Zeynab had the opportunity to come to the University of Leeds from Abu Dhabi after being awarded a scholarship from the United Arab Emirates. She now works for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi in London.
How did you find studying at the School of Law?
It may sound cliché but it was literally the best time of my life. I have everlasting friendships and memories. I still tell people about my time as an active university union member – we did fundraising campaigns, protests, amended the union manifesto, proposed motions, lobbied, and travelled with some of the societies. I don’t think I was ever that socially active after university, it was probably the ‘peak’ of my activism.
What do you miss most about the University of Leeds?
I was president of the United Nations Associations in my final year. I really miss working in a team pro bono like that. I remember when the Haiti earthquake happened, we started fundraising immediately.
I also recall when we prepared the delegates for different Model United Nations conferences (simulation of the actual UN, people got assigned countries and committees, whereby they had to research their country stances and attend/debate accordingly) across the country and abroad. At one point preparing for the London International Model UN conference, we ran two workshops a week to work on their submissions, country stances and debate skills. We had a good team, 7 people at the time, with 500+ members. It was definitely one of the more rewarding experiences in my life to date.
Tell us about your career path since graduating.
After graduating I got a job straight away as a paralegal at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. In 2013 I was seconded to their London branch for 2 years at their Knightsbridge offices, where I simultaneously did my LPC and my LLM at the University of Law.
Give us a brief insight into your role?
Financial Crime is my favorite area of my job, everything from on-boarding due diligence on prospective customers to on-going monitoring, liaising and reporting to regulators like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). Anti-Money Laundering, Counter Financing of terrorism and International Sanctions are collectively the biggest theme in banking at the moment. The FCA has taken unprecedented extraordinary measures on banks – causing a ripple effect of global remediation and tightening of controls, making my job suddenly one of the most sought out in financial services.
What have been the highlights so far?
Working in London is amazing. Our bank was at the cusp of a massive expansion, which meant recruitment and new business. I got to meet so many interesting people at the forefront of the banking industry. Talent in London is rife and it’s the best part of living and working there, you feel constantly challenged by the people you meet.
Why did you want to study Law?
My love for debate, politics and the English language all contributed to the decision, but the main thing was the strong belief that as a woman, having a law degree would empower me and give me the confidence I needed to succeed in my environment. Traditionally where I come from, the woman was meant to stay at home and take care of the children. Luckily in our times a household can barely run on one income, and women are more often at work and contributing to the bread winning. However it was still considered a big move in my family that a girl left home and studied abroad, so I feel like I needed that kind of character shaping degree that would equip me with the life skills to break that mold once and for all.
What do you like doing when you’re not working?
Travelling! I think we took for granted as students the spare time we had. I only get 20 days a year for annual leave to travel, so I try to squeeze in as many destinations as possible.
What are you most looking forward to in your future career?
Becoming an entrepreneur one day. My aim is to start my own law firm specialising in corporate law.