Stereotypes & misconceptions: What you might have already heard.
The phrase ‘banking, finance and accountancy’ often brings to mind the image of dynamic men and women pacing the floors of Wall Street and the London Stock Exchange, surveying the markets and waiting for the right opportunity to pounce: ‘Buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell!’ You might think of men in bowler hats trudging across the Millennium Bridge at the crack of dawn. Alternatively, you might be picturing an accountant stuck away in a dark, cramped office, surrounded by receipts and punching endless numbers into a ridiculously large calculator.
Well to be honest, that’s not entirely correct. So before you make the decision to get into banking, finance & accountancy you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.
What is it really all about then? Tell me the truth.
Money, money, money! It’s true: banking, finance and accountancy careers are all about money. The world revolves around money. We talk about it, we spend it, we earn it, we lose it and we touch it every day. The world would not be able to function without money. Consequently, some of the most important jobs in the world are in the banking, finance and accountancy sector.
Each and every financial company deals with very large sums of money and quite often the money under their control does not necessarily belong to them. If you think about it, everyone keeps their money in a bank (not just in a suitcase under their mattress), and once their money is in that bank account they no longer have total control over it.
Similarly, businesses that choose to invest in other ventures tend to use financial services companies to help them do so and use their advice to make important decisions. Likewise, when someone asks an accountant to look after their finances or taxes, they simply hope/trust that they’re not going to make a mistake. Indeed, one wrong calculation could mean that they lose money.
Effectively, everyone’s financial fates are in the hands of the different organisations we trust with our cash. Understandably, therefore, banking, finance, and accountancy firms have a lot of power, but in return they also have a whole lot of responsibility. Considering all this, careers in this sector can be extremely exciting, rewarding and satisfying, but at the same time they can be incredibly stressful and highly-pressurised. This is something that is often reflected in the high salaries that characterise the sector.
Sounds great, tell me more!
Many organisations and individuals need help managing their finances and this is where accountants and financial managers come in. They help their clients to monitor their finances, plan for the future and, most importantly, comply with various legal regulations.
Retail banking is the area of finance that most individuals and small businesses have direct interaction with, either inside their local high street branches and building societies, or over the phone and via the internet. This huge area of banking boasts a broad range of career options, ranging from bank tellers and customer service representatives, to bank managers and financial advisors.
Some of the most competitive jobs in the banking world are within the world of ‘high finance’. This catch-all term involves various specialist strands of financial services, including:
The massive range of companies which deal with this area of finance are responsible for actively managing large financial transactions and providing expert advice on major investments and commercial choices.
Insurance is an especially valuable tool for businesses and individuals as it allows them to take risks. By taking risks, companies can do innovative things and make real progress. If those risks don’t pay off (and sometimes they don’t) then insurance companies are there to bear the brunt of the financial fallout; after all, that’s what they get paid for. A truly diverse range of careers exist in this area, ranging from insurance brokers to claims management professionals.
Pensions are all about planning financially for the future. People who work in pensions provide essential services that benefit people financially once their careers have finished. Pensions have an impact on everyone’s lives and most companies provide their employees with pension schemes. Consequently the pensions industry is huge. Careers within pensions can be undertaken in specialist pensions companies who offer schemes and services to various different companies, or within larger companies which have their own in-house pensions department. Some companies even provide both insurance and pensions services to their clients.
Careers in banking, finance and accountancy are not for everybody. They are often highly demanding and fast-paced but if you have a mind for money, a flair for finance and the thought of a challenge excites you then you can bank on this being the sector for you!
Magna A - Fund Accounting Manager
Magna A is a Manager in the Fund Accounting at Fidelity. She works in what is called the "back office" - the bit that does the operational work - sorting everything out. She did not go to university - but studied accountancy - which was paid by her employers.
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