Career Focus - Finance

Monday, April 01, 2019 at 1am

For those seeking a career that deals with money, a specialization in finance can prove to be invaluable. It is a career field which requires one to possess skills in mathematics, economics, and financial theory and today can command roles from traditonal Accounting, Corporate Finance, and Investment Banking. The biggest change in the industry since the financial crisis has been the growing role of technology such as blockchain, which enables the fast and frictionless transfer of assets over the internet. Fintech is also disrupting the traditional financial services sector, especially in asset management, payments and insurance.

In spite of the added challenge of banks having to fight back against technology companies to woo talent their way, they are still holding their own as an MBA employer. Finance jobs that exist today were not around ten years ago, and now form part of fintech or digital strategy. China is currently the biggest user of financial technology and provides a melting pot for job opportunities for MBAs and Masters in Finance students.

Careers in financial management can vary, but traditional financial management careers typically include asset management, corporate finance, investment banking, sales and trading, personal finance and insurance.

Almost every company has opportunities in finance. But, of course, many students will undertake an MBA in finance with the goal of working for a purely financial institution. Goldman Sachs is one of the biggest names in this regard, and hires MBAs into its investment banking and private wealth management sectors: Goldman Sachs looks for MBA candidates who are well rounded with a diversity of experiences, have strong problem-solving skills, are innovative thinkers and are intellectually curious. Those who wish to work at Goldman Sachs should have a genuine interest in learning more about our industry and our firm and be able to articulate why they want to work here and build a potential career in this industry.

The more traditional finance jobs in such areas as investment banking, investment management and hedge funds, have seen declines. However, banks are starting to examine their working practices around work/life balance, access to childcare, paternal and maternal leave to re-invigorate popularity in the industry once more.

A financial advisor, as the name suggests, advises individuals and corporations on how to invest their money wisely. Financial advisors typically command salaries in the range of US$65,000, but top earners can pull in around US$160,000 – plus, of course, healthy bonuses. Their duties include meeting with clients, managing investment accounts and researching other investment portfolios and opportunities.

A career as a financial analyst often necessitates close contact with the stock market - analyzing stocks and investments, looking for optimal times to invest and the best stocks in which to invest. This also means meeting with companies or individuals to go through their wants and needs in order to lay out an investment strategy for them. Average salaries for financial analysts are in the US$75,000 range with the top 10% looking at salaries of almost double that, at around US$140,000.

Financial planners help individuals and companies to plan their financial futures through budgets and financial goal setting, working with financial advisors, investment managers and mutual fund companies. Salaries for financial planners range from US$35,000 to upwards of US$100,000.

Finance officers have wide-ranging job duties that depend almost completely on who they work for. Most work for banks, finance companies and credit unions, or other companies that deal almost exclusively with money. Duties and titles range from president, CFO and vice president to loan officer, controller and securities trader. Salaries for finance officers are commonly in the US$100,000+ range and companies typically require an MBA, MSc, or other master’s degree in finance.

Investment bankers work with their companies or clients to build strong stock and bond portfolios in order to help make their company’s or client’s securities grow. While investment banking is known for its long hours and rigorous, competitive workload, compensation is typically above US$100,000 and, in many cases, upwards of $150,000.

 New career paths for finance MBAs

The race to harness financial technologies has opened up a wealth of MBA career opportunities. Fintech has become a great area for recruiting growth. There has been a surge of innovation in the payments space, as traditional providers such as American Express compete with newer entrants like Stripe, Square or TransferWise, plus tech big groups Apple, Google, and Amazon.

At investment banks, fintech has become one of the most popular areas to work in. Tech bankers have been buoyed by healthy deal flows — Berkery Noyes, a boutique investment bank, estimated an upward trajectory in fintech, which saw M&A value double in 2015, to $64 billion.

“Robo-advising” — automated digital investment services, which often use artificial intelligence or machine learning — is another hot area. It has banks including UBS, Santander and Barclays rushing to explore its potential uses. Money managers such as Schroders, Blackrock, and Aberdeen Asset Management are also buying in.

The start-up/entrepreneurial environments/cultures of many top firms are very different from those of investment banks. David Lask, an Imperial College Business School MBA, ditched Santander’s investment bank and opted for a fintech start-up in Mexico, Visor, which helps SMEs access financing through tech.

“What’s exciting about fintech is how it can help a developing country like Mexico fast-track its growth,” David says. Mexico’s fintech industry is still young, he says, which “means there are many opportunities to revolutionize the Mexican financial sector”.

Salary trends

According to the 2018 QS Jobs and Salary Trends Report, the same growth in hiring across the finance industry in the way we have seen with other industries is not into double digits, however we are seeing steady growth nonetheless (5%), with a slightly more optimistic (7%) prediction for the next two years.

While hiring growth might not have been as strong in 2017, it won’t come as a shock to many that if you’re looking for the top salaries the finance industry is still the place to go. If you’re looking for a basic salary pushing six figures then the safe bet is finance, averaging of US$97,100. An average basic salary of around US$7,000 higher than comparative industries is not inconsiderable.

 Internships and Programs

An internship while pursuing your MBA in finance can be a great step towards both improving your résumé and opening the doors to a top company. Top ranking finance internships and Leadership Programs on offer includes companies like Amex, Bank of America/Merrill LynchCommerzbank, Gartner, Citi, Allianz, Tandem and even Pharma giant GSK. Since many of these companies have multiple locations across the globe, an internship might be the perfect way to get a bit of international experience as well. A finance internship is a great way to segue into a full-time job, with many of the aforementioned companies hiring directly from their pool of interns.

In terms of the kinds of firms that are hiring MBAs, there are some bright spots in some parts of the finance sector compared to a decade ago. Some financial services firms have upped their game to compete with Big Tech. There is also a noticeable push to attract students with a technology and engineering background.



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