In the winning essay of the 16-17 age group in our Young Financial Journalist competition, Adya Manoj looks at why young people might consider a career in banking and finance – including for altruistic reasons.
“It is not about having lots of money, it’s about knowing how to manage it.”
My best friend burns her tongue on her £4 Venti Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks as she divulges this golden nugget of information to me. I remember reading the same quote on Pinterest a month ago.
The truth is neither of us really know how we will control our finances in the future, or how they will control us. Despite financial services contributing £132bn to the UK economy in 2019 – 6.9% of total economic output – to many the sector is nothing more than passing whispers of fintech and investment banking.
However, according to the Co-operative Party, “393,000 people are directly employed in financial services”. These are accountants, bankers, financial advisers and more. People who not only control their own finances, but have great influence over yours too.
Perhaps therefore, the best way to manage your finances is not just to be aware of them, but to be part of the industry that controls them.
Is that enough reason to consider a career in banking and finance though? What else does the cryptic industry have to offer its employees?
A career in banking and finance
Most people are aware that wages are high – unsurprising in a sector that revolves around money. In the UK, bankers make on average £62,500 per annum, over double the average UK wage. However, the field offers more than just financial benefits.
Banking and finance are built on the trade-off of security for profit. Employees take calculated risks whilst chasing big rewards. In this sense it can be equated to gambling.
However, winning big in the stock market is not based on luck. Rather, forward-thinking, analysis of social and economic trends and swift decision making all contribute to the success or failure of a venture.
Many find the speed and scale at which this must be undertaken overwhelming. But for those who enjoy the adrenaline that comes with such complex, high-stakes problem solving, a career in finance can be thrilling.
Furthermore, many of those who work in this sector do so not due to any personal benefits they receive, but due to the impact they have on their community.
A misleading stereotype
Bankers are often villainised in society, with Mark Twain famously stating, “A banker is someone who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”
Despite this Wolf of Wall Street stereotype, the lives of most bankers are far less glamorous and self-involved.
Most employees in this sector spend their lives advising others on how to manage their hard-earned cash – be that through helping parents save for their children’s university education, or helping pensioners to finally buy their dream home.
Many banks now consider customer and community improvement as part of their core aims – seen through new players such as Monzo making easy long-term saving an integral part of their online platforms, or older, larger financial institutions encouraging their employees to volunteer, such as Goldman Sachs who have over 900 non-profit partners whom their employees aid.
Positive impact of banking and finance
Moreover, the positive impact you can have in this sector stretches globally.
The World Bank has two main aims:
- to “end extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of people living on less than $1.90 a day to no more than 3%” and
- to “promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country”.
Banking and finance employees work together to lift millions out of poverty, vastly improving the overall standard of living.
The World Bank Human Capital Project, for example, invests in education and healthcare for children – improving the quality of labour, a factor of production, which will help generate economic growth in the future. The IMF gave Sierra Leone $102 million in 2015 to combat the economic harm caused by the Ebola outbreak.
Financial analysts worldwide must allocate scarce funds to the most pressing issues – considering social, economic and political implications of investment as well as the opportunity cost. It is a tremendous responsibility, but the right decisions can save lives.
Changing the world
The gingerbread latte has gone cold, but the reality of the poor investment has only begun to set in. The truth is I have little knowledge of the complex intricacies of the global economy. I’m willing to learn them, though.
What I do have is a burning passion to change the world for the better, to help people – be they neighbours looking for a mortgage, or individuals halfway across the world looking to start a business through microfinance. And if I learn how to budget my own income along the way, that’s certainly not a loss.
I will consider a career in banking and finance. Maybe you should too.
Adya Manoj is the winner in the 16-17 age group of our 2019/20 Young Financial Journalist competition, which we run in partnership with the Financial Times. She is currently studying for her A'Levels at The Tiffin Girls’ School, Kingston-upon-Thames.
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