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Where Are You Now?

Stewart Junk

Stewart Junk 

BA (Hons) International Business with German 2000 

Stewart has enjoyed two decades in the banking industry after graduating from the University of Sunderland in 2000Having worked his way through the ranks, he is currently Assistant Vice President at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG Bank).

He explained: “I work for a Japanese corporate bank in Amsterdam in Transaction Banking. Prior to the Netherlands I worked at the London Branch of the same bank for 12 years. My Sales Team encourages large multi-national corporations in continental Europe to deposit their excess liquidity (funds) with our bank. Each deposit can be hundreds of millions of euros/dollars.” 

Stewart took full advantage of the opportunities available to him while studying his degree and completed a one-year placement at Pfizer in Germany.   

He said: “I got real hands-on experience of business and was able to get my German fluent, while just living there when I was 20 was a real eye-opener that forever changed my outlook on life.  

“I decided that after graduating I would fulfil an ambition to go out and see the world, living in different countries and learning their languages. After completing a CELTA course in Newcastle to qualify myself to teach English as a foreign language, I spent the rest of my 20s living in Hungary, Japan, Argentina and France. It was great fun!”  

Stewart lived in Japan for three years where he learned to speak Japanese.  He met his wife in Japan, and they went travelling together to South America and studied Spanish, and then went to Paris and studied French.  He then settled down and got a job at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi in 2007 (now re-branded as MUFG Bank) and has progressed through their development programme using his language skills to get to where he is today. 

In fact, when asked about his greatest achievement to date, Stewart replied: Passing the official advanced level Japanese language exam. Learning to read took ages!  

Stewart, originally from Northern Ireland, was attracted to the University of Sunderland as it was the only university that offered his specific course. He still has great memories of his time in the City.  

He said: “My life in Sunderland was great. I lived at the Forge during my first year and made friends for life (one of them now lives five minutes away from me and six of us have just finished a group catch-up on Zoom). Nights out were cheap and there were always plenty of options. Manor Quay on a Wednesday and Pzazz on a Thursday were particular favourites. 

Despite his success, Stewart is quick to acknowledge the large role the University has had in his career and praised the high standard of teaching and resources available.  

He continued: “The course itself was very rewarding, wide-ranging and the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's was very new back in 1996. I also got on really well with my German lecturer Heidi Gritzan at Wearmouth Campus – she even helped me get my first job out of uni doing German-speaking work for American Express in Newcastle.  

“I remember my final year was successful academically but a grind financially – I had to make a student loan of £1,000 last nine months after rent was paid! That’s why I donated to the University’s COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund – I know how hard it is to combine studying with poor finances.  

Stewart’s advice to recent graduates is that they don’t have to immediately enter the job market, and when they do enter the job market, they should make use of all the avenues available to them and leverage their selling points.   

He advised: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You are still very young in the grand scheme of things when you graduate; if you are ever going to take risks in your life that time is now, whether it might be starting your own business or spending years gallivanting around the world. If you fail at anything, there is more than enough time to come back. Just keep learning and putting the foundations in, block by block to give yourself a good platform, and you won’t go far wrong.  

He added: “I got the opportunity to speak to MUFG after I handed them my CV at a Japanese job fair in London. When I was interviewed, my degree from Sunderland was definitely an important pre-requisite. They also hired me because they thought I offered something a little different – I’d lived in Japan, had language expertise and they thought my personality was a good fit. I was the first ever non-Japanese member of staff in the Planning Team, so it was like stepping back into Japan every morning when I walked into the office! 

Asked about his plans, Stewart replied: “I’ve been with MUFG for nearly 13 years now and like the culture of the company, so have no plans to leave. It’s not as aggressive as the western banks, and it’s the type of global organisation I have always wanted to work for since I started my degree in International Business.  

“Having just begun working for our Dutch subsidiary after 12 years in London, the next few years should be interesting with probably quite a bit of travel. I’m married to an American I met while in Japan and have two children under the age of five so no other big plans apart from working my way up the rest of the ladder and paying billsmaybe retire to the States?? We both love Europe though so will decide further down the line!” 

 

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