Three consultants on working at financial consultancy Zanders

14 October 2019 7 min. read

Thanks to its emphasis on career development, a steep learning curve and opportunities for interesting and rewarding work, the consulting industry continues to be a top destination for graduate talent. Three consultants from financial consulting firm Zanders sat with to reflect on life at the firm, and how it has helped them grow as professionals.

Founded in Utrecht in 1993, Zanders is a management consulting firm which specialises across the spectrum of treasury, risk and finance. Since then, the Dutch-origin consultancy has covered some 3,000 projects across 35 countries, on behalf of 500 customers. The firm has grown its headcount to 175 consultants, with international offices in Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK and the US.

Having joined the firm in 2012, Siska van Hees (a Manager) has already experienced seven years of growth with the firm, something which she says is driven by the consultancy’s culture of developing its resident talent pool. She first heard of the company at a job fair while she was studying for her Master’s degree in Mathematics. Siska started at the firm as a working student and found out that her learning did not stop upon joining Zanders.

Siska explained; “My analyst position provided me an in-depth knowledge of valuing derivatives, which also helps in valuing other financial products, but also gave me the opportunity to identify if working as a consultant could be something for me. Besides the intellectual interest in risk management, the atmosphere at the office is very motivating; not only professionally but also on a more personal level.”Siska van Hees, Niels Felix and Mitchell Ponder - ZandersThe culture at the firm also helped her develop her skill-set. Having worked with her Zanders colleagues in various projects and participated in team-building events, from a mud race to a golf weekend with colleagues, she found that at Zanders “there are many smart people who bring the knowledge they have into practice, and create pragmatic, clear solutions for a client.”

On top of this, Siska also learned to work in a diverse environment. The challenges of the consulting industry offers the opportunity to work “with people from different cultural and geographic backgrounds, which adds something special”. Her English speaking and writing skills also improved in the process.

Steep learning curve

Another consultant who has benefitted from both the development opportunities and the diverse yet “family like” culture at Zanders is Niels Felix, a Manager in the firm’s Treasury Management for Financial Institutions (TM4FI) practice. His nephew, who worked at Zanders for over eight years, convinced him to join the consultancy in 2014.

“After being with the company for over four years, I can safely say that he couldn’t have been more right at the time,” Niels enthused. “Apart from the culture, I joined Zanders because I was looking for a steep learning curve as I was in the early stages of my career. Furthermore, I wanted to join a relatively small company which could facilitate a tailor-made (personal) development program.”

When he joined the firm, Niels was uncertain where his competencies and interests would take him, but Zanders allowed him to switch departments once he realised his interest lied more in risk management than corporate treasury. He noted that this flexibility is a key characteristic of Zanders valued by many consultants.

“Zanders stimulates entrepreneurial behaviour, which makes the job diverse…  we work with smart and expert colleagues who are helpful and interested.”

Since arriving at Zanders in 2016, Mitchell Ponder is another advisor who has made good use of the firm’s opportunities for a steep learning curve. Now a Senior Consultant in the Financial Institutions wing, Mitchell joined the firm having recently obtained a Masters in Quantitative Finance. He was ideally looking for a job in which he could both apply and further develop his econometric skills, but was acutely aware that it was also important to develop his soft skills in order to jump-start his career. Hence, a role in the consulting industry beckoned.

Mitchell explained; “At Zanders I found an environment where I can develop my financial knowledge in many areas. I currently enjoy a steep curve by learning on the projects and following internal and external training. Projects typically start by meeting the client and understanding their problems and situation. This might sound trivial, but in some cases, clients don’t know their problems themselves until you point them out. Therefore, it is important to develop skills to interact with the client.”

Citing the company’s belief that Zanders is only as good as its consultants, Mitchell said that next to the work conducted for clients, Zanders is most heavily focused on providing opportunities for personal development via many internal and external trainings organised throughout the year. Starters participate in the Zanders Talent Program, while more experienced consultants can obtain their CFA or FRM certificates or follow training in for example presentation skills – whatever the stage of a consultant’s career, it is never too late to learn new skills.

Shape your career

Having joined Zanders early in her career like Mitchell, Siska has also enjoyed having the freedom to shape her own career over the last seven years. During her time at the firm, she has notably upped her knowledge on risk management, and how to quantify risk factors in a pragmatic way which suits the wishes of a client.The office of Zanders in Bussum, NetherlandsSiska elaborated; “Zanders is a relatively small company that stimulates more entrepreneurial behaviour, which makes the job diverse and not deterministic from the start. Every new consultant will have their own ‘path’ created by him/herself, their managers, and the firm’s partners . Beside this, you also have the opportunity to follow courses and trainings which will increase your knowledge and soft skills.”

The flexibility of the firm goes beyond its training and careers paths too. According to Niels, Zanders is also one of a number of consultancies to make work-life balance a key part of its culture. He explained, “The flexibility and focus on work-life balance was presented to me when I recently requested six months of unpaid leave for a sabbatical through South America. No approval process was required, the response was: “That sounds like a lot of fun, you should definitely do that!” I am not sure if I will miss working when traveling South America, but I am certain I will come back to the Zanders family!”

Closer to home, Mitchell also gave a nod to the company’s culture with regards to balancing work and social activities. He said that every year the firm travels with all colleagues to a new location in Europe for a company trip, alongside activities organised by colleagues ranging from dinner and drinks to events such as karaoke nights, trail running in the hills and an annual ski trip.

“Besides the distinctive characteristics of Zanders, it is a fun company to be part of,” he pointed out. “Next to the content of the work, I enjoy the culture and values of Zanders. A good work-life balance is recognised, and the flat organisational culture is evident in our company. I work with smart and specialised colleagues who are helpful and interested in the work I do.”