After playing at Chelsea academy, former player James Daly signed a Scholarship at QPR and went on to take a Business Economics and Finance degree at Loughborough University. Graduating in 2020, James started an internship at global financial services company, Morgan Stanley, and secured a full-time, front office position in Prime Brokerage just two months in. We caught up with James to find out more.
When did you first start thinking about your post-football career?
There was no fixed point for me. I've always believed that if you can create opportunities for yourself, you should, so it was more about not closing off other options rather than looking for another career. I decided to take my a-levels while completing my scholarship at QPR, but having just signed for a Premier League club, I had no intentions of using them at the time! I think a lot of people might think they don’t have the time to study because they’re still making their way in the game, but my experience is proof that it’s not incompatible to do both.
What made you pursue a role in finance?
One of my A-levels was in economics, and I enjoyed the subject. I was also fortunate enough to take a course with Amplify Trading, who educate students about finance roles, through my university. I was then put in touch with some ex-professional athletes working at Morgan Stanley, former Burnley striker, Josef Jackson, and Charlie Amesbury, who played rugby for Bristol, and they talked about the diversity here at the firm. It was refreshing to hear they value the skills and attitudes people from different backgrounds might bring to the floor, which reassured me that this was a career I could pursue
Did you have support from the PFA?
Yes. One of the biggest challenges when transferring from football to something else is finances, and the PFA supported me when applying to do my university course. They also helped fund my Amplify Trading course, which relieved a bit of pressure and opened the door for me to take a chance and explore my options. I was hugely grateful they supported me because it really was the catalyst that helped me learn about finance and make the connection with Morgan Stanley. Ultimately, I wouldn't be where I am without the PFA going to that effort to support me.
Are there any similarities between football and finance?
Absolutely. For both, you need high levels of self-discipline and a commitment to excel. You naturally develop great teamwork skills through football and learn how to work in a demanding environment, which is useful for finance. Working with people of all different ages and backgrounds as a player is also helpful when you walk into a corporate environment because you’re less phased when meeting new people. Walking into the dressing room at a new club is probably one of the most daunting experiences ever, so if you can handle that, you can definitely handle walking onto a trading floor in Canary Wharf!
You’ve accomplished a lot already since graduating. Has networking had an impact on your career journey?
Without doubt. I think it’s important to understand as much as you can about something before going down that path. Getting the opportunity to hear about the firm's values from the European Head of Prime Brokerage piqued my interest in the company. He was happy for me to reach out afterwards, and after connecting with the other ex-athletes here, I decided this was the firm I wanted to work for. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping others.
What advice would you give other players thinking about their future?
Football's a great career for the few, so I think it's really important to keep your options open, especially for young players. If you're academically capable, don't let that go to waste. For those who are more experienced in the game, it’s about not limiting your opportunities and not feeling like you have to pigeonhole yourself because you’ve dedicated your whole life to football - there are more options available to you, and the PFA can help. I've experienced the support and time they give players, and I know how life-changing it can be.
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