There’s much more to finance than investment banking. This article takes a look at the upsides of taking a different route into the industry.
What is the financial services sector?
It depends on who you ask – and because we have plenty of information on things like accountancy in other sections of the Bright Network website, we’re going to use a narrow definition: Financial services is anything that involves providing a service to the finance industry.
Mostly, that means providing the data, insight and news that financiers need to make investment and commercial decisions.
What roles are there?
- Journalism, reporting on the financial news of the day. It’s fast paced and creative – you need a writing style that can turn an industry merger into a snappy, informative article.
- Data analysis, collecting interpreting information about your specialist sector. Your insights give your clients vital background knowledge, or provide the basis for figures such as credit ratings.
- Compliance, staying on top of the changing financial rules and ensuring that your company is obeying them.
- Regulation, setting and policing those rules.
- Technology, creating the systems and applications that financial companies use. There’s also the intensive customer service to help users get the most out of the systems.
Your working day
Obviously, this will depend on the role you take on. To get a flavour, let’s look in a little more detail at the role of a data analyst.
In your first few years as an analyst, you’ll concentrate on learning about your industry sector and the principles of data analysis. While you do so, you’ll be put to work on the routine tasks – gathering data, updating spreadsheets, running financial models. After about three years you’ll take on more responsibility for interpreting the data and passing on your insights to your clients.
Your day will start early with a look at the latest news that affects your sector. If there’s anything that might have an immediate bearing on investment decisions, your clients need to know about it right away.
You’ll probably have a morning team meeting so everyone stays in the loop on the latest analyses and predictions. It’s a great way to help the less experienced team members learn.
Then it’s on to the daily tasks – monitoring, analyses and longer-term research projects, such as writing special reports. More senior analysts will also work on marketing, mentoring, and making industry contacts. On a busy day, you can expect to work until late in the evening.
What kind of person enjoys the financial services sector?
- You’re interested in everything. Whatever sector of business you focus on, you’ll need to be the expert, constantly monitoring the day-to-day happenings. It takes real interest and motivation.
- You’re not afraid to have opinions. You’re not just setting information in front of your clients – you’re adding value with your interpretations.
- You play well with others. There’s too much information in a business sector for any one person to handle. You’ll rely on insight from colleagues, just as they’ll rely on you. You can’t let competitiveness stop you from getting the job done.
- You’re naturally analytical. Data doesn’t intimidate you – in fact, you can’t wait to get your hands on it and start searching for patterns.
- You have a feel for business. When you think about a company, your mind can conjure up its business model, target customers, competitors and opportunities.
- Check out the Top Skills You Need to Work in Financial Services
Getting a foot in the door
The best way to get a foot in the door is to get an internship or a graduate scheme spot at a major company. Unlike with investment banking, an internship isn’t vital – you can get onto a graduate scheme based on your skills, personality and interests.
You’re likely to need a CV for the first stage of your application. Take any opportunity you have to use a CV clinic – you’ll find one at many Bright Network events. Or use our CV Advice or CV Template to get started.
It’s a competitive industry, so make sure to show your enthusiasm.
As a data analyst you can expect a starting salary of around £30,000, increasing quickly as you gain experience. Journalism salaries can start lower, as it’s a very competitive industry and you’re expected to pay your dues. Salaries can climb into the high five figures, or even more.
What to do afterwards
One of the great things about this sector is the contacts you’ll make. Particularly in finance journalism and data analysis, you’ll build relationships with people across your sector. These will stand you in good stead if you want to change roles.
The business expertise you develop could allow you to move into an analyst role at an investment bank or investment management company, and continue up the ladder from there.