Fiona Pentney

  • Chief Financial Officer (Asia) for Credit Suisse AG
  • BA French and History, 1987


What first attracted you to study at Birmingham?

'I liked the combined honours course; it allowed me to keep all my options open, carrying on with the subjects I had enjoyed at school.  I also enjoyed the feel of the place when I came on a visit, the campus environment but still being part of the city was very attractive.  Finally I liked the people that I met when I visited; they were open, friendly and helpful.'

Can you tell us a little about your career progression since graduation?

'Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my course, after a four year period of study I really needed a job that would train me and pay me at the same time. I fell into Accountancy and trained with one of the Big 4 firms in London.  I stayed nine years in the profession and it gave me lots of opportunities to explore various industries and travel for work assignments.  Finally I left to join a client in the Financial Services industry.  I enjoyed the fast pace and the constantly challenging environment of the City of London and the chance to work with so many smart people.

I had several roles with various City names and then joined Credit Suisse in 2000 in their Product Control department.  The objective was to validate and ‘control’ the activities of the Trading Floor.  In 2008 as the firm expanded in Asia I was asked to move to Singapore to manage the team there and in 2013 my rounded financial experience helped me to be appointed Chief Financial Officer for the region.'

How do you feel your studies have influenced or helped you in your career?

'I am a strong believer in a Degree training the mind rather than imparting specific information.  I tend to only use my French socially now but I do spend most of my time solving problems.  These range from how to develop someone’s career to where to spend our technology monies or how to manage a new product or business.  Problem solving requires me to critically assess information, draw conclusions, make decisions, and communicate on complex matters with colleagues from all cultures and in many time zones.  The studies I undertook at Birmingham helped prepare me for the challenges I face every day in my role: they required me to understand complex problems, linguistically or historically, absorb different points of view and articulate my conclusions.'

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

'There have been many highpoints: each new role or promotion has been gratifying but the things I remember most are the challenges overcome which seemed so very significant at the time.  This could be setting off as a very young manager to another continent to ensure our local offices could service the requirements of our global client or establishing teams in new locations or managing change that improved the environment for the team and the firm.  Sometimes, it is the achievements of others that are most encouraging and I remember especially the times when I have helped people grow and be successful.'

What did you enjoy most about your time at Birmingham? Any favourite memories of campus?

'My favourite memories are of the friends that I made at Birmingham.  University is the time to meet and enjoy people who will be with you for the rest of your life, no matter how far away you may go!'

What advice would you give to current or prospective University of Birmingham students?

'My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity that the University offers:  there are so many these days! Benefit from both the academic but also extra-curricular activities.  Be curious about the world around you and gather experiences.  This will help to equip you for whatever career or life choices you then want to make.'