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Banking & Finance

Think you know how to get the most out of your money? A career in banking & finance could be the right investment for you.

What is banking and finance?

When it comes to dealing with money, there are two main types of banking:

  • Retail: These are the high street banks where you, your family, and businesses keep their personal savings and apply for loans and mortgages.
  • Investment: Investment bankers help individuals, businesses and other organisations raise money or make profits investing their cash, often in the stock market. They also invest in various other things, such as "commodities", which means goods like gold or coffee. Investment banks can also help you to buy, sell or merge your own business.

What is the "stock market"?

The stock market allows all manner of companies to sell tiny pieces of their business, called "shares", to the public and other businesses. The more shares you have from a particular company, the more of a say you have in how it is run. Share prices can go up faster if a company is doing well and demand is high, and you can make big bucks selling them on at the right time. However, shares can go down fast too, so investment bankers or traders work out which companies are doing well and buy and sell shares on your behalf to keep you in the money.

Confused? Check out our guide the banking world.

What banking and finance jobs can I do?

Retail banking

If you’re interested in retail banking, you could work in:

  • Customer service: As a cashier, or as a telephone advisor.
  • Financial advice: Specialising in credit, mortgages or personal finance.
  • Management: Running a bank branch or taking a senior role at head office.
  • Marketing: Thinking up ways to bring in new customers and keep the old ones too.
  • Private banking: Dealing with ‘high net worth’ individuals with large amounts of money to invest.

Check out this guide for more info.

Investment banking

If investment banking is more your thing, there are lots of career paths to explore. The two main areas are:

Corporate finance

This involves giving advice to clients who are buying or merging companies, or going public on the stock market. A dedicated finance department reports profit and loss made by traders and different departments. Many who work here are former chartered accountants (see Accountancy Zone).

Capital markets

This is all about dealing with sales, trading and research. The main jobs in this area include:

  • Traders: Traders buy and sell on behalf of big clients like banks. Traders predict if stocks, commodities, interest rates (the amount we have to pay on top of the money we borrow) and currencies will go up or down. The activity of traders can affect the value of stocks and shares.
  • Stockbrokers: Allow people to make sales on the stock market and help folks without the inside know-how to buy and sell shares.
  • Research analysts, risk managers and investment analysts: All of these people try to understand or predict how a particular stock will perform, to help traders make their decisions. They look for trends and patterns and develop complicated plans to predict future performance. Many investment bankers start out as analysts.
  • Fund managers: Responsible for making decisions about large group investments like pensions or insurance funds.
  • Salesperson: Encourages wealthy companies and investors to set up funds with your bank or take investment advice.
  • Operations department: People in the operations team work behind the scenes and make sure everything runs smoothly. For example, this includes the finance teams who make sure transactions are completed with clients.

Check out this guide to jobs in investment banking.

Is a career in banking and finance for me?

Investment banking salaries are high and performance is often rewarded with bonuses. However, be prepared to work intensively for long hours, whatever job you take.

If you are quick-thinking, analytical and calm under pressure – trading could be for you.

For stockbrokers, it’s all about networking so you’ll need to be a people person too.

If you prefer dealing with clients face-to-face you may be more into sales. You may get to travel in this role.

Research is less hectic than sales or trading but requires a very strong understanding of finance. Students with a good head for numbers should think about research jobs.

In retail banking, starting salaries are lower, but working hours are more regular. Jobs in retail banking tend to be customer-focused, comparable to other customer service jobs, but with a finance twist. You could be helping people pay in and withdraw money, set up mortgages and apply for loans.

How can I start a career in banking and finance?

If you’re up for working hard, you can have a career in banking no matter what you do.

To work in investment banking you will need:

  • GCSE: Grade 4 or above in maths and English.
  • A-levels: You should definitely opt for A-level maths. Further maths, sciences, computing and economics are useful too.


A university degree in any subject is a ticket to a career in banking and finance. Subjects such as maths or economics will stand you in good stead for the more numbers-orientated roles in finance. As a graduate recruit you’ll be put on a training scheme and you’ll need to complete Financial Services Authority (FSA) approved training and exams.

With a 2.1 or even 2.2 degree, you can join a management training scheme.


Most high-street and commercial banks offer apprenticeship schemes from intermediate to degree level, providing on-the-job training for young people aged 16 and over. Amongst others, programmes include:

  • Financial advisor (higher)
  • Financial services customer advisor (intermediate)
  • Financial services professional (degree)
  • Investment operations administrator (intermediate)
  • Mortgage advisor (advanced)

What banking and finance qualifications are available?

There are lots of opportunities to gain qualifications in both retail and Investment banking and training is normally done on the job.

As an investment banker, qualifications include Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Investment Management Certificate (IMC) and the Capital Markets Programme (CISI).

In retail, you can also take on specialist training including Mortgage Advice (CeMAP), Practice Financial Advice (CeFA) and private client advice (IAD).

For supporting roles there are qualifications such as the Investment Operations Certificate (IOC), and Diploma in Investment Compliance (CISI).

Did you know these banking and finance facts?

Almost 1.5 million people work in the financial services and insurance industries in the UK.

95% of all people in the UK have a bank account.

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