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Banking, insurance and financial services
What skills you will need for a finance career

What skills you will need.

See what skills you can brush up on to help kick-start your finance career on the right foot.

Understanding

An ability to grasp new concepts quickly – whether assimilating new information or data, managing a project, or meeting a new client – is essential for finance graduates. If you come across something new, you need to be able to ask the right questions and follow the right leads during research. Potential employers won’t judge your intellectual skills by your academic grades alone, and recruiters will want to see that you can apply your knowledge to practical situations. Go into an interview knowing as much as possible regarding what the job actually entails. Recruiters don’t expect in-depth knowledge, but a good grasp of the basics will help you and impress them. Read the areas of work sections of this guide for more information on specific areas of the finance sector.

Innovation

Recruiters are on the hunt for freethinkers with fresh ideas who are going to make an impact, and those graduates who possess the ability to create or identify new opportunities to develop the business are sought after. While many firms have been essentially using the same processes for years, those processes are frequently tweaked to create improvements. Have you done something similar? For example, if your student society was planning on promoting itself via a stall at a student fair and you suggested giving out some freebies to attract people to the stand, then went about sourcing suitable items, you would have provided a basic innovation to improve society membership and increase awareness among students.

Commercial awareness

If you want a career in finance, it’s essential that you possess knowledge of the specific business you wish to work in, the sectors you would be working with, and commercial awareness of both your employer and their competitors. If you’ve gained any sort of work experience through a casual job, you can use that experience to demonstrate commercial awareness at interview. If you’ve stacked shelves in a supermarket, be able to identify the issues facing the supermarket industry, along with knowledge of who owns the company you worked for and how it was structured. If you’ve worked in a pub, you could give your opinions on the issues facing the drinks industry. Recruiters will be impressed by answers that demonstrate an insider’s, rather than a customer’s, perspective.

Communication

Those employed in the finance sector are required to convey complex information in a professional and jargon-free manner, so it’s vital that you learn to tailor your communication style. You will also need to be able to work with colleagues, often as part of a team, at all levels of the business. Without good communication between members, good teamwork won’t thrive. You need to be able to express yourself concisely, and you also need to be a good listener as well as being good at asking questions. Recruiters will assess your communication skills through your application form answers, how you go about answering their questions at the interview, and group work and presentations at assessment centres.

Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic and interested candidates who take the initiative are the ones most likely to impress recruiters. Candidates are more likely to stand out if they get in touch with recruiters and make themselves known. Attending events and fairs, and meeting people from the firm you’re interested in, is a great way to demonstrate your initiative. Enthusiasm is also shown by conducting research – you wouldn’t bother researching something and keeping up to date with it if you weren’t genuinely interested in and enthused by it. Mention an aspect of the firm’s work that interests you and find a way to link it to your own skills and experience.