Why work in financial services?

5 January 2022

A financial adviser assisting someone with their money issues.

In 2020, the financial services sector contributed £164.8 billion to the UK economy, a significant 8.6 per cent of total economic output. This sustained 1.1 million financial services jobs. If you’re thinking of joining this growing sector, there are many reasons to be encouraged. In this post, we explore some of the top motivations for entering this dynamic and exciting industry. We also offer advice on how to take your first steps on this career path.

Why do you want to work in financial services?

There are many reasons you might be considering a career in this field. It’s well known that certain jobs within the finance sector can be very lucrative. Even at entry level, they often have highly competitive salaries. A survey carried out by the Institute of Student Employers revealed that, in 2019, the median graduate starting salary in finance and professional services among its members was £30,125. This was second only to the legal sector.

But impressive earnings potential is far from the only reason to consider entering this field. Another major benefit of working in finance is the wealth of opportunities that exist for career progression. From mortgage advisers to investment managers, jobs in finance often involve mandatory study towards specific qualifications. Achieving these qualifications can help you to expand your skill set and knowledge base, making you more valuable to employers. Closely related to this point, finance jobs often encourage you to climb the career ladder. If you’re ambitious and you’re prepared to put in the work, you could go far – and fast.

There are also many different specialisms within finance, so you shouldn’t struggle to find roles that suit your particular interests and play to your strengths. The industry spans sectors as diverse as banking, insurance and regulation – and within these fields, there are many different roles available. We look in more detail at the different types of financial service careers available to you below. 

Job satisfaction can be very high in this industry too. In fact, a survey of more than 2,000 UK workers carried out by experience management company Qualtrics revealed that job satisfaction levels were highest among workers in the finance sector, at 74 per cent.

What are financial services jobs?

Although accountancy and banking are often the first two jobs people associate with financial services, the truth is that this is a very narrow definition that doesn’t fairly sum up this exciting and fast-moving industry. Indeed, any role that involves providing a service to the financial industry falls into this category, including everything from data analysis and journalism to compliance and regulation. Below we have listed some of the most common financial service jobs.  

  • Accountancy

This role involves examining, analysing, organising and maintaining the financial records of an individual or a business. This can also involve finding ways to reduce costs and increase profits, managing tax obligations and advising on business decisions.

  • Stocks and shares

Brokers and traders buy and sell securities such as stocks and bonds on behalf of clients. This involves research ahead of trades and completing the actual trades themselves.

  • Insurance and actuarial

Whether you work in underwriting or investment, a career in insurance can see you involved with a broad range of individuals and/or companies, dealing with everything from life and health insurance to commercial, vehicle and home insurance. 

  • Financial advice

These experts provide professional financial advice for their clients, helping them to make sound monetary decisions on everything from mortgages to investments, pensions and more. 

  • Data analysis

Data science has become increasingly important in the banking and finance industries. Analysts are typically employed for risk management purposes, tasked with analysing, spotting and forecasting behaviour based on trends and patterns. 

  • Compliance

The financial services industry is highly regulated, both here in the UK and overseas. Compliance and risk management roles are typically used by businesses to help ensure that the company as a whole and its staff remain fully compliant with all financial rules and regulations. 

What skills do you need for financial services?

As we have explored above, there are many different paths to take if you are interested in a career in the financial services industry. However, the skills needed to be successful in many of these roles overlap significantly. Below we outline some of these, giving you an idea of whether or not your personality and expertise would suit a career in financial services, and which aspects of your skill set you may wish to improve through further education and training. 

  • Numeracy

While this may sound obvious, being good with numbers will help when it comes to careers in this industry. While you don’t need to be able to understand complex  equations or calculus, you must be able to work with numerical and graphical information, successfully analyse your findings and draw your own conclusions from it.

  • Problem solving

Following on from being numerate, having the ability to use problem solving skills to make sense of data and finding relevant connections, trends and patterns is essential. From providing financial advice to compliance management, coming up with solutions to financial problems requires good problem solving skills. 

  • Communication skills

Just as important as your numeracy skills are your communication skills. Not simply the ability to get your point across clearly, good communication skills also include the ability to listen and take note of your colleagues, strong presenting and public speaking skills, and the ability to successfully network with others, both for personal and professional gain.

  • Teamworking

An extension of good communication skills, the ability to work well as part of a team is crucial in financial service roles. Usually an individual, yet important, cog in a larger machine, financial service employees will often have to work together with several different departments, across a number of managerial levels. For this reason, the ability to demonstrate that you can negotiate, influence and advise colleagues is vital.

  • Resilience

As well as being rewarding, financial service roles can be stressful. For this reason, to succeed in this industry you have to be resilient. Remember, everybody has setbacks in life, and these may be common in this industry – especially if you are looking for your very first role. The ability to stay positive and bounce back will stand you in good stead when it comes to a career in this industry. 

How to get into financial services

It’s clear to see why finance is a popular career path, but how can you get a job in this field? There are a number of different approaches, some of which are academic while others are vocational. Below we look at some of the main options.

How to get a job in financial services

A degree in a relevant subject

One route is to complete a degree in a relevant subject, which could be anything from accountancy to financial services or business management. Once you finish a course like this, you could apply to join a financial services business in a role such as a trainee adviser.

A specialist vocational course

Alternatively, you may decide to do a vocational course. For example, if you want to become a mortgage adviser, you could complete the Certificate in Mortgage Advice & Practice (CeMAP®). Approved by the Financial Conduct Authority, it is the benchmark qualification for this specialism. One of the advantages of courses like this is the fact that they can be highly flexible. You may have the option of choosing between fast track classroom-based learning and e-learning, which gives you the chance to complete the course at your own pace and means you can fit your studies around other responsibilities more easily.

An apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are also a good route into finance jobs. These training programmes give you hands-on experience while you learn, and importantly they enable you to earn a salary while you’re building your knowledge and skills. An apprenticeship is designed to prepare you for a specific job role and it will lead to a qualification from a body such as the Chartered Insurance Institute or London Institute of Banking & Finance, depending on the specific programme that you enter into.

On-the-job experience

You can also get your foot in the door of this industry by gaining on-the-job experience. For instance, you could start as a customer services adviser or financial services administrator in a bank and then work your way up. Bear in mind that if you start off in this way, you’ll need to gain qualifications as you go in order to progress.

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