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Working In The Finance Industry

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An overview of the industry

The finance industry is a challenging and fast-paced industry. You’ll often be working long hours. However, this will pay off: working in finance is a great way to make a large amount of money. The finance industry is competitive but its starting salaries are significantly higher than many other industries for graduates. The most experienced members of the financial industry end up earning six figures!

You’ll spend most of your days analysing and collecting data, then thinking about what that data suggests about the current performance of particular sector of industry. You then might consider what implications this might have on the future shape of the economy and recommend ways a business might improve its efficiency.

The financial world is never isolated to a single country, but must consider the state of the global market. This means you’ll develop skills that will allow you to work in places all around the world. If travel is the sort of thing that interests you, the finance industry will allow you to do this while earning a great salary.

Skills & interests required

A firm grasp of economics is obviously a must for a role in the finance industry. This means you’ll need to be a skilled mathematician with a keen eye for details and trends. You’ll also need to be someone with developed analytical skills. Luckily, you should learn most of these skills during your undergraduate degree.

If you’re interested in becoming a self-employed finance expert you’ll also need a considerable amount of experience and contacts within the industry, so networking will be an essential skill for you.

You’ll also be doing a lot of presentations, whether to clients or stockholders, so make sure you can communicate clearly and persuasively.

Other important skills to be successful in this sector include:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Analytical skills
- Attention to detail
- Business Strategy
- Data Analysis
- Finance
- Financial Planning
- Financial Reporting
- Networking
- Numeracy
- Public Speaking
- Self-Confidence

Typical Career Progression Routes for School Leavers

Graduates will often begin through a graduate programme. The Bank of England offers a two-year graduate programme, and similar programmes can be found in the private sectors, such as utility companies and banks. These graduate schemes can close very early – some in October – so you’ll need to be thinking about applying during the summer before your final year.

As you work, you’ll gain experience through working with more senior members of the industry. Early in your career, you’ll probably move from job to job a lot, maybe even from sector to sector, but don’t worry about this. You’ll be gaining valuable experience and a diverse portfolio that will make you more attractive to employers offering higher salaries and more responsibility.

Many graduates may seek postgraduate MBAs or even PhDs in finance. This is not always necessary, and many members of the industry will undertake these qualifications after a few years of experience in the workplace.

Tips for getting into the field

At university, join the Society of Business Economics and/or Royal Economic Society. This will show your commitment to the finance industry. Also, you’ll meet potential contacts who may help you later get a job!

Try and contact local finance businesses and see if you can get an internship or some work experience. This will help you familiarise yourself with the industry as well as with making contacts.

Computational skills are becoming increasingly desirable in the finance industry. Increased automation of financial systems and the growing threat of cyber crime have demanded increased awareness of the role of computer systems and the internet. While these skills aren’t essential, having some knowledge of them may make you a more desirable candidate.

London is the most competitive area of the finance industry in the UK, so you’ll probably end up having to send a lot of applications for any starter position, internship or work experience. Keep at it, and if a company is unable to take you on, don't be afraid to ask them how you can improve your skill set to make you a more attractive candidate for future applications.

Earning potential

Earning potential will vary widely according to your experience. For example, a stockbroker will start on a salary of usually around £25,000. But the more senior members can earn up to £100,000-£150,000. But hold on! That’s not even including your bonus and commission rate. Successful work will see bonuses of 15-20% over your salary at the starting level and it’s even higher beyond that.

Here are some other examples:

Economist Starting Salary: £25,000-£35,000
After 15+ years experience: £50,000+ (and that plus is a significant plus, sometimes raising to six figures)

Investment Analyst(outside London): £18,000-£20,000 (+ commission)
Investment Analyst (in London): £28,000-£40,000 (+ commission)
After 5-8 years experience: £110,000+ (and then add up 200% in the form of bonuses)

Trainee financial adviser: £22,000-£33,000
Qualified financial adviser: £30,000-£45,000
Senior financial adviser: £60,000+

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

The specific qualifications you’ll need will vary from job to job, but for the most part, something with a focus in economics will be beneficial. Research the specific role you’re interested in and match it to your own qualifications or future qualifications. If you don’t have the correct qualifications, some agencies will take you on if you have an appropriate MBA in the right field.

If you need an extra push to get your foot in the industry, consider pursuing a postgraduate degree. Having and MBA or PhD is becoming increasingly common, but not always necessary.

Professional qualifications can also greatly improve your chances and your experience. The requirements will depend on the specific role you are pursuing, so do your research! Start by having a look around the industry bodies listed below.

Useful resources

Financial Times

Industry bodies

The Bank of England
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
British Banking Association
Government Economic Service
Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA)
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)