If you’re good with figures, a career in the financial sector could be for you!
The finance industry is a key driver of the UK economy and a major employer. It’s estimated the industry accounts for 12% of the UK’s economic output and employs 2.2 million people. But while London has a reputation as the financial centre of Europe – if not the world – two-thirds of the nation’s finance jobs in the sector are located outside the capital, so there are plenty of opportunities regardless of where you live.
That’s not to say the uncertainty surrounding Brexit doesn’t pose challenges to the industry. The Bank of England recently announced that tens of thousands of jobs in finance could be lost if there is no Brexit deal, although experts remain optimistic not only that a deal will be reached in time but also that leaving the EU could create new opportunities for the UK’s financial services. Read on to discover more about the types of job available.
The Key Areas
Private Practice Accountant
As a PPA, your day-to-day duties may include preparing financial statements, business plans and budget reports, producing accounts, auditing, managing clients’ spending and costs, filing tax returns and giving tax advice, forecasting profits and performance, helping businesses that may be in financial difficulty and investigating fraud (forensic accounting).
You’ll deal with all these if you work for a small accountancy practice; in larger practices you’re more likely to specialise in one area, such as tax or insolvency. With experience, you could specialise in an area such as auditing or forensic accounting, or become a manager in a practice. You could then move into a partnership or become a finance director, self-employed or set up your own company.
What qualifications do I need? You’ll usually need at least two A-levels and three GCSEs grade 9-4 (A* to C), including maths and English. You don’t usually need a degree or maths A-level, but you must qualify with one of the following professional bodies: Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Association of International Accountants or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Each has different entry requirements for its courses and different routes to qualify.
How much can I earn? Salaries start in the region of £18,000 to £27,000, rising to £28,000 to £50,000 with more experience. Partners and finance directors can earn up to £100,000 a year, or even more.
These accountants look after a company’s accounts. They advise on the financial implications of business decisions, prepare reports, budgets, commentaries and financial statements, and provide appropriate financial information and undertake related accounts administration. Similar roles are also available in the public sector and not-for-profit organisations.
What qualifications do I need? Any degree is accepted by way of entry, although qualifications in accountancy or mathematical, management or business subjects are useful as they exempt you from some of the exams needed to become professionally qualified. There are a number of professional accountancy bodies you can train with, although the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) is a common choice. Some employers specify which professional body they want you to study with.
You’ll also gain exemptions if you have studied for the technician level qualification with the Association of Accounting Technicians. This qualification can be undertaken by school leavers, who can also become management accountants by studying for the CIMA certificate in business accounting before moving on to the professional qualification.
How much can I earn? The average salary for recent graduates entering accountancy is around £28,000. Salaries increase substantially after passing the relevant examinations. An average basic salary of over £33,000 is usual for a student studying for a professional qualification with CIMA.
CIMA-qualified finance professionals, irrespective of experience or role, earn on average just over £64,000 including bonuses. Salaries at senior levels range from around £46,000 to £130,000 or more. The average bonus for CIMA students is 8% of their annual salary, while qualified members receive 12% on average.
Investments and Pensions
People in these roles research the likely performance of investment funds and look to mitigate financial risk and liability for their clients. Performance measurement, investment support, risk assessment, data management, trading and stockbroking can all be part of the job.
Those who manage pensions for their clients are often referred to as pension scheme managers or pensions consultants. There are a number of other related roles that deal with wealth management and financial planning at various levels, including private client investment managers, executives of life, pension and investment providers and senior managers of life, pension and investment providers.
Your role could also involve handling complex claims and settling disputes, planning new pension schemes and developing existing ones, investing the company’s funds to bring the best return, reporting on the scheme’s financial performance, working with actuaries, solicitors, auditors, investment consultants and trustees, or marketing the pension schemes.
With experience, you could become a self-employed pensions consultant.
What qualifications do I need? You’ll need a background in pensions or finance work, plus a qualification in pensions, insurance or accountancy that meets industry regulatory standards. You can start as a trainee pensions manager or a pensions administrator and work your way up via a management training scheme. Qualifications from a professional body, such as the Pensions Management Institute or Chartered Insurance Institute, may also help.
How much can I earn? Starter salaries range from £22,000 to £25,000, rising to £40,000 with experience. Highly experienced investment and pensions administrators can earn in the region of £40,000 to £80,000. Salary packages may include insurance, pension benefits and bonuses based on individual or company performance.
Banks and building Societies
The sector’s biggest employers, retail banks, are at the heart of our day-to-day financial lives. They also offer a range of positions, from tellers to mortgage advisers and managers.
Work is typically in high street branches, although there are increasing opportunities to work for online banks and supermarkets that offer banking services. A typical role will involve helping with the financial requirements of individuals and businesses, and provide advice and financial services including loans and overdraft facilities, saving accounts and bonds.
What qualifications do I need? If you don’t have a degree, you may be able to join a bank in an entry-level customer service role and work up to management level through in-house management courses, some of which are fast-track programmes.
Mortgage adviser training schemes run by banks and building societies allow you to work your way up from a customer service adviser role. It’s also possible to get into this career through an apprenticeship.
Retail banks and building societies offer graduate management training programmes, which usually lead to a management role on completion. They are open to all graduates – you don’t need a finance-related degree. To qualify, banks usually require you to have a 2:2 or above.
How much can I earn? Graduate management trainees earn in the region of £18,000 to £25,000, plus possible bonuses. Salaries can rise to around £40,000 with bonuses for your first management role, up to £70,000 with experience.
Corporate Investment Banker
These advise companies, institutions and governments on how to achieve their financial goals and implement long- and short-term financial plans. You’ll manage corporate, strategic and financial opportunities, including mergers, acquisitions, bonds and shares, lending, privatisations and initial public offerings (IPOs). You may also advise and lead management buyouts, raise capital, provide strategic advice and identify and secure new deals.
What qualifications do I need? Investment banks usually ask for at least a 2:1 degree and often specify a minimum number of UCAS points. New trainees must complete Financial Conduct Authority training and exams. Some employers may also require further professional qualifications. Completing an internship with an investment bank can improve your chances of securing a job.
How much can I earn? The average starting salary is around £30,000 to £40,000. After three or more years, salaries can reach £50,000. Those with significant experience may earn a base salary of around £150,000 or more. Pay is often performance related and bonuses can sometimes be four times the base salary or more. Some employers offer welcome bonuses in the region of £2,000 to £5,000.
What Skills do I need?
• Excellent communication and listening skills
• The ability to explain complex information clearly and simply
• The confidence to work with numbers and explain them to clients
• IT skills
• Great customer service skills
• Drive and motivation to meet targets