Exploring The Top 6 Career Paths In Financial Services For New Graduates

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While pop culture may lead you to believe otherwise, bankers do more than just crunch numbers, create spreadsheets and appease Gordon Gekko-esque bosses.

A job in financial services is not only dynamic and challenging, it also puts you at the very heart of money management. As one of the most significant contributors to Canada’s economic growth, the financial services sector is home to over half a million jobs and represents over five percent of the country’s GDP.

The industry offers a variety of avenues for graduates from various academic disciplines, whether you love face-to-face interaction or prefer creating corporate success behind the scenes.

With hundreds of possible career choices within the realms of banking, insurance and investment, financial services offers you the opportunity to create innovative wealth management solutions while helping your organization reach its corporate goals.

Not a numbers person? Not a problem. The industry offers a variety of avenues for graduates from various academic disciplines, whether you love face-to-face interaction or prefer creating corporate success behind the scenes.

The Architect

FINANCIAL PLANNER

Same job, different title: Financial advisor (with certification), financial analyst, financial consultant, financial manager

Financial planners are financial architects. Their goal is to strengthen a client’s fiscal foundation by looking at the big picture: evaluating key financial data, finding weaknesses in the structure, and recommending appropriate solutions depending on the specific circumstances of the individual or organization they’re working with.

Planners are highly valued for their aptitude in research and critical thinking, and their excellent communication skills come in handy when preparing assessment reports or explaining complex financial ideas to clients.

Financial planners are often employed by banks, mutual and pension management companies, insurance companies, and securities firms, and many work independently as well. A background in business, accounting, finance, or statistics is ideal for an aspiring financial planner, and those working in the highest corporate levels often obtain MBAs. Additionally, earning a designation, such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), will allow you to gain credibility and support your knowledge and work experience in the role.

The Agent

RELATIONSHIP MANAGER or AGENT/BROKER

Same job, different title: Financial advisor (no certification), accounts representative

If you love meeting people and nurturing strong working relationships, “client-facing” positions like these are often a good fit. Agents, brokers and relationship managers are the lifeblood of the financial services industry, and their work often determines the longevity and success of the organization they work for.

The main goal of financial product agents is to attract new prospects to the company, nurture the interactions it keeps with its current customers and persuade former clients to return. They are instrumental in maintaining a company’s good relations and keeping the customer’s trust in their product or service, which is achieved mainly through sales activities and business processes such as marketing, customer service and technical support. Agents also regularly conduct trend analysis and submit service level reports to gauge their company’s performance against industry standards.

Keys to succeed in these roles are strong interpersonal skills and an ability to communicate complex financial ideas or products in clear and simple terms. The capacity to work in both leadership and team positions is equally valued, and an engaging personality is an asset to any job that requires face-to-face interaction.

The Proofreader

CLAIMS ADJUSTER

Same job, different title: Claims analyst

While sales agents are tasked with finding and closing the deals, claims adjusters fulfil the equally important role of ensuring that the client’s claims match the company’s eligibility standards. This involves evaluating submitted claims for accuracy, collecting any additional relevant material and even personally inspecting the evidence related to the claim. Preparing documentation for denial or approval is also part of the job, as is working with data analyst software to track industry trends.

While they are often associated with insurance companies, banks and large retail firms also hire claims analysts to handle their customer complaint and fraud departments. Training usually involves acquiring a certificate or degree in the field they intend to work in, which is supported by credentials in specific office procedures as well as billing and claims processing.

An eye for detail, good communication and negotiation skills, multitasking abilities, and an extensive knowledge of the field are assets to this role. Though a degree in business, accounting, math, or statistics may ease transition into the industry, graduates from different academic backgrounds possessing the necessary skills and traits have also experienced success as claims adjusters.

The Informant

INVESTMENT BANKING ANALYST

Though investment banking is notorious for being one of the most difficult industries to break into, it is also one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs a business student could hope to obtain.

Investment banking analysts are tasked with producing the information companies need to make investment decisions. This involves many different business functions, chief of which are analyzing financial statements, constructing financial models, preparing reports on prospective investment sectors, researching market trends, managing trades, and assembling presentations or internal meetings for management. Those working in large firms usually specialize in a specific sector, product type or geographic region.

Analysts work closely with superiors to support the investment banking team, which is why diligent and self-motivated team players are highly valued in this field. A bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business, or economics is a must, and candidates are expected to possess excellent problem-solving, quantitative and analytical skills, a strong work ethic and the ability to work accurately under pressure.

Proficiency in handling spreadsheets is extremely important to an aspiring analyst, as is extensive knowledge about industry news and goings-on. Investment banking analysts are usually encouraged or required to obtain certification as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), which is a globally-recognized designation.

The Team Player

FINANCIAL PROJECT SPECIALIST

Ever wondered how large institutions manage to juggle all the projects they have going on at the same time? Simple: work in teams.

The key members of these project teams are called project specialists, and their main goal is to provide support to management by delivering initiatives within the established budget and time line. Their work spans several business processes: program and project development, dissemination of relevant information, and participation in work groups and committees, as well as implementation and monitoring of the project’s results. This includes budget allocation, facilitating meetings with project members and delivering regular presentations or status reports to superiors.

Project specialists need to be computer proficient and excellent oral and written communicators, and they must be able to thrive under challenging conditions. Multitasking is a common component of the job, and working knowledge of basic revenue models, profit and loss and cost-to-completion projections will be valuable in managing budgets.

A background in finance, accounting, business or economics is expected, and companies value candidates who have specialized or meaningful work experience in information technology management, systems administration, financial management, project management, and business research.

The All-Around

FINANCIAL ROTATIONAL PROGRAM

If you want to get into financial services but aren’t entirely sure which particular business process to focus on, rotational programs offer the perfect compromise.

The system, which is quickly gaining popularity among many financial organizations, involves hiring qualified candidates for two to three year contracts then rotating them through a variety of financial areas (such as capital markets, international business, trading, and the like) for four to six months at a time. Once candidates finish the program, they are usually placed in the departments that best fit their respective skills, interests and talents.

The main goal of this program is to give candidates a broad perspective of the responsibilities and functions available to them in different areas of the organization. It also provides opportunities to handle different business processes, such as preparing financial reports, account reconcilement, communication of findings with business units, and planning and profitability assessment, among others. Since candidates have already assumed several roles once they’ve graduated from the program, companies implementing rotational programs also benefit greatly from improved employee satisfaction and efficiency as well as lower training costs.

A degree in business, accounting, or finance is usually recommended for eligibility to rotational programs, as are excellent communication skills, the ability to work in a team and a wide-ranging interest in the various aspects of the organization’s business.

Thanks to Stacey Campbell of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Career Development Centre, Dr. Wendy Cukier of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, and Abigail Que for providing relevant information for this article.

 


 

Photo credit: Money & Investing section, Wall Street Journal by cafemama on Flickr
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About the author

Jeleen Yu is a long-time TalentEgg contributor and former assistant editor. She graduated from Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) in 2007 with a degree in business management. She was all set to start a career in the corporate world, but a sabbatical made her realize that her real passion lay in writing and the publishing industry. After serving as a writer and editor for the newsletter of a non-profit organization in the Philippines, she now resides in Vancouver and is currently working towards an editing certificate at Simon Fraser University.