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Somerset legend finally feels able to kick-start second career.
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A stalwart of the county game, Somerset man James Hildreth admits he has been “round the houses” of his personal development before recently landing a life-changing work experience opportunity in private banking and wealth management.
The 35-year-old has over 17,000 first-class runs to his name and is one of the most experienced heads on the county circuit. However, he admits that gaining work experience off the field is equally as important to him as spending time on it.
Hildreth recently spoke to PCA Personal Development Manager (PDM) Martin Cropper to discuss his new part-time role, what skills he will take back into the Taunton dressing room, his plans for the future and more…
- MC: You had a really busy off-season James, can you explain how you made use of your time?
- JH: During the 2018/19 winter I did a two-week work experience block with Arbuthnot Latham, a private bank in London with offices around the country. I spent time in the Exeter office seeing how their private banking and wealth management operations work which I really enjoyed.
- This winter, I wanted to build on that and secured a contract with them working two days per week, originally from November to February. It has been a fantastic learning opportunity and they’ve been so supportive. It’s also been great to be able to do it alongside winter training. I’ve been shadowing private bankers and getting a first-hand view of how they work, meeting clients, attracting new business and attending networking events.
- I’m currently working through my Diploma in Financial Services (DipPFS) so the goal is to support Arbuthnot Latham but also get first-hand understanding about the practical side of private banking and wealth management as I work through the exams. The contract has been extended past the initial end date, so I’m still working two days per week remotely and plan to do my work alongside playing cricket throughout the summer.
- MC: What has made you want to do this now whilst you’re still playing?
- JH: I’ve gone around the houses with my personal development and explored a range of interest areas and different studies. I did a master’s degree in Sport Psychology, undertook my ECB Level 4 coaching badges and did the first couple of years on a Business & Sport Management degree.
- However, after speaking to Lee Cooper from Cooper Associates (a wealth management firm based in the south west), I started to become interested in financial services. He suggested I look at the DipPFS which I began working through online whilst playing. That then led me to start looking at opportunities to get vital experience alongside the qualification.
- I have always been fully aware that cricket was my first career and that I needed to prepare for my second career as early as possible. We will all go through the transition at some point and I want mine to be as smooth and successful as possible.
- MC: How did you manage the process of taking on another job? Were Somerset happy for you to miss two days per week all winter?
- JH: Sorting out work experience last off-season was easy enough; it was two weeks in November and contractually we are allowed to take that time. However, agreeing with the club about working part-time through the winter required significantly more dialogue and planning.
- Somerset are really supportive of players getting stuck in to personal development and I’m really grateful to Andy Hurry and Jason Kerr for giving me that backing. Obviously, it required a lot of trust that I would keep on top of my fitness but I suppose they know where I am in my career and I have proven my professionalism over time, so I am different in that respect to some of the younger lads.
- We’ve maintained really good communication, challenged ourselves to make sure it’s been working for everyone and ensured first and foremost that I am on top of my cricket as that’s my bread and butter right now.
- MC: What have been your major learnings from working in financial services? Is there anything that will help your cricket?
- JH: On the face of it, they are two very different working environments. However, there are skills I have developed in cricket which helped me in the banking setting and there are some things I will definitely take back into my cricket, especially on the commercial side of things.
- I’m starting way further back than most working for Arbuthnot Latham and I’m learning so much. It is office-based which is different but I also spend a lot of time out meeting clients and helping them with their business and their money. It’s a completely different language but it is relatable to the business of cricket, liaising with sponsors and relationship building which is something that Arbuthnot Latham really pride themselves on.
- Working with people from a wide range of backgrounds during my playing career has also definitely helped, it enables me to easily engage with different people. If I go into the commercial side of cricket later in my life, this experience in banking will hopefully set me up quite nicely for that. Likewise, cricket teaches us to give and receive direct feedback and gives us the confidence to challenge people with new ideas and not be a yes man, which I think is something that Arbuthnot Latham really like.
- MC: What would your advice be to other players about in-career personal development?
- JH: Start with yourself – you have to find something you are really interested in. It’s important that the PCA’s PDMs and clubs keep nudging personal development and provide plenty of ideas and opportunities, but it’s the players themselves who have to drive it. You’ve got to get out there and be prepared to do things that don’t resonate with you, cross them off the list and move on. That way you can filter down to what you do want to do. I had, and still have, a range of interests so it’s about identifying and exploring them. What you end up doing will most likely not be the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t be afraid to get out there, get in contact with people and be curious.
- Also, your confidence grows when you are out of your comfort zone and you realise it’s not as daunting as you were expecting. My master’s degree was important for this as it got me out of the cricket bubble and talking to people from different worlds which I got a lot out of. Standing up doing presentations, learning new skills and knowledge is exciting once you realise how much more there is to it and it provided me with confidence that there are things outside of cricket which excite me. It’s definitely given me perspective which we all need. When we are on a green seamer in April we need to realise there is more to it, and my understanding of that has really benefited my cricket.
- MC: How do you see this experience setting you up for post-cricket life?
- JH: At the moment, I want to play cricket for a few more years, but I can definitely see myself going into financial services afterwards. I absolutely love working with Arbuthnot Latham so I hope something might happen there. It’s a great relationship-focused bank working with high net worth individuals so it ticks my relationship building passion and areas of interest in banking.
- I plan to keep working both jobs for the foreseeable future, which I hope will allow to me to create a smooth transition when I feel the time is right. The dream is to be the CEO of Somerset in the future. I am not naïve, there is a lot of growth and learning to do before I am ready for that. I will need to step out of cricket for that and right now I have found an unbelievable opportunity doing something I genuinely enjoy, which also enables me to develop commercial knowledge and business acumen which will hopefully support that long-term goal.