As an ambitious student looking to the future, you want a career path with a variety of roles on offer as well as clear progression, and the finance sector offers both.
Tell someone you want a career in finance and you will likely be asked which type of job you prefer. There is a diversity of finance roles, each offering a different type of experience and career progression. For graduates, some of the most followed career paths in finance include:
Commercial Banking: Commercial banks range from local and regional banks to large, national corporations. For the ambitious graduate, commercial banks offer progress from branch or regional management to corporate headquarters, where exposure to international finance becomes a distinct possibility.
Investment Management: This is a broad term covering the buying and selling of investment assets in a portfolio on behalf of clients, with the aim of meeting specific investment goals. Investment management can stretch to incorporate aspects of banking and taxation, but most often refers to the trading of securities.
Corporate Finance: This kind of work involves managing the capital required to run or expand a company, with the twin aims of maximizing corporate value and minimizing risk. Corporate finance can also involve work on mergers and acquisitions.
Financial Planning: A financial planner will assist individuals in developing an investment and financial management plan to secure their future. As a financial planner, you will tailor financial plans to suit an individual’s needs, which may include estate and tax planning. Financial planners with a Certified Financial Planner® qualification are especially in demand, owing to the requirement for three years’ experience and the need to pass a number of exams to achieve the qualification.
Insurance: Insurance industry professionals help anticipate potential risks and protect clients from losses associated with those risks. Most insurance industry careers are with large companies and include roles in underwriting, management of operations, and actuarial work – calculating risk and premium rates.
If investment management interests you then looking at the careers of those who have been successful in the sector could well give you inspiration. Pete Briger is a great example of someone who has risen through the ranks to the top of investment management. As Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors at Fortress Investment Group LLC, with responsibility for Fortress’ Credit fund operations, Briger draws on a background at Princeton University and the Wharton School of Business, where he obtained a Masters in Business Administration. He spent 15 years building up extensive knowledge of foreign investment markets, especially in Asia, at leading investment bank Goldman Sachs, becoming a partner there in 1996.
Entry into the finance sector is highly competitive so any student with ambitions for a finance career should be taking steps to ensure that their CV goes to the top of a recruiter’s pile. Here are some tips to get your finance career started, even as a student:
- Become an intern: For entry-level positions, finance companies are not going to expect their recruits to have an in-depth knowledge of the industry, but some background knowledge is expected and a great way to acquire it is through an internship. The work undertaken by an intern is typically basic, but it is not the work per se that is valuable to a student. Rather, it is the exposure to new experiences and the opportunities to build up a network of contacts that serves students well post-graduation. If nothing else, an internship gives you something to talk about in an interview.
- Choose different experiences: Doing more than one internship is by no means a negative. If anything, it shows that you have a strong work ethic, but doing more than one internship in the same section of the finance industry might not be a sensible choice, unless you are certain you want to work in that section after you have graduated. Choosing different internships can help you figure out what particular career path you want to follow and the different perspectives you will gain may give you an edge later on your career, given that different sections of the finance industry are interconnected on some level at least.
- Choose a relevant college degree: Finance industry professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, but having a finance or economics degree means that you have had some exposure to the world of business and finance. Add to your knowledge by reading the financial news – The Wall Street Journal or a magazine such as Barron’s will help keep you up to date.
The path to a career in finance varies and finding the right fit for you as an individual opens up the opportunity for a successful and rewarding career.