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Inside the Head of a... Card Specialist

Inside the Head of a... Card Specialist

August 26, 2013

In this edition of ‘Inside the Head of…’ we talk to Duncan Scobie, a Card Specialist who has been working in financial services for over twenty years.


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Tell us about your job. What does a Card Specialist do exactly?

As a Card Specialist I am responsible for Production Support, which involves investigating and fixing any batch or online problems, and amending existing in-house software. I deal with requests for changes by assessing the impact of any changes to the system before signing off on the work. I also sort out system queries reported by internal business areas as well as looking at improving those systems by investigating internal processes.

The job requires a member of the team to be on-call 24 hours a day, as overnight support of the credit card system is required throughout the year.

Where do you sit within an organisation? Do you work with other people/teams?

I sit within a team of senior analyst programmers who work on the Credit Cards platform. We all act as a point of contact within the department for other teams within the business, including (to name a few) Change Management, Operations, Release Management, as well as the Fraud department, Customer Services and Risk teams.

Outside of the company we also deal with the likes of MasterCard and Visa, as well as other banks and insurance suppliers.

Describe a typical working day for us – what do you get up to?

A normal working day would initially consist of checking and sorting out any overnight problems, amending any software issues or creating new programs. I would then bring in the test schedule and check that all applications and jobs are present. After a batch of user acceptance testing is complete I will investigate any remaining problems and create an error log that is meaningful to all parties.

Aside from coding and testing, I am also involved in conference calls with internal and external teams and I also perform other system investigations.

What are your objectives? How do you know if you’re doing a good job?

Primarily I have to ensure that the majority of problems or investigations are solved within time and budget. No deadlines should be missed in any month and it’s really important that no severe problems are left unsolved.

Also, if I can show examples of cost savings for the bank and that the company’s systems have been improved then I know I’m doing a good job.

Why did you become a Card Specialist, and how did you get into the Banking industry?

I completed a number of training courses for COBOL programming, and started in the Bank of Scotland Credit Cards Production team in 1990 and I have been involved in Cards ever since. I have continued to train and develop my skills to learn other technologies and processes, including gaining an ISEB/ISTQB Software Testing Certification.

What software/tools do you use to do your job? What do you find most useful?

As well as Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, Outlook, Visio) I use a range of software, including IBM Mainframe Z/OS, COBOL, Easytrieve Plus programming, ISPF and a number of other tools for programming and testing.

What’s the best thing about being a Card Specialist? What isn’t so good?

One of the best things about doing what I do is that I get a good sense of achievement when I solve a problem, and the work stays interesting because each day has different problems to solve. Also having worked in this industry for a long time I’ve picked up strong systems knowledge, as well as cross-domain knowledge from other members of the team.

It can be awkward at times when you have to tell colleagues in other areas that you have higher priority work than what they have requested, but it’s all part of the job. Sometimes you have to delve into manuals to search for new or unusual information and this can be extremely challenging.

What do you think makes a great leader?

I think strengths of a great leader include being able to work collaboratively, having respect for all your colleagues, and also knowing when to escalate an issue.

Take me back.

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