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 folks, and businesses keep their personal savings and apply for loans and mortgages.
- Investment: These guys help people and organisations raise money or make profits investing their cash, often in the stock market, or in ‘commodities’, which means investing in goods like gold or coffee. Investment banks can also help you to buy, sell or merge your own business.
A quick word on 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 on 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.
What banking and finance jobs can I do?
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.
If investment banking is more your thing, there are lots of career paths to explore. The two main areas are:
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).
This is all about dealing with sales, trading and research. The main jobs in this area include:
- Traders: The big guns who can influence the prices of a stock and buy and sell on behalf of big clients like banks. Traders predict if stocks, commodities,interest rates (that’s the amount of interest we have to pay on top of money we borrow), and currencies will go up or down.
- 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. Instead of using a crystal ball, 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.
We've got a whole page dedicated to explaining investment banking and the different career paths you can follow.
Is a career in banking and finance for me?
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. The bonus is there is lots of travel.
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.
Investment banking salaries are high and performance is often rewarded with bonuses, but whatever job you take, be prepared to work long hours.
In retail banking, starting salaries are lower, but working hours are more regular.
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: 4 or above at GCSE maths and English.
- A-levels: You should definitely opt for A-level maths. Further maths, sciences, computing and economics are useful too.
- University: A 2.1 degree in any subject. For research jobs, maths and Science subjects are a winner.
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. For more information on which universities offer banking and finance courses, check out our list of UK universities.
Vocational: To work in retail banking as a cashier you will need maths skills but not necessarily a degree. Many high-street banks offer intermediate/advanced apprenticeship schemes that provide on the job training and national qualifications for people aged 16 and up.
If you have a 2.2 degree or above you can join a management training scheme.
Get some great experience for your CV and have fun at the same time investing (fictional) dosh in the annual IFS student investors challenge. Put together a team with your friends and try to make a profit investing £100,000 worth of virtual cash in the stock market. The challenge gives you a real idea of what it's like to work as an investment banker and you could win some real cash in the process too.
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), Financial Planning (CFPTM) 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?
Over a million people work in the banking and insurance industries in the UK.
95% of all people in the UK have a bank account.