Owen Kelly, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Just why is Scotland’s finance sector booming, and what career opportunities has this created within the industry? We spoke to Owen Kelly, Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, to find out.

Owen Kelly, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise


The financial services industry in Scotland

I came into this job seven years ago and we’ve seen a lot of change in the financial services industry over that time.

These days, Scotland is probably most famous for the business of investing – not only investment management and fund management, but also the increasingly important and rapidly growing sector of servicing assets. We’re also very strong in areas like life insurance and pensions. Life insurance was invented here back in the 1700s!

While that’s a big part of what goes on here, one of the key characteristics of the industry in Scotland is its diversity. Unlike many other financial centres, we’re not dominated by one sector but provide a broad range of services.

That’s a great strength because it means that the financial centre as a whole is more sustainable.

Combining industry and academics

Scotland’s ecosystem brings together all the elements of a successful financial sector, one of the key parts being a very well-developed, high level financial services education system.

This produces well-educated and talented people to join the industry, and at the advanced level we also have very successful collaborations happening between the universities and the industry. I think this cross-fertilisation between academia and industry is a feature of almost every successful financial sector in the world.

Scotland's leading lights

I think the growth of Aberdeen Asset Management over the past 15 years has been amazing. It’s now the largest listed fund manager in Europe and that’s a fantastic achievement. Standard Life Investments has also been remarkably successful over recent years, and there is a long list of other success stories operating in Scotland.

On the academic side, Heriot Watt University has an exceptional actuarial science department and Edinburgh University is number three in the world for informatics, which is an incredibly important area for the future of our industry. The implications of 'big data' and this technological change are really enormous for all aspects of the financial sector.

Working in financial services in Scotland

The financial services industry in Scotland offers an excellent opportunity for you to build a great career. That’s been one of the biggest changes over the past 20 years - you can now come to Scotland and have a clear career path to the highest levels in the sector.

We don’t have all the people with the necessary experience we would like in more senior roles, so for the more experienced person there are also plenty of chances to develop new networks through which to further your career. Any large investor wants to be dealing with people who can access investments all around the world, and that requires a very high level of intellectual direction and content.

Regulatory changes coming through at the European level and also from some of the UK changes – ring-fencing of banks for example – are likely to provide big opportunities as well as a very buoyant and successful customer service sector.

Scotland has an intellectual and cultural environment that is really lively and interesting, and is a very welcoming place for people coming from overseas. It has a lot to offer.

Want to work in one of Europe’s leading financial centres - second only to London in the UK? Scotland is the place.

Our mix of home-grown and international businesses means you have your pick of leading financial services companies to work for in Scotland. Whether you’re skilled in banking, insurance, investment management or asset servicing, you can progress your career here.

Join our financial services industry

Learn more about Scottish Financial Enterprise