The top skills you need to work in financial services

21 November, 2019Nadim Choudhury

There are many career paths in banking and financial services, but you do need a surprisingly wide range of skills to stand out to potential employers. Nadim Choudhury, our Head of Careers and Employability, sets out the key competencies banks have told him they’re looking for.
Man reading business news

Commercial awareness

This is a fundamental skill that all banks look for when they’re recruiting. It’s about joining the dots and understanding what’s going on:

  • in an organisation
  • with the organisation’s competitors
  • and in the wider commercial environment.

If something happens in the world, ask yourself what impact that’s going to have on banks, stock markets, and in the wider industry.

Leadership and influencing

You don’t have to be a leader to show that you have leadership skills. But you do need to understand what the strategy and the mission of an organisation is, so you can help your colleagues achieve it.

You need to be able to look at a plan of action, see what needs to be done to achieve goals, and support your colleagues across the organisation.


Closely related to leadership is teamworking. To demonstrate teamworking skills, you need to show you can negotiate, influence and advise colleagues. You need to understand your role and how it fits in the wider group.

And if someone’s not contributing, how are you going to help bring them out of the shell? How do you help your team collaborate and stay positive when things get tough?

Communication skills

Communication isn’t just about getting your point across. There’s more to it than that, including:

  • listening, which is more than sitting silently while someone else is speaking – you need to hear and take note of what you’re being told
  • verbal skills – from making your point succinctly to presenting and public speaking
  • non-verbal skills, such as understanding body language
  • paralinguistics, which includes the gestures you use while talking, facial expressions, the tone and pitch of your voice.


You don’t have to understand equations, calculus, or financial modelling, but in our sector you must be numerate.

This means you must be able to work with numerical and graphical information, draw conclusions from it and then explain your conclusions and reasoning. At the very least, you need to understand how numbers make an impact on business decisions.

So, if you look at the financial accounts of a company, can you tell whether it’s worth investing in or not?
Rubiks cub

Problem solving

This is essentially about filtering through data and figuring out connections, but, in many ways, problem solving uses a combination of skills.

To get to the bottom of a problem, you’ll find yourself drawing on many of the skills already listed in this blog – commercial awareness, analysis, good communication skills and numeracy.

To find solutions, you will need to be creative, emotionally intelligent and good at research.


If you want a successful career in banking and finance, you’ll need to network – that is unless you know lots of relevant people already.

But most people don’t have access to networks of people who can help them in their careers, so at The London Institute of Banking & Finance we open doors. We hold regular events where students can network and make connections.

A lot of students say they hate networking, especially the ‘small talk’. And it’s true that networking can make people anxious. But the more you practice the better you become – it’s just about asking questions and getting to know people.

Connect with people on LinkedIn. Approach people – set up coffee meetings. It will help you understand more about what’s going on and where the opportunities are.

Personal impact

What do other people think when they meet you? It’s worth asking them. If you don’t like what you hear, then you have a chance to change that first impression. That will help you control how other people see you and understand what impressions you make.


It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how well you do in your exams, you will be rejected for jobs.

This can be frustrating, especially if you had your heart set on a role, thought you had a good chance, got to the last stage and then you’re told there’s a better candidate. That could happen 20 times. More!

That’s why we teach our students to be resilient.

Remember, everybody gets rejected. Start looking at each failure as an opportunity for growth.

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Nadim Choudhury

Nadim is our Head of Careers and Employability. He is a fully accredited and qualified Career Coach with over 15 years' experience in the UK Higher Education sector. He has interviewed many CEOs and executives on career development issues and lectures on Personal Development & Employability.