Careers in Financial Services – Perception vs. Reality… In Conversation with Melíosa O’Caoimh of Northern Trust

Recently, Barden in association with hosted a webinar where Melíosa O’Caoimh, Country Head, Northern Trust Ireland, gave us an insight into market perceptions about careers in Financial Services (FS) vs. what she has found herself to be a reality when building her own career in this space. Melíosa was appointed Country Head, Ireland of Northern Trust in April 2019 and leads one of the largest FS teams in Ireland.

Here are some of the insights Melíosa’s shared with us… we thought they were ideas worth spreading…

“Many accountants think anything but FS”

  • Perception: FS is not a rewarding career path for accountants.
  • Reality: Key accounting skills are sought after within FS and are seen as a big advantage.      

Melíosa’s interest in accounting started like many others – she thought it would be a useful career option with multiple opportunities. A keen interest in management and the opportunities this brought in terms of working with people was her real career ambition and like the majority of accountants, Melíosa felt this would more than likely result in a career “anywhere but financial services”.

After her training contract and some “traditional accounting” roles, Melíosa made the move to an Investment Management Company, starting in Finance areas and gradually moving into operational roles. Melíosa meandered around picking up skills and knowledge within the firm and subsequently reached the position of EU Head of TA.   On this part of her career journey, Melíosa also learned that by being curious and confident, coupled with leveraging diverse experiences, more often than not results in a multitude of compelling opportunities opening up…especially within the ever-evolving FS sector.


“Once you believe in yourself, someone else will”

  • Perception: Commercially focused roles do not exist in FS for me.
  • Reality: Qualified accountants hold key decision-making positions in large, medium and boutique-sized FS firms.

A stand out insight Melíosa covered, was how being a specialist early on can stagnate one’s career odyssey while alternatively, meandering within your career (especially in those key early years) can really help you long term when it comes to building out your different skills sets and experience types. Not being afraid to give it the time it needs and never giving up was also a key take away. This is even more apt in our modern world where there can be a demand for instantaneous results. Melíosa champions this by saying “internally or externally, it doesn’t always have to be an upward move”.

Melíosa referenced that personally it took two bites of the cherry to secure the Head of Client Services position within Northern Trust Ireland at the time she was applying. Building her profile internally while displaying a balance of confidence with humility is what she feels ultimately sets her apart. Melíosa is now the Country Head for Northern Trust Ireland and is responsible for 1700 people. Melíosa believes that always remaining curious, and relatively technical, has helped her in her career and she looks to learn something new daily from the industry.


‘The world is all about technology now’

  • Perception: Accountants can get by with a basic understanding of tech.
  • Reality: In today’s world strong technology and accounting skills are essential.

Melíosa says “the world is all about technology now” and the funds industry is going through a technology revolution. Having young people on teams who are tech savvy as well as having experience within accounting is a key focus for all FS businesses. Funds and FS are a growing and vibrant industry to work in. The industry is a global business so is not very dependent on the local economy but rather the international markets. This is an advantage for the industry where net assets under management in Ireland are around 3 Billion and the number of funds domiciled is more than 7,000. This trend is only set to continue and increase.

Melíosa notes that the industry will continue to grow and as long as people have creative ideas to invest in and it can only be beneficial for those who are looking for a career within the growing FS world.


Melíosa’s positive coaching message towards the end – we all need to believe in ourselves and make things happen” – is a message everyone can relate to.

A special thanks to Melíosa for participating in our recent webinar and for also sharing some excellent career insights. We hope you take away as much from this as we did!!






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