Editors Pick

Why you need to have a happy workforce

5th February 2024

Finito bursary candidate Nick Hennigan: “I want to go out there and do my family proud”

Christopher Jackson meets a young assistant to a private banker, and Finito bursary mentee, and explains why he’s destined for great things


I have sometimes observed that precocity creates its own challenges: being brilliant young creates expectation and pressure. In fact, it turns out that ability without the right temperament places even greater pressure on ability itself. It’s rare for the two to go hand-in-hand because the one can sometimes clash with the other. To be very talented is usually to be told you’re talented: not everyone keeps a level head.

Nick Hennigan, 23, who recently took part in the Finito bursary scheme, has had by any measure a difficult few years. His father took his own life at the start of the pandemic, leading to unthinkable grief and shock. But to talk to him you wouldn’t know it – and in fact he only mentions it towards the end of our conversation. “As much as it is a completely negative impact on anyone’s life – within my family it was a huge blow to us all – I now see myself as my dad’s legacy. I want to go out there and do him proud and do the rest of my family proud,” he will say.

What was his early life like? “I was born in Aberdeen and I’m very proud of my Scottish heritage. I went to a state comprehensive and after finishing secondary school, I went to join EY on a business apprenticeship, which allows young school age children to join a Big Four firm, and train up as a chartered accountant.”

The experience was formative but in ways Hennigan might not have been expecting: it showed him vividly what he didn’t want to do. “I was in the audit division, and I didn’t find it personally or professionally stimulating,” he says simply.

But from there, Hennigan went on to complete his university degree in international business management at the Aberdeen Business School, before heading off to study in Canada’s Mount Royal University . “That was a fantastic experience,” he tells me. “All of this has helped shape me into looking towards a career within a company that has international presence. I suppose it gave me a deep appreciation for multi-national business. ”

Hennigan has always had a broad range of interests, and was strong at school across the curriculum. “I always did quite well in maths subjects but then I also did biology and chemistry, as well as English and geography. I like to look at things intellectually and enjoy studying and working towards qualifications.  I would say I am numerate but I am also good with my language and the written word.”

He says this without any air of boasting – he is stating the facts. Has this range of aptitudes made it harder for him to choose a career path? “That was the observation some of the Finito mentors would actually make once I joined the scheme,” he recalls. “They said because I excelled in different areas of business and subject areas, it was difficult to rule things out.”

But Hennigan was already standing out from the crowd and an example of this is his excellent thesis ‘Leading into the post-Covid 19 era’. This astonishingly mature piece of work has a foreword by ITV’s Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall DBE, who writes in the paper: “Nick’s research is considered and thought-provoking and very much chimes with what I have long believed, that personal values and purpose play a pivotal role in the type of leader an individual will become.”

This wasn’t the only figure that Hennigan interviewed for the paper: “I would love to one day – hopefully – become a CEO – so that’s why I chose that topic,” Hennigan recalls. “I also interviewed EasyJet’s Johan Lundgren; as well as Simon Roberts of Sainsbury’s, and Paul MacDonald, the CEO of Avon Protection, and Mark Darkworth of Schroders Personal Wealth.”

I cannot imagine the result was ever in doubt, but Hennigan secured a first for his efforts. It is worth noting that Hennigan achieved all this despite scepticism about the ambition of his approach: “My supervisor said to me it wouldn’t be possible when I proposed it and that the CEOs wouldn’t give me the time of day. This spurred me on to go and prove her wrong: that’s part of my DNA – to overcome challenges.”

So how did Hennigan come into contact with Finito? “It happened early in 2023,” he recalls. “I have recently joined the shadow board of UMBRA International Group. Through my work there, I got to know the CEO Kate Bright well and she very kindly introduced me to Ronel Lehmann, the CEO of Finito Education.”

Hennigan’s main point of contact under the Bursary scheme was Claire Messer. “We got on really well, and she was great at preparing me for interviews – as was Merrill Powell who coached me in presentation, and made sure I put each point across succinctly and impactfully. Amanda Brown did my LinkedIn training and Sam Pearce did my headshots. But through all this, I had Ronel who was really my main mentor.”

So what was Lehmann’s advice? “I had breakfast with him at a time when I had just had a few rejections and close calls, where I had got down to the final stages. Ronel told me I needed to think of three areas. So we narrowed it down to PR and recruitment – but we also spoke about private banking.”

Hennigan was initially sceptical about this third possibility: “Given my experience with EY, I was wary about going back into finance, but private banking is very different to audit, even though it’s also underpinned by numbers. It also chimed as I have always said I want to be external-facing and deal with clients.”

Once this strategy was deemed a major possibility, the stars began to align. Hennigan recalls: “Luckily enough, Kate Bright knows the Head of Marketing at a private bank in London and Ronel knew one of the MDs. I was able to meet with both of them on the same day back-to-back. The meetings weren’t for a particular role but I was able to explain my situation and set out my stall. They followed up afterwards by saying there was a potential role with us in a different team as an assistant banker. Again, I had no experience in banking and I made them very aware of that but they didn’t seem to think that was a problem: I got the job.”

Those are the four words we most enjoy hearing at Finito. When I speak to Hennigan, he has only been in position for two and a half weeks, but his early impressions prove to be overwhelmingly positive: “I am enjoying the set-up that I’ve got,” he tells me. “It’s very fast-paced and I have got a lot to learn. It’s going to be a steep but positive learning curve. The good thing is I am fully supported by not only the banker that I am assisting but also the team and the other assistants that we have in the bank within the team. I am in the front office and I think it’s an amazing first job. I am not going to take it for granted. I am going to work hard.”

Of course, it is a tragedy that Hennigan’s father isn’t around to see what a remarkable young man his son is – and is still becoming. His will always be one of those stories which, despite his remarkable nature, will contain the wish that events had been otherwise. Never once in our conversation do I see any trace of the self-pity others might feel and which would be perfectly understandable.

Hennigan says: “I suppose it’s formed my outlook on life. It’s through adversity that you end up going on and doing great things. Finito opens doors and it encourages you – but it is down to the candidates themselves to do well.  If the candidate doesn’t want to engage in the process then they are not going to get out much. I think there is maybe a misconception with Finito: people say they will just place you into a job. No, they will support you to get yourself into that job.”

That’s something that mentors observe on a daily basis – it’s not often, however, that a mentee speaks so eloquently about the experience of the mentor. What I think Hennigan has therefore – and I expect it to catapult him in time to the front ranks of British and maybe global business – is imaginative empathy. It is an ability to place himself in the shoes of others, and yet to retain his own remarkable steel and determination at the same time. It is the mark of someone already functioning at an extremely high level. It will do no harm that he is charming, and equally skilled at numerical and linguistic tasks.

Usually, in an article like this, we like to thank the Bursary supporters who have helped the candidate in question. In this case, the donor has asked to remain anonymous, but has been happy to offer us these thoughts: “All it took was one brief telephone call from Ronel and I felt compelled to help. He was so emphatic in his enthusiasm for a newly presented applicant in whom he saw enormous potential but who had no possibility of funding. Ronel gave me the basic details and story, but was careful not to reveal too much. I did not wish for anything in return, simply the expectation of hearing some good news in due course. And indeed there has been. Nick will no doubt have a bright future and successful career, made possible by Finito’s mentoring and guidance. Maybe one serendipitous telephone call really has changed a young life.”

This generosity is an example to us all, and Hennigan expresses to me the extent of his gratitude: “This person changed my life and I hope one day I get to meet and thank this person.” The donor should also know that to have supported Hennigan is to have backed an obvious winner. I would say: “Watch this space” – but my suspicion is you won’t have to look too hard to see the impact Hennigan will go on to make.

Employability Portal

University Careers Service Rankings.
Best Global Cities to Work in.
Mentor Directory.
HR heads.

Useful Links

Education Committee
Work & Pensions
Business Energy
Employment & Labour
BBC Worklife
Work in COVID
Mentoring Need to Know
Listen to our News Channel 9:00am - 5.00pm weekdays
Finito and Finito World are trade marks of the owner. We cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited submissions, manuscripts and photographs. All prices and details are correct at time of going to press, but subject to change. We take no responsibility for omissions or errors. Reproduction in whole or in part without the publisher’s written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.
© 2024 Finito World - All Rights Reserved.