Zain Umer

Financial Conduct Authority, UK

“Impact. How do you create it, measure it, sustain it and increase it?

“When I was deciding where to undertake my secondment from the Financial Conduct Authority, there were a lot of options. I looked at leading corporates, hedge funds, law firms and the civil service. I wanted to go somewhere that I could develop, but have real responsibility. Where I could contribute and make a real impact. Where I could travel and experience a different way of working, a different culture, a different style. And somewhere I could pursue my passion of working with developing and emerging markets.

“There was only one place where I could do all of that, and much more. The Cambridge Centre of Alternative Finance is still relatively young, but it has already developed a world class reputation while working with foreign governments, regulators and organisations such as the UN and the World Bank. Its benchmarking and industry reports are respected and widely referenced, and the team contains world-renowned experts in fields such as cryptocurrency and blockchain, regulatory capacity building and FinTech. It has the academic resources of the University of Cambridge and a network of movers and shakers in industry all around the world.

“The projects I became involved in while at CCAF were varied and exciting. A scoping study on behalf of regulators in Uganda, a global regulatory survey and study with the OECD, a report on regulatory innovation initiatives on behalf of the UN and the development of an executive education programme on FinTech, delivered through the University of Cambridge. I travelled to East Africa and Far East Asia, and spent time working in the beautiful city of Cambridge. I made friends and contacts with not only colleagues at the Centre, but from all over the world.

“Since returning to the FCA, I have utilised my experience and development to secure a promotion and currently work on developing the new Cryptoasset regulation regime. I am extremely proud of my time at CCAF, and remain involved in the wonderful and ground-breaking work they continue to do.”

Kat Cloud

“While at the Centre I ticked off Kings College, punting in the river Cam, Cambridge Wine Merchants and Chelsea Buns, from my long list of ‘must-sees’. Cambridge is certainly a city of great variety and I thoroughly enjoying exploring every corner!

“My work at the Centre is equally varied too – everything from looking at financial inclusion to developing an online course for regulators. The closest equivalent to a graduate associate is a research associate, given the different role title it meant plenty of responsibility from day one in new and different research areas. This has included drafting project proposals, co-authoring reports, presenting research findings at conferences and representing the Centre at world leading FinTech conferences around the world. Given the international focus of the Centre, travel is encouraged and often directly related to your research. In fact, while at the Centre I got to travel to Kenya, Uganda and Singapore.

“My colleagues are friendly and extremely helpful, whether I’m trying to write a report or deciding what new restaurants to try in London they are always there to help. Weekly office drinks, weekly sports activities and the annual meeting have made it easy to get to know my peers. While the annual meeting normally takes place during the summer, the team invited me to attend. That made it very easy to get stuck into the team and gave me an opportunity to meet everyone before my first day.

“Outside the office, Cambridge offers a unique history, great food and the perfect flat white at Hot Numbers next doors.

“The six months passed all too quickly. My secondment has been an amazing experience, providing a great transition to my new life as an associate when I return to the FCA.”