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Financial services Career Pathways & Advice

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Overview

The financial services sector in the UK is the industry that invests, lends and manages both money and assets. The sector covers commercial (or high street) banking, investment banking, financial advisers, hedge funds, private equity, tax, and insurance. Often those working within the financial services will have large companies or high net worth individuals as their clients or customers.

Working in the financial services industry can be fast-paced and will often require you to work long hours, but a job in this sector can mean a very attractive salary. With hard work it is possible to progress up the career ladder in financial services fairly quickly.

The majority of financial services jobs are in London and the South East of England. While London dominates, other cities around the UK such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester also have strong financial services centres.

Skills

You will need to be comfortable working with numbers to have a career in the financial services sector. Soft skills such as communication, teamwork and negotiation are also likely to be important.

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Commercial Awareness
- Communication
- Data Analysis
- Microsoft Excel
- Networking
- Numeracy
- Presentation Skills

Progression opportunities

Progression in the financial services industry can be fast, and in big organisations you are likely to be paid well, have access to clients and hold a large amount of responsibility early on. It’s the pay-off for hard work and longer hours than you’ll find in many other industries.

You’re likely to have exams that you’ll need to pass in order to move up in the majority of financial services roles – these may be sponsored or supported by your employer, especially if you’re in a large organisation. The exact structure of your career progression will depend both on your organisation and the particular area of financial services you’re working in.

Some of the biggest and most respected graduate employers in the financial services sector offer graduate schemes, which are highly structured and last two or three years. Gaining a place on these schemes can be tough, but the upside is that many of the UK’s leading banks and financial services organisations feature in the Times Top 100 graduate employers.

Career development

All financial services roles require some degree of expertise, and graduates are often required to complete further training and secure professional qualifications. The relevant professional bodies in whichever part of finance you’re working in will be able to advise on courses, and may even run some themselves.

Every part of the industry – insurance, tax, banking, etc. - has its own professional bodies. You should check that any courses or exams you undertake are listed with the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

FSA-regulated courses are the only way to gain chartered status, which is a standard in the sector that can lead to more prestigious or high profile roles.

Earning potential

The financial services industry is one that’s known for paying its employees very well, and this is true across the entire sector.

On the investment banking side, high bonuses are well known – and can significantly add to bankers’ salaries. With a typical starting salary of between £30,000 and £40,000, investment bankers can earn £50,000 after three years and £150,000 with further experience.

Here are the average salaries for some financial services roles, according to Payscale:

Private banker - £58,748
Investment banker - £60,000 + bonus
Tax manager - £47,549
Insurance underwriter - £26,388
Insurance broker - £25,867
Hedge fund manager - £83,600
Portfolio manager – £57,300
Investment strategist - £113,700

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

Graduates in mathematics-based subjects such as finance or economics are best suited to positions within this industry, although with further study you can pursue a career in this area even if your degree isn’t directly related. Looks for courses offered by the FSA to gain the knowledge and skills you need.

How to get there

A common route into the financial services as a graduate is via a graduate training scheme with an employer. Competition for these schemes is very strong, hence those with finance or maths-based degrees having the edge over graduates without.

Formal work experience is not essential for work in the sector. You should be able to prove yourself through the industry-specific qualifications for your particular area of financial services.

Industry Bodies

Royal Economic Society

British Insurance Brokers' Association

Association of British Insurers

Chartered Insurance Institute

Chartered Institute of Taxation

Association of Taxation Technicians

UK Finance

The National Skills Academy for Financial Services

Financial Services Authority

British Bankers Association