Want to be always on the go? Meeting new people and making a name for yourself is what the financial services is all about. Fancy a piece of the action? Text by Ingrid Francis. Case Studies by Kate Hilpern and Catherine Watson
The financial services sector encompasses many different disciplines, is highly responsive to change, and will give you a broad understanding of business from many perspectives. Many business graduates choose to take this route. But employers stress that any degree programme will provide the necessary skills, and that they want to see candidates who are able and willing to apply themselves. Good interpersonal skills are important, as customer contact is a key responsibility. The ability to develop good relationships will help you to make sound business decisions.
Finance is an incredibly diverse business, and can relate to most jobs – money does indeed make the world go round. For instance, insurance is required in almost every aspect of life. So acquiring skills in this area means you will have the opportunity to apply them to a field of your choice. One example is underwriting, a type of risk assessment that involves working with clients to discuss various situations.
Many jobs in finance require you to study for certificates within your speciality. Most firms offer time off for study, and some related degrees count for points towards these certificates. But in some cases you will have to be prepared to give up spare time to study, and show the commitment you have for the job.
One of the more challenging paths within financial services is actuarial work. This is often seen as the cornerstone of the financial community, as the work actuaries do is used by many other finance sectors as a basis for their decisions. Actuaries generally come from a numerate background, as a lot of their calculations are based on various frequently changing findings. However, this is not an unsociable role. Actuaries must be communicators, and the fast-moving nature of the role makes it an exciting option. Most problems are tackled in groups, so teamwork plays a huge part, with opportunities for teamwork and mentoring. Qualifying in this field requires a lot of motivation and dedication, as it involves exams and often work experience. However salaries take this into account, and rise as you take each step up the qualification ladder. Once you are qualified, your company will respect and admire you.
A major benefit of financial services is their geographic distribution. You might assume that to get the best jobs you need to head to the Square Mile. But opportunities are available in other parts of the UK, as many head offices are outside London. Although training at these companies may initially take the form of placements, it can often lead to greater responsibilities, often across a much wider area.
In all areas of financial services, making judgements and communicating them to others will inevitably form a significant part of your role. But you will also have a lot of responsibility for managing other people’s money, so you will have to maintain the level of professionalism required in the industry.
Most graduate schemes require you to fill out online applications and tests before conducting a telephone interview. If you are successful in these, you will be asked to attend an assessment centre to participate in groupwork and face-to-face interviews before you are offered a job.
While the industry is sometimes well paid, you need to consider whether you are likely to be happy spending your working hours in an office environment. Work experience can be a good way of establishing this. In addition, make an effort to find out about the nature of your chosen specialism and of the industry in general. If you do decide that financial services is a path that suits you, it can prove to be a diverse and satisfying career choice.