Sport is often a wild and inexplicable rollercoaster, consisting of furious heights, blind turns, and, naturally, painful lows. That was no different for Ben Marshall. As a former U20 Six Nation Champion and Pro 12s Championship winner with both Leinster and Connacht (14’ & 16’ respectively), Ben was at the peak of his rugby career. Regularly featuring in first team action, he was experiencing one of sports furious heights. But, as can be the case, especially within a sport as unpredictable and intense as rugby, what followed was a blind turn and its subsequent low.
During a win against Ospreys in early 2016 Ben failed to return for the second half of the game; he went into a ruck and sustained a blow to the head. This moment, unclear at the time, would ultimately cut his career short. At 26 Ben, under the severe instructions of the doctor, hung up his boots.
Sport, as wild and inexplicable as it may be, can define a person. It can shape your characteristics and grant you skills applicable to every walk of life. That night at the Sportsground (Connacht’s home field) was a defining moment for Ben. It shaped who he is today: resilient, courageous, determined to reach the top again—albeit this time in finance.
Having graduated from Dublin City Business School with a MSc Finance last year he shortly landed an off-cycle internship in Debt Capital Markets. As that came to a close Ben contacted add-victor, sights firmly set on his vocational ascension. After an expansive interview with a leading global bank, Ben was offered a position within their sales & trading team; an opportunity he told us he’s looking very much forward to, “learning from some of the industry’s best and brightest is incredible exciting. I have always found the best way to learn is by doing and surrounding yourself with highly driven individuals.”
When did you start playing rugby?
I started at 9 – 10 years old in the local junior rugby club, Greystones RFC. I still love going down for a game or two when I’m back in Ireland and have a good group of friends playing there socially.
What would you say is your greatest achievement within the sport?
Two moments stand out immediately.
Playing for Ireland vs the Barbarians at Thomond Park and sharing the pitch with some incredible players on both the Irish side and on the side of the touring team.
The European semi-final vs Toulon in Marseille, unfortunately we didn’t come away with the victory however the sheer magnitude of the game will stand with me for a long time.
What is your favourite part of rugby?
It would have to be the changing room and the camaraderie with the rest of the team. It is a real privilege to spend your career, however long or short, surrounded by your friends.
What characteristic do you believe is the most influential to your success within sport and within finance?
+ Resilience – a career, in sports or finance, is never a straight path. The skill to take a knock, pick yourself up, work to be better than before, and keeping your teams wellbeing as your paramount concern is critical for success.
+ Ambition – working every day to be better than the last. This permeates all aspects of life, from my time as a professional sports person, through my studies and into my next career.
+ Self-Assessment – the ability to be self-critical and honest. Every interaction / activity can be completed better or more efficiently it is just about finding those marginal gains.
Do you think there is a difference between the Irish rugby academy system and the English? If so, what would you say the main differences are?
I am not too familiar with the system in place in the UK. The centralised IRFU management seems to create a longer-term focus for the clubs, who in turn can focus more on player development without any short-term financial repercussions.
How did you come in contact with add-victor?
I had heard of one or two past players that they had helped with their transition. Rugby Players Ireland (formally Irish Rugby Union Players Association) introduced me to the team at add-Victor.
What would you say add-victor offers in regards to assisting your career development?
add-victor aided in all aspects of my financial career development. Coming out of a sporting life, it is safe to say many players are quite ‘green’ about a traditional career, let alone a career in finance and I was no exception. The team helped me with my CV and interview preparation and of course, opened an enormous network of firms and individuals that understand ex-sports professional have intangibles that are an asset to any work environment.
What do you enjoy most about finance, more specifically the Sales space there within?
I was always drawn towards the problem-solving aspect of finance, helping the client manage their positions and creating the best solutions for whatever situation has presented itself. The fast pace of Capital Markets means that these situations will be continually presenting themselves giving myself the perfect platform to apply the lessons from my past career into my new one.
What have you learnt most from the game?
The ability to perform under pressure week in week out. There is a saying aimed to help players block out external ‘noise’ and to focus on the job at hand, ‘Next Play’. It is that ability to block out the added pressure of specific situations that will stand with me during my time in finance.
How did you combine high-level rugby with obtaining two degrees and how much of that was enabled by the culture within Irish Rugby?
Irish provincial rugby has always had an emphasis on the ‘life after rugby’ aspect of the game. This comes through all management levels and in all age groups. We were encouraged, if not praised, to continue with academics as soon as we transitioned into a professional environment, be it semi-professional or full contract.
I always remember some of the older lads beating the message into the academy almost on a weekly basis, ‘get your degree, finish college, this does not last forever’, of course lads would be laughing and joking about becoming the next big thing but always remained focused on achieving a degree or qualifications outside of the clubhouse.
Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy combining my undergraduate degree with my rugby, I struggled through some classes, but it was the same lessons I learnt in the sporting world, dedication, work ethic, and short term goals for long term success that helped me through my undergraduate degree.
Rugby Players Ireland have been a huge influence on the development of players and their strength within the Irish Rugby ecosystem has been vital to the success of so many players that have left the sport earlier than planned.
What is something you wish you could tell an 18 year old Ben Marshall?
Enjoy it. Memories fade, details blur. Appreciate the highs and experience the lows because it comes and goes so quickly. Being able to realise where you are and the hard work it has taken to get you this far is so important.
If there’s one piece of advice you could give to an aspiring athlete looking to go into finance, what would it be?
Patience. As a professional athlete, you get used to immediate feedback. You win or you lose, the margins are there to be seen and to improve upon. A plan can be set in motion to gain in areas of strength and to improve on areas that need work.
In finance the outcomes are not so black and white. Continue applying the lessons you practised in your sporting life, assess your performance, make the changes where you see fit and keep going.