Jun Sandeman, a veteran who works in Global Capital Markets in London, says his military training prepared him well to make the transition to a civilian career in banking.
As a captain in the British Army, Jun Sandeman spent eight years working across the globe—including a 2013 tour of duty with his tank regiment in Afghanistan—but he admits that he was terrified the day he first walked into the London office of Morgan Stanley to join the equity coverage team of the Global Capital Markets division.
“Here I was wearing a suit, not a uniform, not sure what to expect, having only limited background in finance. Was I going to make it?” he remembers asking himself. At that moment, in 2017, he drew upon something the army taught him. “In the military, the mission comes first, and I carried this attitude with me. I knew I didn’t have a lot of financial education, but I was confident I could equal any person there in terms of dedication and drive.”
Sandeman, who is now an Associate in the department he joined as an intern, also credits his colleagues for creating an atmosphere in which he could thrive. Before the COVID pandemic forced him and his colleagues to work from home, he says, his office was a place where “different ranks of staff worked together, to share observations, expertise and intelligence. People are always willing and prompt to help with a challenge.”
The department’s commitment to achieving the best outcome for clients fuels the collaborative culture. In this way, Sandeman finds the spirit at Morgan Stanley deeply familiar, after years in the military, where teamwork is paramount. He adds: “There’s also plenty of encouragement of independent thinking, and we’re urged to think out of the box and come forward with new ideas all the time.”
Asked if a banker’s existence can rival life in a combat unit for level of excitement, Sandeman laughs. “It’s a different kind of intensity but one that engages me all the same. On any typical day, there are five people working on three different deals, all live in the market at the same time,” he explains. “There is a constant stream of information: new orders for shares, questions relating to deal terms, summaries to be used to brief the client on the next update call. The senior team members are giving directions and asking for information urgently. It can seem like a rather chaotic environment, but it is very exciting and is actually remarkably similar to working in a battlegroup headquarters,” says Sandeman, who served as a Battlegroup Communications Officer and one of two Battle Captains with day-to-day control of the operations room in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
In his current job, Sandeman and colleagues advise corporations, governments and investment firms on equity capital markets transactions and facilitate those transactions. He often provides analysis and briefing materials for his senior colleagues to use in their engagements with clients. Here, again, he sees parallels with his old life: “As in the army, there will often be one person who is out in front, but that person relies on the contributions of all the people behind to be successful.”
Critical Career Juncture
Leaving the military, and the men and women he had “the privilege and the honor” to serve alongside and to command during his years as an officer, was difficult, Sandeman says. Yet, on the cusp of turning 30, his desire to find new challenges pushed him to consider a new career. As a university student, Sandeman had briefly thought about investment banking, before he opted to join the post-graduation one-year officer training program at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“Sandhurst was a way of stepping into the unknown, and the army gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to build my confidence and my belief in myself,” he says. “Joining was the best decision I ever made.”
But after eight years, Sandeman felt he’d reached a critical juncture: Commit his life to the British Army or explore a different line of work. Recalling his interest in banking, he researched various financial firms and industry roles. “I decided early on to set my sights on the top,” he says, which is why Morgan Stanley soon became a focus of his job hunt. He met with members of Morgan Stanley’s Veterans Employee Network, who provided interview advice and guidance.
He was first offered a place in the Sales and Trading Summer Analyst Program, which sets aside two places annually for veteran applicants. “But then, a Managing Director who had interviewed me suggested I might better enjoy a role in Global Capital Markets,” he recalls. After five months, he was offered a full-time position. This summer will mark his third anniversary at Morgan Stanley.
Sandeman and his wife, a primary school teacher, live in London with their infant daughter. His life is busy, as he often balances five or more projects at the bank at any one time, but he never feels overwhelmed. “Although the subject matter is a world apart from the Army, I have found that military experience prepared me very well to be able to assess and prioritize what is being asked of me, whilst remaining calm throughout,” he says.
Sandeman hopes other ex-military personnel will explore opportunities at Morgan Stanley and has advice for those who do. “Start by doing as much research as you can into the broad range of divisions and roles which the organization as to offer, and then begin networking—this will allow you to get a much better feel for the role and the firm’s culture,” he advises. His final command: Do your homework before each networking session, and rely on the sense of determination and work ethic that is the lasting legacy of a military career.