While the financial sector may have had its fair share of bad press across the past decade, it is fair to say that it remains hugely important to many aspects of our lives and – as a result – it continues to thrive.
This is particularly true in the UK, with research last year revealing that London remains the top financial centre in the world. The Z/Yen global financial centres index revealed that the city’s score only dropped by just two points in the rankings, compared to New York’s rating falling by a fairly sizable 24 points.
With London maintaining a strong position on a global scale, the good news for students is that there is much demand in the UK for young people to join the financial services sector. A recent study by XpertHR looked at the state of play in the graduate labour market and polled almost 200 employers. It revealed that private sector services firms at present were specifically seeking younger talent to fill finance and banking roles, as well as marketing positions.
So, what does a career in the sector potentially offer a
graduate? Well, a study by Deloitte showed that UK students tend to
associate banking and its related areas with high pay. While it might be hard
to argue against this, further research has shown that starting salaries can
significantly vary depending on which specific area a graduate is going
into. For instance, while salary benchmarking site Emolument said average wages
for graduates stood at £24,000, the
starting point for a role in investment banking can be more than double
Of course, for many, a good job is about more than just money, and research in the past has hinted that a role in financial services can ultimately offer that other absolutely vital ingredient – satisfaction. According to the Daily Telegraph, a report by City & Guilds in 2013 placed finance and accountancy among the top ten sectors which offer ‘career happiness’ to those aged between 18 and 25, with almost two-thirds stating that their roles were keeping them satisfied.
A range of roles
With all of this in mind, it is unsurprising that banking and financial services might be attractive to many students and graduates. But what type of roles and positions can the sectors actually offer, and could you ultimately have what it takes? The sector is of course pretty vast and caters for a diverse range of needs, so this means there are a whole host of different types of job you can find within them. As such, we’ve tried to boil it down to a few simple examples which highlight the different skills that could potentially thrive.
Trading is a huge part of financial services, whether it revolves around stock markets or the foreign exchange – often referred to as forex. The latter is best suited to those with a sharp analytical mind who can look at a market and make quick decisions on whether to buy currency up or sell it on. It is undoubtedly a complex area and those involved have a range of issues and jargon to consider. As an example of the latter, you may have to decide whether to become a Market Maker broker or to embrace other trading protocols such as ECN – a system which reduces the potential for a conflict of interest between a trader and a broker. ECN and DMA protocols offer higher liquidity and better transparency in pricing, so it is apparent that each area of specialisation has its benefits for those who know the ropes well. You see, there is evidently a lot that you may have to learn.
Another area, where a sharp mind is certainly an asset, is in the world of financial analysis. Understandably, in financial services there are always numbers that need crunching and, with the internet and IT generating a huge amount of data for businesses every day, the role of the financial analyst has arguably never been more important. Perhaps unsurprisingly, such a job sees individuals take time to examine data with the ultimate aim of helping companies to make decisions. As Investopedia outlines, their expertise could be used in relation to anything from investments to simply determining which marketing strategies have proven to be most cost-effective for a company in the past 12 months.
Accountancy is another area related to examining financial information and how organisations are performing. As with financial analysts, accountants are fortunate to have several different options available to them in terms of how they work. While the most obvious option would be to work within a major accountancy firm, working in-house could give you a taste of not only the role of an accountant but also valuable experience of life in a very specific industry. Unsurprisingly, taking the leap and becoming an accountant requires core qualifications, while further steps also need to be taken in order to be able to refer to yourself as a chartered accountant.
All of the positions we have mentioned so far hint at suits, ties and offices, but it should be remembered that there are other sides to the financial services sector – for instance, retail banking. If you are more interested in people than numbers, a role working within a consumer-facing bank might just be something to consider. Such roles could involve talking to the public on a daily basis to help them understand complex issues and ensuring they get the support they need. While it may not sound as glamorous as other positions, it could well prove hugely rewarding and, as HSBC outlines, offers the potential for career progression both within a branch environment and beyond.
Plenty more to discover
It is difficult to provide a comprehensive overview of a sector as vast as financial services, but the examples above are purely meant to act as a taster of just a few roles that the industry can offer to graduates and those taking their first steps towards building a career.
The financial services sector is understandably a hugely competitive area, but it is also one in which a great number of people can enjoy a range of roles and also develop their skillset. A richly rewarding career could well await you.
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