Kick-starting your Career in Finance

by Alex Mesterton-Gibbons, Recruitment Manager, Early Careers

Our Masters in Financial Analysis is specifically designed for recent graduates at the early stage of their professional development.

If you are looking to kick-start your career in finance, and still considering how, Richard Bland, Head of Finance Careers here at LBS’ career centre discusses how candidates looking to enter finance can make themselves more appealing to recruiters. 

How has the finance industry changed since the onset of the global economic downturn in 2008? What impact have these changes had on the industry and on people’s roles?

There have been wholesale changes at the top, with more than 90% of senior positions changing hands. Banks have rebuilt balance sheets and reduced their exposure to riskier asset classes, so they are better prepared to deal with any future crises. In terms of salaries, total remuneration is lower and the bonus element, while still significant in finance compared with other industries, has shifted towards fixed rather than variable pay. We’ve also seen a move away from cash to shares that are deferred over several years and have a clawback option. This means that staff compensation is more aligned to the long-term success of the organisation.

What effect have these changes had on people who are keen to enter the industry?

The roles in banks have shifted away from risk taking to risk management. There are fewer markets roles in investment banks and investment companies such as hedge funds generally prefer to hire people with relevant experience, creating more competition for jobs at entry level. The upshot is that people hoping to enter the industry need an extra edge beyond academic excellence.

What’s the best way for someone to get a foot in the door and start climbing the ladder?

Graduate programmes remain the most popular entry point with students. Whichever sector or company you choose will shape your longer-term options, although anyone looking to get a foot in the door will find that professional services firms remain the largest recruiters at graduate level. Investment banks use summer internship programmes to fill up to 80% of their front office roles, while those recruiting for core support divisions such as finance, treasury and IT are also happy to hire on a full-time basis.

What would the Masters in Finance Analysis (MFA) do for someone’s career prospects?

Academic excellence remains key and LBS will deliver that to the highest level. In an increasingly competitive market place, students need an edge to set them apart. With LBS being a post-graduate only school, you’ll get to interact with fellow students doing an MBA, for example. These people have significant prior work experience and will set the bar high in terms of behaviours, knowledge and commitment.

What are recruiters looking for when assessing candidates for finance roles?

We recently surveyed 38 companies across the finance industry and located around the world to understand what they’re looking for. The universal themes that came out were communication, commitment and commercial awareness.

As with any industry, communication is key and the people who can get their point over succinctly and clearly are generally the ones who succeed. It’s critical to success in finance, because you’re either pitching ideas or advising people. The MFA will help you to hone and develop your communication skills while doing the course work throughout the programme.

It is very difficult to do well in any industry without a deep-seated motivation to progress and perform, and finance is no exception. Demonstrating your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the sector is one way to show your commitment when being interviewed for a role. Recruiters want to see how committed you are, as they know how much hard work is involved when entering the industry at a junior level. Being surrounded and supported, through our unique student Peer Leadership Programme, by experienced professionals who are taking a career break to return to business school will really help up your game.

Commercial awareness is equally important, as it demonstrates your knowledge of the finance industry and how everything works. The people on the MFA programme will develop that awareness and a deep interest in the sector by learning from our world-class faculty.

How much demand is there for finance specialists?

In London, the number of finance jobs has increased by 100,000 in the last five years with fintech (financial technology) accounting for 44,000 of those roles. That said, fintech remains a relatively under explored market for finance graduates. We have seen a slight shift away from investment banking and global markets roles towards buy-side and advisory positions that cover M&A, consulting and risk.

What are the main benefits for people working in the finance sector?

You learn a set of skills that will prove invaluable throughout your career. Transferable skills such as knowing how to value companies and the levers that shift those values can be applied in both the corporate and consulting sectors. They can also be used in buy-side roles involving asset or fund management, private equity or hedge funds. You also learn how to bend the ear of senior executives, so you’re learning those persuasive powers and building those communication and presentation skills, which are important in any walk of life. 

Applications for the September 2018 MFA intake are now open, see all deadlines here.

To find out more email or visit our website.

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