Jobs in finance: careers in banking and financial services

01 March, 2021Juno Baker

To celebrate National Careers Week, we’re busting some myths about what it’s like to work in banking and finance.

Street scene from the City of London

1. Banking is boring

There are so many different roles in banking – covering so many areas, and with fantastic opportunities to specialise or progress – it’s anything but dull.

In fact, the finance sector is a dynamic and exciting place to work. Jobs in finance vary hugely and so do the people who work in the financial services sector – from techies to creatives and people with great soft skills. 

Jagdeep Rai, Regional Director at HSBC, recently spoke at one of our REACH events. She told us she thinks she has “the best job in the world”.

“You get to meet so many different kinds of people from all different walks of life, all kinds of customers, all kinds of businesses, You know, from your farmer up in East Anglia to your high tech company.”

2. Financial companies are old-fashioned and dull

Fintech companies like Moneybox, Lendable and Cleo appear in the top ten of start-ups to work for in 2020. And, thanks to digital banking and finance, the whole industry is changing at a tremendous pace.

New markets will be discovered for services that have yet to be designed.

In the past, a job in banking might have meant a lot of form filling for mortgage or loan applications. But because technology is taking the place of pen pushing, customer-facing roles are becoming more complex.

Banking, in particular in jobs focusing on sustainable finance, is also an important area to work in for tackling climate change and helping the world adapt to its consequences.

3. You need to be good at maths to work in financial services

That’s just not true. Of course numbers are at the heart of finance, but most roles don’t require you to be good at maths or to have a maths degree.

There are lots of different sectors and job roles, so lots of opportunity. As well as retail banking, insurance and pensions, other sectors include business banking, investment banking, investment management, life assurance and regulated financial advice. And within those sectors there are a range of roles.

For example, if you enjoy problem solving a career in trading may be right for you. Perhaps you like computers and gadgets? IT may be a good fit. And if you’re outgoing and enjoy talking to people, there are lots of roles – such as in sales, customer services, law or human resources.

4. You need a degree to work in a bank

There are some very good banking and finance degrees, at both undergraduate and post-graduate level, which are a fantastic foundation for a career in the sector or to move your career on. But going to university is not the only option.

Whilst there are graduate schemes, many successful financial services professionals join straight from school or move into financial services from another sector.  If you take this route, you train as you work and can take professional qualifications as you go.

5. Only people from wealthy backgrounds need apply

This may have been true generations ago, but times have changed. The sector is working to become more diverse and inclusive and there are several routes into the industry.

You’ll find school-leaver schemes and apprenticeships as well as graduate training. Degree level apprenticeships are open to all ages and combine working with studying for a degree.

Or you can just apply for a job! Once you’re on a career path, there are lots of opportunities to progress.

6. You need to have the right contacts to succeed in banking

Most people don’t start their careers with access to networks of people who can help them. They learn how to network as they progress.

And, thanks to technology, networking has never been easier.

You can find networking events on Eventbrite and sites like Working Out Loud offer a completely different way of networking. The idea is you connect with likeminded people online and that work on a project together.

Most professional institutions offer a programme of events, including The London Institute of Banking & Finance.

7. Banking is a dead-end office job

As with most careers, the more experience you gain the more responsibility you can expect. That can lead to promotion, a higher salary and the chance to further develop your expertise.

Banking and finance is always changing and adapting, so throughout your career you’ll be able to take advantage of training and studying opportunities.

There are professional qualifications in all kinds of subjects, including banking ethics, trade finance, investment management, risk, customer relations and financial advice. Your employer will most likely cover the cost. 

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