Preparing for a Career in the Financial Sector

Preparing for a Career in the Financial Sector
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With lucrative salaries, challenging roles and plenty of excitement, finance is one of the most sought-after careers globally including in the Middle East. It is ideal for youngsters who are ambitious, have a head for numbers, and can quickly grasp complicated concepts. Data suggests that finance is among the most promising careers with the demand for professionals expected to be above average in the next 10 years.  

Despite the stereotype of finance professionals being savvy dark-suited numerical wizards mostly found on Wall Street, the truth is that they are present in every company managing their finances. At the same time, there are certain sectors where finance professionals preponderate, like insurance, risk management, compliance and certain government services.  

Career Paths

The field of finance offers ample career opportunities for both permanent and independent professionals across all hierarchies. Sectors like banking and financial services in particular have a large requirement for financial experts including investment bankers, portfolio managers, risk managers, credit analysts and so on. Independent roles may include chartered accountants (CAs), certified public accountants (CPAs), chartered financial analysts (CFAs), certified financial planners (CFPs), financial advisors, wealth managers etc. We shall discuss these roles in detail later in the article. 

Many graduates join the Big 4 armed with degrees like CA and MBA in finance, with the promising ones rising to the position of partner within 10-15 years. The designation of partner in a Big 4 firm comes with enviable perks, prestige and pay and requires a high order of soft skills including communication skills, leadership skills and relationship-building skills, with technical competency being a given. 

Jobs and Qualifications 

Finance is a broad field with many types of jobs depending on your interests. Below is a list of jobs that are popular with finance professionals. We explain the duties and responsibilities of each and list the necessary qualifications, to help you plan your career if you wish to enter this sector.    

  • Accountant: It involves basic tasks like journal entry and bookkeeping. Minimum qualification is undergraduate degree in accounting. Students can also go on to obtain a Master’s degree or higher.  
  • CA/CPA: Their scope of work includes audit, taxation, financial management, financial advisory services for businesses, financial planning for acquisition, merger, sale and insolvency, debt and loan restructuring, accounting practices and policies, credit analysis, risk management etc. CAs and CPAs are required to clear a professional exam before they can start their practice. 
  • CFA: CFAs are skilled finance professionals who take up jobs like research analyst, corporate financial analyst, auditor, risk analyst etc. To become a CFA, you must: 
  • Pass CFA exams 
  • Obtain the required work experience
  • Submit reference letters 
  • Apply for your membership

The course requires in-depth study and it takes an average of four years to complete the programme. 

  • CFPs/Portfolio Managers/Financial Advisors/Wealth Managers: These professionals manage the investment portfolios of wealthy individuals and businesses. They may either be associated with a bank/investment advisory firm or work in their individual capacity. Their responsibilities include providing investment advice, tax planning, estate planning, meeting clients regularly to review investment goals, researching to keep abreast of the latest investment opportunities etc. 
  • Investment Bankers: They help clients raise capital through the issue of stock for business expansion. A college degree in economics or business management from a reputed institute is required to gain entry. An advanced degree like MBA or post-graduate degree in Mathematics can further brighten your prospects. 

Internship at a leading firm is critical as it helps with on-the-job training and provides exposure to the work culture. The job offers highly attractive salaries but also comes with tremendous work pressure, with burnout being common among employees. 

Skills Requirement 

Besides training and qualifications, candidates must possess the right skills to excel in the field. Here are three important skills which will help you flourish in a finance role. 

  • Analytical Ability: This is a key requirement in finance jobs as you will frequently need to study and interpret data. The good news is that most finance-related programmes provide curriculum-based training to enable you to develop this skill. 
  • Decisiveness: Finance jobs require you to take quick decisions with the potential for major ramifications on the business. The ability to take correct decisions based on historical trends, future projections and plain and simple gut instinct is a key skill which will take you far. 
  • Communication and Relationship-Building: These are key soft skills necessary to help you convey your insights to the management. They also help in maintaining good relations with the client. These skills become more and more important as you rise up the corporate hierarchy. 

Future Roles 

Problem-solving skills, IT experience and commercial acumen are some other skills that play a dominant role in finance. The next few decades will witness a revolutionary change in the arena with fintech coming to the fore. Many new roles like ‘financial engineer’ and ‘cryptoforecaster’ are also expected to emerge in the future. 

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