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The financial services sector covers saving, borrowing, investments and insurance for everyone from individuals to international conglomerates. Commerce and industry could not operate without it as it is central to the UK economy.
There is a huge variety of career paths available. The industry includes retail and investment banking, insurance, pensions, investments, the financial markets, accountancy and financial advice and management. To protect consumers, the Financial Services Authority regulates the sector.
Jobs are available in the following areas:
- customer-facing operations - banking personnel, insurance brokers and financial planners work with private and corporate clients, helping them to make informed decisions
- central operations - fund managers, credit analysts and stock market traders analyse risks, investment opportunities etc and make strategic decisions
- back office - accountants, investment analysts, insurance underwriters and loss adjusters research and process information and maintain records.
Some careers in financial services can be pressurised, with irregular hours. Employees who deal directly with clients or customers, either in person or over the telephone, may have to work shifts to cover weekends or evenings. Other jobs follow more regular hours and many employers offer flexible working arrangements. Most people in the sector work in offices. Travelling is involved in some jobs.
Employers in the sector include banks, building societies, insurance companies, accountancy firms, pension fund management companies and public sector organisations, including local and central government departments.
The financial services sector employs around 900,000 people in England. There have been major changes in recent years, with some retailers diversifying to compete for services traditionally provided by banks, insurance providers etc. The sector has been particularly affected by the recession. Some employers have had to reduce the size of their workforce, or have even gone out of business. Until the economy starts to recover, there are likely to be fewer job opportunities than at other times.
London is the key investment centre, although financial jobs exist in most cities and towns.
Employers usually look for a range of skills, including the ability to work well in a team, self-motivation and good communication skills. It is important to have an interest in financial and business affairs.
There is more than one route into most careers. The right personality and skills may be more important than qualifications for entry to some jobs, although qualifications in ICT, business, administration and finance (such as a Diploma) may be useful. Some positions require a relevant degree and/or specialist training.
Employers often provide support for study, both financial and allowing time off work. In-house and external training can lead to professional qualifications. Apprenticeships are available in certain career areas.
Employers often offer career progression opportunities at all levels. Qualified specialists sometimes become self-employed or work overseas.
Why not have a look at other career family articles as they may hold information on related jobs.