Top Skills You Need to Work in the Financial Services

Whether you’re a journalist or a data analyst, in financial services you’re dealing with a huge amount of information on a daily basis. It takes a certain kind of person to channel that flood into useful insight. Here are some of the skills you need.

1. Hunger to learn

Roles in financial services involve providing information or advice – for example, journalism, data analysis, and customer service on complex systems. You have to become an expert quickly, so you should be keen to learn all you can about your topic.

Gathering examples

  • Be eclectic in your choice of extracurriculars. If you’re a science student, how about learning a language in your spare time?

During the application process:

  • You enjoy learning, so try to enjoy learning about the company. Dig deep, turn up facts that interest you, and ask questions about them in your interview when you get the chance.
  • Be enthusiastic – both about the different things you’ve learned at university, and about the prospect of working for the company.

2. Market awareness

Anyone working in financial data or financial news needs to be very aware of market forces and up-to-date on the latest market movements. If you hear a piece of financial news you should know instantly how it could affect the sector you specialise in.

Gathering examples:

  • Read. Get your hands on business journals and compile a list of expert bloggers.
  • Look out for trends. You should be able to discuss industry news and explain why it interests you.
  • Act on what you discover. If you hear something talked about, research it further. Organise a discussion group or even a debate.

During the application process:

  • By the interview stage you should have an excellent grasp of the company; key competitors, recent successes, reasons for any stock movements and so on. Start by searching the Top 300 Graduate Employers.
  • Don’t ask your interviewer any questions where the answers are available online or in company reports.

3. Analytical skills

It takes an analytical mind to turn data into insight. Financial services is great for the type of person who gets annoyed by vague statistics in the newspaper and would rather see the raw data. You should enjoy the satisfaction of drawing conclusions from your own analysis.

Gathering examples:

  • If you’re a business student, social scientist or statistician you’ll have experience analysing statistical data. Look back on challenging assignments and describe how you succeeded.
  • Analysis doesn’t have to include numbers. Any essay where you analyse the evidence to choose and support a conclusion is a valid example for your CV.
  • Volunteer for tasks where a decision needs to be made based on evidence – for example, choosing a venue for an event based on factors like location, suitability and price. 

During the application process:

  • You may need to do online tests to demonstrate your analytical skills. Find sample tests online and in careers advice books to help you understand the types of question you’ll face.

4. Communication skills

In an industry based around data, communication is key. As a journalist, you need a writing style that can jazz up the driest financial report. If you support clients with analytical tools, you need to keep your advice plain and simple to understand.

Gathering examples:

  • Telephone jobs, such as calling alumni for donations or volunteering for a peer support line, develop your verbal communication skills and grow your confidence. 
  • Join a student magazine or take responsibility for a society website. Successfully advertising an event online is a great example of your written skills.

During the application process:

  • Don’t rush your application questions. Make sure your answers are clear and well-structured. The same goes for your CV. Use the STAR method – Situation, Task, Activity, Result.
  • In your interview, speak clearly and confidently, and connect with your interviewer through open, relaxed body language and eye contact.

5. Initiative

While you’ll have plenty of support from colleagues, you should expect to have your own responsibilities early on in a financial services career. As a data analyst, for example, you’ll have a sector to focus on, and you’ll need to take initiative with your own research.

Gathering examples

  • If you have a part time job, look out for ways you could improve the way things are done.
  • Run for a position in student government – it gives you the chance to use your initiative to make positive changes.

During the application process:

  • Application processes in large companies don’t leave much space for initiative, so don’t worry about it too much.
  • If you’re sending out unsolicited applications to smaller firms, do your research and send your CV to a specific person.

6. Teamwork

You’re part of the backbone of the finance business – not a competitive, lone wolf hedge fund manager, but a strong team player, keen to support your colleagues and collaborate with other departments.

Gathering examples

  • During group projects, concentrate on the teamwork aspects. You can note down your thoughts to use as interview examples later on.
  • Think about times when you’ve achieved something in a group – what particular skills did you bring to the table?

During the application process:

  • You may occasionally be given team tasks to complete with other applicants. Remember, this isn’t about showing yourself as the best member of the group – it’s about all of you working well together.

7. Customer service

To support the finance industry you need to help individuals and deal with them as valued customers. Analysts answer customer queries, and regulators mediate in specific cases. Good relationships and satisfied clients are the keys to success.

Gathering examples

  • If you have a part time job in a customer service role, such as retail or working on a customer helpline, ask your boss for feedback. Also make a note of any time you feel you offered excellent service.
  • Volunteer to help on campus tours for prospective students. Put in extra effort to research the information they’re likely to need.

During the application process:

  • Show your ability to connect with people. Find common ground with your interviewer, or ask what they like about working at the company.

And finally…

As with all careers, employers will be looking for your honest enthusiasm. If you’re looking forward to getting stuck into market insight, that’s half the battle.

Next: 7 Tips for Getting Ahead in Financial Services