Buchan’s Cambridge rugby side emerged victorious at this year’s 136th intervarsity game at Twickenham. Having picked up his Blue, the former Scotland and England Schools forward is now looking to transition to a career in investment banking. He’s played for England and Scotland and represented teams around the world. We asked him about balancing rugby and academics and the need to put his body back together again before he starts his position at Jefferies Investment Bank.
What was it like playing in the Varsity match for Cambridge?
It was really special. The highlight of my career. Even though I’ve captained England Schools and played Six Nations for Scotland, I’ve always seen myself as a student athlete. I’ve always studied at the same time as I played sport at a highest level. So, it’s very different from the average varsity guy and for me the varsity match was the pinnacle of student rugby and it was my farewell to competitive rugby.
What are you studying at Cambridge?
I’m doing an MPhil in Management. It’s a one year masters at the Said School at Cambridge. It’s going well. The course matches a pre-experience MBA. It’s a really interesting course. I’m enjoying the finance and the accounting and economics side of it, although most of that is next term. This term the focus is on marketing, organisational behaviour, human resource management – more of the management side. It’s really good to do, but if I’m being brutally honest I’m more into the subjects next-term.
What’s the next step for you on the career transition path?
I have secured a job at Jefferies Investment Bank through add-victor as a generalist investment banking graduate. In the next month or two I’m going to be in a dialogue with Jefferies about which team I want to be in and what role. I wouldn’t say I’ve got my mind set on one particular role or team. I’m pretty open-minded, because coming from a sport background I want to learn as much as possible in the role. At the moment I believe I’m earmarked to join a UK-based team which does a bit of equities and a bit of debt. It works across different sectors as well from consumer healthcare to oil and gas. This will suit me as I’m looking to stay more of a generalist for now and take a couple of years to work out where I want to be after that.
And what’s the plan for rugby?
Yeah, I think rugby’s going to have to be on the back-burner, unfortunately. I had quite a bad back injury last year which has made my decision for me. I wanted to go to Cambridge anyway to do my masters, even though I had options to go to various clubs. My rugby’s going to have to be more social from now on, especially with next year looking like I’m going to be working six/seven day week’s at times. I’ll take time to lose a little bit of weight, do some yoga, get my body put together again post-rugby. It’s just so broken!
Going from competitive sport to the world of investment banking, what are you expecting are the attributes that will be your best ally?
The City can be a pretty competitive place and everyone’s very ambitious. And what has made me good at rugby is that I’ve been a bit skilled, but more than anything it’s been my competitiveness. I’m always trying to be the best on the pitch or get the position on the team and I think it’s going to be pretty similar in the new role. They say it’s a very collaborative environment at Jefferies and I’m sure it is, but, like in rugby, you’re essentially competing with a lot of the people around you.
Then I also think that working in teams with other people will come naturally. I’ve always liked doing that, which is why I play a team sport. I’ve never been one for playing individual sport and I really enjoy succeeding with other people, so that’s going to be good.
It can be a tough time in the city, and I’ve had my fair share of them – having had tough times with injuries and getting dropped – and I think resilience is also going to be key. There are going to be times when you’re working pretty hard and you may be feeling pretty down because you aren’t getting the success you wanted.
What areas do you think will challenge you most?
It’s probably going to be the quantitative side, you know, the getting up to date with the technical stuff. I’ve done a bit and I’m definitely getting there, but I would say it doesn’t come as naturally to me as some of the other people who have studied financial accounting for four years and are straight out of the Frankfurt School of Finance. So there’s definitely going to be times where I’m going to have to keep up the pace and do a bit of extra work.
What will stand you in good stead?
Having interests outside of rugby has always made me a better player and feel more settled. The pressure to turn out every week and perform at your best can take its toll. Having something outside of rugby has always helped me play better because I can relax. And by relax, I don’t mean sit in front of an X-box. As soon as I leave rugby training I can switch the rugby switch off and turn the academic switch on. Chatting to Nick Koster, John Aynesbury, other guys in my team at Cambridge, we have all benefited from having something else to keep your mind on.
Finally, any regrets so far?
I’m definitely happy with what I’ve done, I feel like I’ve squeezed in so much in the last 5 years. I’ve played down in Australia, played for Scotland in the 6 Nations, played for England. Cambridge has really been a fresh start for me and I would love to have spent more time here, but not necessarily to the detriment of my time at Durham Uni. That’s probably really the only thing.
Going full-time into the premiership really wasn’t the path for me because I’d get bored intellectually. The thought of training three hours a day is not appealing – I’m not the kind of guy that loves the gym – so I’m glad I didn’t go down that route really, I think it would’ve been a mistake for me.