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Which Five Skills Do You Need for a Career in Finance?

Contrary to popular belief, the financial sector incorporates a huge range of careers requiring a diverse set of skills. No two jobs are the same, and not everyone would prosper in each field; those who employ the decisiveness to thrive in investment banking, for example, may not possess the leadership skills needed to work in management.

It is therefore vital to scrutinise which career best matches your skill set and to tailor your applications and CV accordingly. Not only will this give you a better idea of which career to pursue but it will also show firms that you’re serious and well-researched about your chosen profession, an insight that will invariably shine through in your application.

Some of the most important skills to hone for a career in finance include:

1. Analysis

Most financial firms seeking out graduates, particularly for those jobs that deal with huge reams of information, will look for evidence of analytical skills in all of their applications. Fortunately this is a skill that almost all degrees will invariably provide, whether you’ve studied mathematics, science, an arts and humanities degree, or anything else. These skills will be of great use to anyone working in accounting and actuarial work, as these careers require workers to sift through huge amounts of data to spot patterns, discrepancies and trends in their clients’ accounts.

2. Decisiveness

The ability to make informed decisions quickly is a skill that is highly sought after in finance. For investment bankers, in particular, there is often limited spare time to weigh up all of the possible implications of a decision- in doing so you may have missed a trade or lost a client who is waiting for a quick response on an investment decision.

Many financial roles require that professionals make huge decisions in a timely manner, with possibly brilliant or disastrous ramifications, and to have the character to take responsibility no matter what happens. Decisions are based on a combination of research done by a back-room team, the financier’s projections for the future of an investment, gut instinct and sheer luck. 

3. Persuasiveness

Being able to bring someone else around to your particular way of thinking is no easy undertaking, and if you’re the kind of person who is naturally quite persuasive, this skill will be highly sought after and rewarded by employers. If you’re thinking of working in sales, your silver tongue will be integral in raising revenues for your client and bank, whilst if your dream is to work in consulting, you’ll need to exhibit the potential to bring in new clients with your charm and aural dexterity.

However, persuasion should always be used with integrity too, it’s no use waffling away a client’s investment on a phony wish and a prayer; you’ll need to constantly maintain and bolster the reputation of both yourself and the firm you work for.

Persuasion can be one of the hardest skills to put across in your application. However, if you land an interview with the firm, a perfect exhibition of your persuasive nature would be through persuading them that you are right for the job!

4. Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Useful in any profession, good interpersonal skills will make you highly agreeable to work with, and will instil a feeling of trust and support in your clients and colleagues. These skills will be particularly useful if you want to be involved in the day to day running of the firm, such as working for infrastructure or human resources, in which good communication goes a long way towards ensuring an efficiently-run business or firm.

Any finance role in which you are working with clients will benefit from excellent communication skills, as you’ll likely have to condense quite complex transactions, investement desicions and data into information that your client can understand and respond to. Any experience in debating, writing or sales would go far in exhibiting these skills, although the best way to convey them would, of course, be in an interview.

5. Mathematical expertise

Maths skills will prove to be immensely helpful in numerous areas of finance, particularly those that employ the use of statistics and equations in understanding financial data. It therefore comes as no surprise that mathematical skills are most highly sought after for positions in accountancy and actuarial work. However, they are also integral to anyone working in financial analysis, in which number crunchers need to combine statistics and contextual information to give a company a clear picture of their finances. 

Make sure you know which skills you possess, which careers these are best suited to, and how well they come across in your CV or application. Just remember that there is nothing wrong with telling prospective employers what you believe your strengths to be, but it is invariably far better to show them through past examples.

Think you've got the skills required for a career in finance? Check out our latest finance jobs and opportunities here.