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Smaller Fish in a Bigger Pond: How Finance Executives Can Deal With Moving to a Bigger Company

Posted on October 2020

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It feels good to be a big fish in a small pond. In the banking and finance sector, those who work for smaller or startup companies will be used to holding a lot of influence over processes and business development, and enjoy regular communication with company leadership. 

However, when moving to work within a bigger company - a huge financial institution, a global company with offices across continents, or a brand with a universally recognised logo, can lead to a loss of this influence and communication. On paper, this transition can be a huge boost for your resume and fast track your career path, but the change can lead to a difficult time. 

You are essentially swapping one office culture for a completely different one. Swapping in a close-knit and involving culture for something more corporate and structured can be a struggle. 

This is what to expect when moving to work for a larger company within the financial sector from a smaller institution, and how to make the most of the benefits and handle the more difficult aspects of this exciting career shift.   

The Benefits of the Bigger Pond

First of all, let’s focus on why you have made the move in the first place. The benefits of becoming the smaller fish mean you have that big pond to explore. When joining that pond, keep the benefits in your mind and get the most out of them in your first few weeks when you are adjusting to the transition. 

Large and established companies are steeped in process and, more often than not, will have very strong leadership with plenty of role models to follow and gather inspiration from. It is likely you are going to cover a more specific role or specialisation, with a focus on gaining expertise. You will be working within a much larger structure, which can transform every aspect of the way you work. 

It is likely your new role is going to hold a higher salary, fantastic benefits and make your resume shine. Any experience within an industry leader will look fantastic on your resume when you decide to move back to the small pond or even leap to an even bigger pond!

View Your Department As A Subsidiary

Struggling to move beyond the ‘everyone gets stuck in’ mentality can be hard for executives moving from a smaller or startup company. 

In a bigger company, you will very likely be working under a narrow specialism, and it is less likely that you will be called to input on someone else’s patch, simply because the operation itself is so much bigger.

There is a way to handle this - view the department or team you are placed in as a ‘subsidiary’ with a collaborative approach. Quickly building relationships within your tight-knit team to recreate the confidence and fast-moving approach which is prevalent at bootstrapping startups and smaller institutions. This will immediately help you recreate the ‘buzz’ of the smaller pond.

Instead, apply what you have learned from your experience within smaller teams to view your department as its own sub-company, where you are once again the big fish within a small pond - but that pond is next to a large ocean! Your department is one of the countless gears which keep a huge company running, so view your team as their own company with their own targets, and make sure your gear is always oiled and moving. 

Keep in mind that your experience is an asset to your new company, encourage an entrepreneurial mentality within your department and see the improvements you can make early - your perspective will be useful and insightful. 

Keep Up Communication With Your Boss During Probation

Your probation period is a vital time, particularly if you are struggling to settle into the larger structure. You won’t be the first, and this is the perfect time to communicate honestly and clearly to your supervisor any issues which are cropping up. Keep up communication through e-mail and face-to-face interactions with either a supervisor or an HR representative.  

If there are issues with the new company culture you are struggling to adapt to, these are the people best placed to give you the advice and support you need. Schedule a one-to-one meeting to allow yourself time to get your points together and speak honestly, before relationships (and the politics that come with them) have been established. 

Find out the Resources Available to You and Take Advantage of Them

You will be experiencing a different culture, and you will miss aspects of working within a smaller team and holding more influence, but a leading benefit of working for an established company is their significant increase in resources which can help your career.

Personal development plans, learning resources, opportunities to attend conferences and sector events, networking events within your company and even providing funding for major educational developments such as leadership courses and new skills qualifications. Focus on how to access these resources and make inquiries early. Show your enthusiasm for self-improvement, and fast forward your career with these brilliant resources. 

The journey up the corporate ladder is far clearer within a large company, feel the benefits of your move by quickly establishing the moves you need to make to start that journey and embrace the new challenge of being an exceptional executive within a large firm.