If you are at school, a career in finance might seem like a very long way away. It probably also seems like a totally different world, full of suits, glass skyscrapers and lots of numbers.In fact, thinking about a career in finance whilst you are in the sixth form might seem a little overwhelming. Our goal at Amplify Schools is to demystify finance and investing, giving you the best possible chance of finding the right first role in finance. Here are five things that every young person needs to know about a career in finance:
1. You don’t have to go to university to get a job in finance
You might think that landing a graduate role at a major bank involves getting all A*’s at A Level, going to a top university, and coasting into your chosen graduate role. Although this might have been the case in the past, banks are increasingly looking beyond A Levels and university grades, focusing instead on ability and potential.
Lots of banks have school leaver programmes, with some launching degree apprenticeships, meaning that you can get a degree whilst earning money and making a positive impression on your first employer. Goldman Sachs, for example, has teamed up with both Queen Mary University of London and Warwick University to provide degree apprenticeship programmes which are likely to put you in a much better position than your university-attending peers, when they graduate.
2. Not all jobs in finance are high stress and long hours
There is the general impression that jobs in finance involve a lot of late nights, confrontation, and competition. Most of the films that we watch, or news that we read refers to a very small part of the bank, where 80 hour weeks are the norm, or where making billion dollar decisions under massive stress is part of the day job.
The reality is very different. A large bank is a microcosm of the wider professional service economy. You can find the right role for you, whether this is managing relationships with small businesses, working on divisional strategy, helping companies trade internationally, working to create a better bank wide culture, or creating compelling marketing materials. One of the biggest growth areas of the last few years is technology – a background in data science or software development will give you a lot of opportunities at a bank.
3. Don’t go into finance just to get rich
A top tip which every school pupil needs to know: if you want to get rich, find something that you really like doing, and get extremely good at it. You are far more likely to be successful if your day job doesn’t feel like work to you.
What isn’t likely to work is getting a job in a bank, hating the work, but sticking at it just to get rich. There are lots of really smart people working in banks who love the industry and their job – these people will be the ones who build a successful (and lucrative) career.
In order to thrive at a bank, you need to really enjoy the work. If you are working in corporate finance, you need to get excited by company strategy. If you are working in sales and trading, you need to be fascinated by financial markets. If you are working in bank infrastructure, you need to get energised by creating systems which make life easier (and cheaper) for the bank.
4. Young people from any background can get a job in finance
White, middle-aged men in suits. Is this what you immediately think of when asked to imagine what a banker looks like?
Although this is still a valid stereotype, banks are changing quickly. Major banks want a workforce from a wide range of backgrounds. A diverse workforce provides lots of different perspectives and experiences, which should improve decision making at a bank.
In fact, major banks have a number of opportunities for young people who do not fit the banking stereotype to get exposure to roles in finance. Whatever you do, please do not let your background, skin colour or gender get in the way of a career in finance!
5. Start showing an interest in finance now
It’s (almost) never too early to start gaining experience in banking and finance. If you are in year 12 or 13 there are lots of work experience opportunities available – make sure you keep on top of these opportunities and apply early as it gets very competitive!
There are so many online resources available it is sometimes hard to know where to start. The Financial Times and Economist are good, but a little dry. We recommend Amplify’s Market Maker daily newsletter and supporting YouTube channel. Aimed at school leavers and university students, Amplify’s newsletter gives you the news, without the jargon.
If you're at school, and have a free summer (especially if you are in year 12), take a look at Amplify’s WorkX programme – a fully immersive one week work experience, giving you an insight into lots of different roles within finance.