I was immediately curious because risk applies to everything, not just commerce,” Kate explains. “Risk is part of everyday life and in science we learn to analyse risk. It’s about pros, cons and analysis.”


Science and finance

Kate says she applies her science background to her work in finance every day.

“With science you’re pushed to enquire and to think for yourself. You need to take the initiative and, as an organisation, Macquarie encourages this kind of approach.”

A background in scientific experiments also gave her a framework to apply to risk management, even if she had to acquire some of the skills on the job.

“I work for Credit Risk in Financial Institutions,” Kate says. “My job is to make sure the bank minimises any potential losses. We conduct annual reviews of every company Macquarie will trade with - banks, funds, and others - to ensure we’re happy to keep trading with them, and for what amount. We assess the value versus the risk.”


A day in the life

Since the day she started with Macquarie, Kate says she has been given a high level of responsibility.

“I started in February and already by May, I was given responsibility for analysing Australia’s Big Four banks and all their subsidiaries in their annual review. This demonstrates the level of trust and learning available.”

She is now the analyst responsible for these companies and, alongside regular monthly tasks, she looks after any ad hoc requests from traders such as increases to trading limits or new products. She is also involved in working with other credit teams on large, longer term projects.


New opportunities and challenges

Kate enjoys the autonomy and flexibility of her role, coupled with the support of her team.

“Coming from a non-finance background I had to learn the basics as well as what my team does,” Kate says. “But if you’re eager to learn, people help you.”

While working from home during the pandemic, Kate’s Division Director blocked out a 30-minute meeting for her every single day, so that she could be sure to get the opportunity to ask any questions she wanted and feel supported.

“Senior staff are always available and appreciate it if you’re curious, and ask questions, and you’re encouraged to speak up and ask for opportunities if you want them,” says Kate.


Curiosity, growth and learning

Kate has taken advantage of graduate training that provides work and career skills, as well as specific training for risk.

“After about six months, I felt I was beginning to get a handle on the work expected of me and could see progress as I was working more independently. I could see all the hard work of learning was paying off and that I was of real value to the team.”

Through her network of other graduates, Kate has enjoyed finding out about other areas of Macquarie and seeing how different roles fit into its wider operations.

“Macquarie doesn’t put you into a box, so you don’t need to put yourself into one either. It’s possible to go wherever you want to, so long as you put the work in.”

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