In our latest MERJE Markets article, we talk to Risk Management consultant Periklis Alygizakis, who specialises in building Risk teams in London and the south of England. This is all with a particular focus on SMEs and fast-growing organisations.
As a result, Periklis fully understands precisely how and why the right hire can have a significant impact on a firm’s risk culture and subsequent success and prosperity.
Here, he discusses his career background, the Risk Management sector and the current state of play during these uncertain times.
You moved from Greece to the UK in 2016. What brought you to the UK and why did you embark on a career in recruitment?
I have always wanted to live abroad and explore new cultures and markets, so I decided to pursue a MSc in Business Psychology in England. There, I got a taste of the London lifestyle, met some amazing colleagues from all over the world and never looked back.
I knew that my career should revolve around human interaction, so I applied to junior HR and recruitment roles straight out of university. I subsequently secured an internship for a global project with a pharmaceutical firm, which rapidly exposed me to a fast-paced recruiting environment.
You have been with MERJE for almost 18 months, how does it compare to other recruitment firms which you have worked for?
MERJE is my first taste of agency recruitment and I’m grateful for that. My previous company was corporate and lacked the human touch. This was because my manager was based in the United States and reviews were scarce. I still remember walking into my first interview at MERJE and feeling the exact opposite. Everyone is here to support you in any way that they can and office politics are non-existent. the directors place an emphasis on hiring people that would fit in well on a personality level and this means that the office feels more like a community than simply a job.
In addition, MERJE has provided me with all of the tools which I need to succeed, notwithstanding a host of directors who possess the experience to help me reach my goals. They have a very strong presence in the Risk and Compliance recruiting space which certainly has helped me to embark on a new journey.
Risk Management was new to you when you joined MERJE. How have you found the past 18 months working in this market?
Risk Management, by definition, is the forecasting and evaluation of risks and the identification of procedures to minimise their impact. This should appear straightforward, but you might be wrong.
It took me months to truly conceive the breadth of knowledge that Risk Management professionals need to achieve, as well as their importance to any organisation.
Covering both financial and non-financial risks across a number of different sectors, I have many interesting conversations with bright individuals on a daily basis. This might embody a technical discussion with Quant / Investment Risk professionals which encompasses technology trends and systems. Then we broach how to influence stakeholders and promote a “risk aware” culture across the business the following day.
From a commercial perspective, I think that Risk Management is a great sector to work in, as there will always be a requirement to mitigate risks on a commercial basis.
Generally, Risk Management professionals are technical and play an invaluable role for any regulated and non-regulated businesses, so their salaries justifiably reflect that.
As we know, Risk Management is fast-paced and ever-changing. What do you feel is one of the most prevalent issues at present in your market?
As businesses evolve and become increasingly remote and digitised, so does Risk Management. There seems to be a lot of need for Technology / Digital Risk professionals who are more suited to lead the implementation of frameworks around digital products.
Similarly, with the arrival of the current pandemic, the need for Operational Risk professionals is at an all-time high. Businesses require Business Continuity and Operational Resilience plans in place, as well as Agile Risk teams to adapt to the new-found perils of our times.
On a similar note, there seems to be an expectation across sectors for younger Risk professionals to be more technologically adept. It is now the norm for a junior Investment / Market / Credit Risk Analyst to know a number of programming languages and systems and to have an advanced STEM degree.
Finally, a trend which is not necessarily new but is further emphasised due to the current situation is the need for ‘’one-stop shop’’ Enterprise Risk professionals. This is because organisations are currently cutting costs and keeping a frugal budget for recruitment. Enterprise Risk professionals, who have had exposure to various financial and non-financial risks have become popular as a result. Similarly, we see a strong need for hybrid Risk and Compliance candidates to lead the regulatory function of a number of FinTech and growing SME businesses.
The employment market is challenging at present, with a lot of people looking for job opportunities. What advice would you give to people seeking a new role?
With the COVID restrictions having gone on for more than six months now and the furlough scheme due to expire at the end of this month, redundancies have reached a record number since 2009. Unfortunately, we have daily conversations with professionals who have been made redundant for the first time in their career and lacking the job searching skills necessary to juggle through this tough climate.
Although there are many different avenues one can take, I believe the below are some practical tips that will maximise your chances in the current challenging market:
1. Utilise Your Network: In my opinion, this is the single most important thing you should be doing while navigating the current marketplace. Organisations are keeping tight budgets on hiring and advertising for new roles, so many roles are likely to be filled internally or through referrals without you ever knowing. It’s time to reach out to those old colleagues that have now moved on to pastures new, go for that coffee with your former boss and reach out to people who work in companies that you would love to explore further. People are generally willing to help and you rarely pester them, even though you feel you do.
2. Stick to Your Industry: This one could be an unpopular opinion, but this is not the best time to be considering a transition to a different industry. With so many individuals losing their jobs, the market is what us recruiters would call ‘’candidate rich’’. Hiring managers do not need to get creative and will not necessarily focus on transferable skills, simply because they can find people coming from their direct competitors. Apply and network to the Industry you know best and can highlight your expertise.
3. Don’t Spray and Pray: It’s very tempting to just apply to every single opening you see on LinkedIn and the various job boards out there. My advice would be don’t. It’s much better to carefully review the Job Spec, the company and then tweak your CV appropriately for this particular position. Yes, it is very time consuming but it will greatly increase your chances of your CV being at the top of the pile rather than it being lost in a sea of applicants. On the same note, I advise that once you apply through the appropriate channels, you should aim to reach out to the relevant recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn and express your interest directly. If you can do this in a creative and memorable way, even better!
Finding recruiters that you trust and value is definitely a good strategy as they can offer free CV reviews, salary benchmarking and current market insight, as well as promote you for roles that could be coming up in their books a few weeks/months down the line or one’s they are currently working on but don’t necessarily advertise.
Can you recommend any sources for up-to-date market news and information in the Risk Management space?
I tend to gather most of my market news from Risk.net, CorporateComplianceInsights.com and my network on LinkedIn. There are also the big four to consider, alongside McKinsey and other global management consulting companies, which offer key insights and reviews around current industry trends.
What do you miss most about Greece and what do you enjoy most about London life?
My culture is family-oriented and I am one of many siblings, living in a house with more than 10 family members. Being the only one to have left the country to pursue their dreams abroad means I certainly miss the small things like having dinner with the family after a long day.
I’m also an avid swimmer and I feel closer to home when I’m next to the Mediterranean, not to mention I have a deep hatred for rain and cold weather.
However, what Greece cannot offer me is this constant buzz of opportunity and energy which you can only find in cities like London, such as the diversity, activities and food to eat. The list goes on. I’ve made amazing friends all over the world during my short four years in London and this is something which would simply be impossible to do where I come from.
That being said, my long-term dream is to build a beach house and give my children the opportunity to raise them in the same environment where I was raised.
Finally, what would people be surprised to learn about you?
There are two interesting facts which people might be interested to learn about me:
To date, there is not a single food or cuisine that I have not tried and enjoyed. I challenge anyone to give me recommendations of the most heinous, disgusting looking things to eat and I’ll send them a personalised video of me reviewing them.
I love catching my own food and I am a passionate spearfisher. If you are not familiar with what this means, I basically take a spear gun and free-dive to catch my own fish. No equipment, one breath. The experience itself is simply unparalleled, but it can't be fresher than that!