Written by The Insights team on 01 Feb 2017
Maninder Kaur is a contractor specialising in financial services. She works shifts handling customer complaint cases, and tells us why she’s sold on the flexibility that contracting life affords her
How did you come to be a Momenta associate?
I graduated with a degree in financial services and always had permanent jobs. Then, while I was on maternity leave with my first child, I was offered redundancy as they were relocating the business – which I took.
It was by chance that Momenta found an old CV of mine online. They contacted me and said they had a role I might be suited to, but it was contracting.
This was in 2009, and I had a child who was just over a year old. I had never thought of contracting before, I thought I’d look at the pros and cons, decided to give it a try, and I’ve never looked back. It’s been challenging but rewarding.
It turned into a very good experience for me; the client was flexible with working hours when I was pregnant with my second child and commuting into London.
When I was in permanent employment my roles broadly centred around promoting mortgage-related and banking products. Now, as a contractor I am redressing customer concerns relating to financial product sales – reviewing historical sales practices. For example, I have worked on endowments, PPI, and some investments.
The projects I have worked on have tended to be fairly long-term. I’ve been fortunate that Momenta has put me forward for other projects. I think that if you are loyal, work hard and achieve targets then you are valued.
What are the pros and cons of working as an interim?
The big upside for me of contracting is that it’s meant I’ve been able to maintain a work life balance and raise a family.
My goal posts have changed. Contracting work for me used to be about the finances and having the chance to do overtime and earn well.
Now it’s much more about having a good work life balance. I do shift work, which is great for me because I get to see my kids before and after school, and although I work nights in the middle of the week, I then get four days off which suits me very well.
The pay is generally very good, so, for example, with the income that I generated in the original 18 months I was able to take time off when my second child came along. The income you can generate, particularly if you have the chance to take overtime, can be excellent.
Of course, if you’re employed you get maternity leave, which you don’t as a contractor, but the rates of pay are higher so there are ways of making it work.
You have the freedom to choose your own assignments and there can be the option of changing location as some contracts are abroad. I’ve met some fantastic people – some of my closest and dearest friends are from contracting, and you get to meet such a wide variety of people.
Once you’ve left the shift you switch off. You’ve done the cases for that day and you’ve progressed them so far. Then you start again the next day. When I was employed permanently I remember bringing work home, but you don’t have that in contracting.
You need to be actively responsible for your own development. There’s no HR department helping you with your career, so you’re responsible for choosing which pathway you want to take.
And don’t forget that it is hard work. The environment I’m in is very target driven, and you have to be self disciplined to be able to achieve. The client has a set piece of work that needs to be achieved within a time frame, so they set targets and acceptable quality levels and you’re being employed at a premium rate to be able to achieve that. So it’s not always easy, but the rewards make it worth it.
What advice would you give to someone considering interim working?
Test the water. If you’re offered a short term contract there’s no harm in taking it on. My advice would be try it out and see what you think. Then you always have the option of going back to a permanent work, but you may find it really suits you.
How has the contracting marketplace changed in the time you’ve been involved?
I think there is more demand for contractors and therefore more potential work, but equally there are a lot more contractors in the market. When I first started it was fairly new and often I would meet the same people on different projects. But now, there may be the odd familiar face but the whole team could be new people - perhaps graduates or first-time contractors.
How do you manage the financial practicalities of being a contractor?
The way I work my income is that I draw a certain set salary each month and leave a surplus in the bank. You have to structure your salary every month to be able to put money aside to cover the time when you don’t work, for example when you want to take a holiday, or in between contracts.
I work through my own limited company, and there’s quite a lot of administration involved. I’m responsible for my own tax liability, and while I do have an accountant I have to submit all the information to them.
Momenta has introduced a new self-billing system, which helps a lot.
If you could have done one thing differently in your career, what would it have been?
I wish I’d known about contracting earlier as I’d have loved to have done a contract abroad and experience life in another country.
I would have loved to have done a secondment in India – that would have been so different, or America. So contracting can give you the chance to travel, but I came to it once I already had a family so that’s not such a strong option now.
What's next for you?
I see myself staying with contracting as it gives me the opportunity to give my kids a good life.
I’ve achieved so much in the seven years I’ve been contracting, compared with the seven years when I was employed – in terms of our financial situation, the holidays we go on… I can honestly say I’ve never looked back.