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Robert Alston (BSc Rural Resource Management 1995)

Biography

After Reading, I began working in the family farming business whilst building a career outside agriculture to diversify and develop my financial experience. I joined NatWest Bank on a 2 years graduate program specialising in Agricultural Lending. After a London placement, I joined JPMorgan at the start of 1999 in Cash Management Sales & Corporate Banking, followed by UBS and then 5 years at Deutsche Bank in Capital Markets and Treasury as lead coverage banker for UK plc relationships. In September 2013, I decided to return home to the family business full time with my own family based in Norfolk. I now use my time to further develop the farming and property business, alongside non-executive and investment management roles across a variety of businesses.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

Its reputation as first in class for Agriculture within a large green campus university; the degree level and the broad student base.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

Its high teaching standard with excellent facilities within a campus setting. Reading was a great town (much improved now!). I met some fantastic people from all walks of life, who are still my best friends today.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Work hard, make the most of it. Drink at the Nob.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

Now I am managing my own farming and property business. I also use my financial experience to invest in businesses and take non-executive roles. My degree from Reading enabled me to get onto the milk round interviews with NatWest Bank, followed by a 17 years Banking career in the City whilst developing the family business.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

For Agriculture, approach Banks and some investment houses looking for practical knowledge in the sector.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

The level of the degree course and NatWest's association with Reading, at the time, enabled me to be considered for an interview and then a job.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

There's always a shortage of good people: do everything you can to demonstrate your aptitude for the role and how you can fit into a team. Internships, experience, etc.: they all help.

Why did you decide to give to the University of Reading?

I feel Reading did a lot for me and enabled me to get to where I am now. A small donation, if it can enable a student to have the same chance that I had, it's a small price to pay.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

Reading means a lot to me because it opened up my eyes to the wider world. For the first time I was exposed to a high level of education and stimulating company from fellow students which spurred on my development. There are many favourite memories, one in particular of the Agriculture exchange trip with Lille University. 12 of us in a minibus for 5 days was hilarious: we learnt and drank a lot. The Ch'ti brewery was a real highlight, followed by a party at Dunkirk where Terry Jones won the eating competition with the locals. Greasy shag FM on the stereo and Teasdale in a French Nightclub was priceless. I hope they still do that trip!

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