If you’re newly qualified, now is a good time to consider the career pathways available to you and which industries are seeing the greatest demands, thus offer the best opportunities for newly-qualified professionals like yourself.

A career in the financial services sector is not just about the money, although it starts there. We speak to Neil Syers, Chief Financial Officer at Hayfin Capital Management LLP London, who offers his insights into what a career in the Banking and Financial Services (FS hereafter) sector entails.

What is it like working within the banking and FS sector?

"FS is a fast-paced competitive global industry that gives you the opportunity to gain qualifications, and experience how the economy functions. The multifaceted nature of the industry means it caters for all interests and skills, which offers multiple and niche opportunities. 

Roles in the industry are varied, challenging, and engaging that require you to develop thoughts and opinions whilst acting quickly. You gain expertise in an industry that doesn’t stay still and offers fantastic opportunities to develop networks and contacts from all over the world".

Roles in the industry are varied, challenging, and engaging that require you to develop thoughts and opinions whilst acting quickly. 

What career paths are available within banking and FS?

"There are multiple career paths within banking and FS with many opportunities to specialise in particular areas across banking, investing and professional services. Depending on your chosen sector there
is a role to suit every personality, mix of skills and preferences.

Ultimately there are two sides to the FS coin, banks (who represent those looking for capital – sell side) and investment managers (looking to invest capital – buy side) but both are underpinned by strong training regimes and professional qualifications, either run in-house at the large companies, or at professional service firms (lawyers and accountants).

Accounting and legal roles have strong graduate training programs and stability, whilst banks and investment managers offer rotational training programs across different business areas.

Career progression within the sector is what you make of it. There are many opportunities to grow and move in to different areas, but it is essential to have exposure to great training and mentoring programs to help guide your decisions. Ultimately it is about staying up to date with the industry and longevity."

Tell us about your career progression to date?

“I started on a graduate programme at EY after university, within their audit and assurance group. This was a great opportunity to gain exposure to many different types of finance companies and help form an opinion of how to start specialising in a specific sector. By working at a large accounting firm you get access to top quality training programmes and access to a strong network of experience. You are expected to work towards a professional accounting qualification whilst working, and the firms offer excellent support in the form of study leave and training.

After gaining broader industry knowledge I moved to a client in the investment manager space and have remained in investment management ever since, working at a large listed manager to joining (and closing down) a smaller hedge fund, before starting up and helping to institutionalise the management company I am at today.

My role has changed and broadened over the years and accounting is only a fraction of the role today, as other aspects have come into focus, from IT, HR, strategic planning, treasury and stakeholder management. As a result it has been important to get as much exposure as possible to different size businesses in different stages of their lifecycle, and meet as many people as possible.”

What challenges were you faced with along the way?

“The biggest challenge personally is keeping up pace with the rate of change in the industry. Whether it’s been new companies, new products, or new regulations, there is always something challenging to get involved with. As a result, you are constantly faced with scenarios you haven’t experience or witnessed before and complex issues to resolve – you are always learning in a Banking and FS career.” 

What would you have done differently looking back on your career path?

“Looking back I don’t think I realised how lucky I was to be in an environment where there are so many people you can turn to for advice. I would encourage people to speak to as many different people in as many different FS roles as possible so that they can get a feel for the different types of roles out there.”  

And finally, what top tips and advice would you give those qualifying and looking for a successful career within banking and FS?

“For those qualifying I would encourage them to not narrow their focus too much on a specific role and don’t jump at the first opportunity that comes available. There are many routes into senior management or to CFO or COO and by gaining varied exposure to different roles and asset classes is important.

There has historically been a stigma attached to being in a “back-office” or non-investment role, but I have witnessed a shift over the years where greater reliance and importance has been placed on non-investment sides of banks and asset managers. As a result I would recommend that any newly qualified accountant consider all options available to them and not just focus on being the next star hedge fund manager! Just remember, the grass isn’t always greener."

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