how to start a career in banking and finance

Your Key to Unlock a Fulfilling Career: How to Get Started in Banking and Finance

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A common “split” characteristic of business-to-business companies is to segment customers according to their needs. In the banking and financial services, we could say there are essentially two major categories of end user customers: business and personal. Banks provide services to support – in fact, to engender – the growth of businesses, from start-up to maturity. Business clients include many different types of small businesses, professional practices, service companies, large international corporations, and industries such as farming, forestry, mining and manufacturing. Consumer services satisfy the personal financial needs of depositors, such as savings, checking, loans, safe deposit boxes, traveler’s checks, and more. Likewise, a S&L can be segmented into clients of deposit, of mortgage, and clients who borrow funds for other purposes such as home improvement, education, or business investment.

Do you seek a career in which you can make a difference, earn high income and become a corporate leader? Do you want access to job opportunities in a variety of locations and, at the same time, influence the trade and political relations between the nations of the world? Banking and finance can moderate your needs with those you have for personal fulfillment, community service and a balanced lifestyle. It is a complex, interdependent industry that perpetuates progress, prosperity and world peace. Banking and finance is important – to the world, to businesses of all sizes and to individuals. Banks and S&Ls are chartered by local and state governments, and are supervised by the citizens, who establish laws and regulations. It is an industry that maintains an essential service available to businesses and consumers in virtually every community every hour of every day. Additionally, the impact of a bank’s decision will influence you, as a depositor or a borrower, at a market rate, while the S&L collects funds at a competitive rate, lends funds to borrowers, and pays depositors an attractive rate.

Importance of Choosing the Right Career Path

When we’re only three or four years old, adults start asking us what we want to be when we grow up. As we get older, those questions keep coming, annoyingly. Gradually, though, the questions become more serious, as the time to choose draws closer. No one expects us to have your whole life figured out at the age of four, but it’s still important to explore and prepare for all the possibilities ahead of us. Then, when we are ready to make that all-important career decision during high school or college, we will have the experience and information we need to make the best decision for us. It’s not easy to pick out a lifetime career that’s really the best match for us, though. But don’t fuss. You can build a great career, and discover the happiness and success you so very much want. Just by reading this one book.

There are so many careers to choose from. Why does it really matter that much? Because our career is a key component of our lifetime well-being. Our career choice affects where we live, who we know, and how much we make. It affects our standard of living, our self-image, and how others perceive us. And that’s why it is so important to start strong – now.

Understanding the Banking and Finance Industry

Given the diversity of activities included in banking and finance, it is useful to examine the industry on the basis of three broad functional areas such as (1) institutions; (2) services; and (3) regulation. When one thinks of where to put savings or where to borrow money, most people think of banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions. These and other entities provide the lending, liquidity, payment, and savings functions that enable individuals and businesses to accumulate funds and operate businesses. Moreover, services performed by banks in conjunction with these basic functions allow financial accomplishment and efficiency benefits to be carried to an even higher level. Lastly, the successful performance of these services and achievements is, in part, the job of regulation by agencies of the government.

Over the years, the growth and worldwide expansion of banks and financial institutions have been quite astonishing. Just as astonishing are the resulting changes in industry employment patterns from growth, and growing diversity in product and service offerings. Exploration of banking careers shows they command attention not only because they touch the life of nearly every individual, but because they enjoy a special position in the vital bloodstream of the business community as well. Furthermore, there are few types of business training which open as many doors of opportunity as education in banking and finance-related studies.

Overview of the Industry

When we think about banking and finance services, these are common in our daily lives. If we want to buy a house, we would need to apply for a mortgage, and we need a bank to transfer the necessary funds. If we want to buy our daily cup of coffee, we would need to pay with cash or a credit card. If a business is considering expansion, it would also need to work with a banking institution for investment funds. Banking and finance allow for the flow of money between savers and investors, lending funds for projects and expansion. When a bank approves a mortgage, the bank is collecting the necessary funds and giving the borrowed money to the family to be used for their new home. In addition, banks take the risks of investing the money and collect the interest on the mortgage as a return. Therefore, banking and finance services are glorified as intermediaries that maximize the efficiency of savings and investment opportunities, enhancing the economy’s wealth and growth in the process.

As you step into the world of banking and finance, there are several career pathways that you could explore. Banking and finance go hand in hand to drive economic growth. In businesses or in our personal lives, banking and finance are empowering and enabling. To begin, it is important to start with a level of understanding about what banking and finance are about. Banking refers to economic functions and financial mediation of the financial sector providing services related to money. Banking consists of banks, credit unions, and government and private financial organizations. Meanwhile, the term finance denotes sources of funding and the capital structure of firms. It represents the transmission of financial resources over time. Both are important and complex functions in a modern economy setting, and both are closely interconnected.

Key Skills and Qualifications

Furthermore, besides the qualitative skills, candidates are expected to have a solid understanding of laws, regulations, and accounting. A candidate who already has such knowledge will be helpful. Having a good understanding of the international markets, current major market trends, and having a good grasp of the interest rates would also be beneficial, which will make the difference for companies who want to make a profit in such an increasingly competitive market. Understanding how markets impact a company and how a market is impacting trend and feelings of an individual is also important in assessing market and individual sentiments. Understanding how data can be analyzed, how it can be mined, and how it can be used in making new strategies and trends is important to create influential documents, influential data, and influential presentations which are more easily read and interpreted. Finally, besides the professional skills, candidates possessing leadership and presentation skills will eventually help in their career. During the recruitment process for entry-level positions, graduates who are able to show the above knowledge and soft skills could aggressively position themselves in preference against other candidates.

The banking and finance industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Furthermore, it comprises complex financial products and services being provided to a wide range of customers. Thus, having the right skills and qualifications can offer a head start for those interested in launching their careers in the sector. One of the key qualifications is holding a suitable degree. However, finance academia teaches the student the basic knowledge and tools only. A candidate’s practical knowledge and ability to use the quantitative and analytical skills are perhaps the most important differentiators that bring more practical training and group projects to the candidate. Such industry-specific skills, together with good presentation and communication skills, will improve the marketability of the candidate. Those who plan to work in investment banking would also need a powerful ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines. Besides, knowing additional languages is also important as the finance industry is a team-oriented industry and the industry is also very global. Such a good command of additional international languages would be very useful.

Technical Skills

To succeed in your role, you need to be proficient in computer programming, including languages such as C++, Python, Java, and MATLAB. You do not need to be an expert, but it is necessary to be able to conduct data analysis and financial modeling to evaluate complex strategies or transactions. Application of programming languages also help to evaluate complex strategies, conduct what-if analyses to study the effect of different risk factors on the portfolio, or back-test certain models and prove that the strategy could have worked in historical times. Python is especially useful for analyzing data, creating models, and conducting back-testing research when the code is known to be too slow in other languages. Data visualization and communication is another important skill to have. It is the ability to visually communicate real findings and effectively present the outcome of analysis to portfolio managers and external clients of different levels. Visual impact helps people understand the results and implications. It also helps stakeholders manage their portfolios.

One way to break into the banking and finance industry is to understand the technical requirements and develop the knowledge and insights needed for specific roles. If you are tech-savvy, lucky you. You will find it relatively easy to embark on a career in banking and finance. If you are not, all is not lost as long as you are open to learning, willing to put in the effort, and enjoy problem-solving. Technical skills are crucial in the industry and are indispensable tools. They are easiest to demonstrate or develop. Hence, you can develop them ahead of the other skills that may be harder to demonstrate.

Soft Skills

High levels of these skills will help you to prove your worth rapidly in your job, leading to accelerated learning, career progression, and fulfillment. Moreover, they foster the development of a promising working relationship and are essential for effective teamwork, management, and crucially, leadership. The following are essential “soft” skills that add value to a person’s career in the banking and finance industry: being adaptable, balanced in their lives, ethical (both personally and professionally), communicative, and generally confident in themselves. Having a driven, enthusiastic approach and displaying fair play and integrity. These are crucial in a competitive work environment to demonstrate worthy conduct, and in many cases, directly lead to success.

In the banking and finance industry, it is essential that you also possess a range of “soft” skills. At its most basic, this means handling people across the broad band that you will come into contact with, including superiors, colleagues, subordinates, and clients. These “people” skills are often referred to under different terms in various literature, such as social skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and individuals’ competencies. Although the terminology may differ, these skills are consistent in nature and are crucial to career success.

Educational Pathways and Certifications

University qualifications suitable for banking and finance careers span a wide range of general and specialized programs of 2-4 years in subject areas such as economics, business, and commerce. These can include majors in fields relevant to banking and finance, such as accounting, actuarial, administration, banking, business law, commerce, communication, computer science, corporate finance, economics, engineering, e-commerce, finance, international business, investment, management, mathematics, real estate, risk management, statistics, and taxation. Other related qualifications include law, marketing, political science, psychology, quantitative finance, securities, and more.

Because of the technical and highly specialized nature of banking and finance, educational qualifications are an important factor in obtaining a rewarding career in the industry. Academic qualifications are important as a basis for employment and they often focus on generic skills, including basic banking and finance knowledge. Professional qualifications are formal recognition that a holder has achieved the necessary competence to practice, often with recognized exemptions against or courses. Both academic and professional qualifications are considered to be important.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Finance and Banking

Degrees in finance provide a broader overview of issues relating to the financial sector that include a better understanding of financial markets, financial institutions, and financial systems, as well as the role of regulation, currency, and central bank functioning. You will also learn about different financial instruments and risks thrown up by financial markets. These degrees in finance often include core modules in general banking systems and banking risks for those with a more specific interest in banking. Broad grounding degrees in business and management can also provide a useful background. Many universities offer courses which consist of many of the same elements of a finance and banking degree but also cover more aspects of the business world. You have the chance to progress onto higher education at degree level after completing a diploma or certificate course on a finance and banking subject.

For those specifically interested in careers in banking and finance, attaining a bachelor’s level education can help to provide the necessary skills and qualifications. Several universities offer undergraduate degrees in finance and banking with a variety of course options. Degrees specializing in banking often cover the different bank services available, the structure and interaction of financial markets and institutions, and the financial aspects of macroeconomics. When studying banking, they look at both the functions and problems of commercial banks and issues relating to central banking, as well as the regulation and supervision of financial systems and institutions.

Professional Certifications

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam has attracted about 108 thousand candidates sitting for their exams in 2012 throughout the world, and this number is expected to increase in years to come. Though the numbers are huge, there will still be an unquenchable demand for these graduates as this is a gold-standard profession in its field, and having the letters CFA after your name is the key that can unlock those strategies that will get you through the door in the finance sector. Are you an accounting major, and bookkeeping is your profession? Then the path to be taken is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) certificate, besides the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate. So, if you are in the accounting major and you have not acquired any of those certificates yet, please prioritize this issue before it is too late.

In the finance and accounting discipline, acquiring a professional certification is a rewarding career strategy. The array of certifications in the banking and finance industry is numerous. Some certifications are general in nature, like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), while others are industry specific, like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) if you are in accounting or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants if you are in accounts. This list of professional certifications would serve as a guideline for those willing to take the first step in acquiring a certification.

Practical Steps to Kickstart Your Career

Gaining a good understanding of the kinds of institutions one might work for, and the kinds of activities in which one might engage, even if just in the entry level, entry position, jobs, suggest many enriching summer, developmental internships that a high school or undergraduate college student might undertake. By the same token, engaging in this kind of internship can provide valuable information that suggests more targeted education and immediate post-undergraduate entry-level placement, internships, or jobs. When you learn a little about what people do in different banking/financial institutions, you may also find that you want no part of it!

Understanding banking and finance as a career pathway helps you prepare to achieve and maintain those options through your education, internships, and employment. Knowing what you want to have means knowing what you need to get, and plan for it. You may already have started to develop skills that are useful in a financial career, or more generally in any professional career, such as critical thinking, working well with others, being reliable in doing what you commit to getting done. But to be prepared to go right into the kind of education, and to engage in the kind of internships, that will help you begin a successful career, you need to know what kinds of skills are important.

Internships and Entry-level Positions

To earn a good and fulfilling career professional in banking and finance, you have many ways to get there. In college, you need to study to earn an undergraduate degree in that area, with some work in the evening to distinguish yourself from adult students who are now in their careers. Use internships and entry-level positions. Then build a library of professional internships and the entry roles through upcoming websites like, Talk to your career coach and create a good business card and resume, then post them online at major international banks and finance companies, as well as the websites of local private companies. If you are interested in making a difference in the world, you can also consider applying for government internships to develop relationships with staff leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, government agencies, and other economic commissions. Your university and professional clubs, professors, and college graduates may also work to help you find a fit to finance and banking internships, through alumni interviews and their lists. Your friends, your HUD, and your family are critical to who you know.

Banking and finance are excellent places to work, but for young people entering the workforce, there are crowds of other eager and enthusiastic new grads who are all motivated and ambitious to win those opportunities. How do you get ahead? Whom should you know, where do you find the best position to start your career now? Where can you be part of projects and teams you care about? What is most personally fulfilling to you? Start now to explore what you love and where you want to go by keeping your choices open. What do you think you will enjoy and be good at? Launch a rewarding career by looking at how others have charted their course. As you seek greater fulfillment and aspire to live a principled life, you have partners along the way to help you.

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