The term "financial services" encompasses many different types of finance related firms and businesses. Financial services careers can involve working on the quantitative side of a firm or organization, working to develop and maintain a client base, serving as a consultant to help organizations analyze and solve their problems, or helping a customer manage a bank account. More generally, financial services often involves the processes behind managing and motivating people to work toward common, productive financial goals. Skills often recognized and utilized in financial services careers include quantitative and analytical skills; teamwork and leadership skills; combined with persistence, initiative, and hard work.
INDUSTRY RESEARCH & RESOURCES
Industry research is an important first-step for individuals who are looking to assess their fit for financial services as a career, but is also essential for anyone who wants to pursue financial services professionally. Knowing that you want to work in finance is not enough to get you a job in the industry or even an interview. Educating yourself about industry terms, basic organizational structure, and recruiting time lines will help you identify the best job opportunities to pursue, as well as equip you with the resources necessary to be competitive for positions in the field. The section below is a quick outlook at the organizational structures of investment banks.
What is investment banking?
Investment banking is the business of raising capital for companies and advising them on financing and merger alternatives. Investment banks sell securities (debt and equity) to investors to raise this cash. Once issued, the securities trade in financial markets.
Corporate Finance – private side
Corporate finance is often divided into industry-specific coverage groups. This allows groups to focus on developing the knowledge and relationships within the industry.
- Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory: Bankers assist in negotiating and structuring mergers between companies. They help to finalize purchase price, structure the deal, and ensure smooth transaction.
- Underwriting function: Bankers raise capital for a company by selling either stocks or debt to investors. Banks incur a large amount of risk in the transaction.
Capital Markets – private side
Professionals in this division are responsible for understanding recent transactions in the financial markets, and using this information to structure new transactions. They serve as advisors or leaders in executing deals.
Sales – public side
Salespeople develop relationships with individual or institutional investors and sell stocks or stock advices. As securities trade in the market, the salespeople represent their clients and execute purchases or sales on their behalf.
Trading – public side
Traders facilitate the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, and other securities. The two distinct roles a trader has include:
- Providing liquidity: Traders provide clients with the ability to buy or sell a security on demand. They make money by selling securities at a slightly higher price than what they pay for them.
- Proprietary trading: Traders may take trading positions on behalf of the firm, using the firm’s capital. Typically the same trader makes a market and engages in the trading for a security.
Research – public side
Research analysts follow stocks and bonds, and forecast companies’ future earnings to write reports and make recommendations to outside investors. They typically focus and become experts on one industry and cover the companies within that group. The published research will be used by salespeople to convince clients to buy or sell securities through their firm. Researchers use only public information to construct financial models and recommendations.
Syndicate facilitates the placing of securities in a public offering. It determines the allocation of bonds and loans in debt deal.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS:
Many financial institutions follow a similar employee structure:
Analyst: An analyst produces quantitative support for the firm’s transactions
• Summer Analyst: Interns between junior and senior year of college
Associate: An associate organizes and supervises the work product of analysts, and conducts much of the deal execution
• Summer Associate: Interns between first and second year of business school
Of these positions, the following typically require a bachelor’s degree: Analyst, Trading Assistant, Clerk, Underwriter, Research Assistant, Research Associate. Those that require an MBA or other grad degree include: Associate, Trader, Research Associate. Additionally, some banks have begun to employ PhDs in Applied Math or Economics as Associates in recent years, to deal with increasingly complex trading deals.
A typical deal team consists of a Managing Director or Executive Director, a Vice President, an Associate, and an Analyst.
Managing Director: The MD is responsible for the senior clients, and bestows guidance to the team when needed
Executive Director: The ED manages client relationships and is also responsible for execution oversight
Vice President: Often a former associate, the VP oversees day-to-day client tasks
CAMPUS RECRUITING TIMELINE
A number of large financial services companies adhere to a traditional recruitment cycle for internship and full-time positions and the chart below details the recruiting time line for these "bulge bracket" employers. However, it is important to remember that many companies recruit outside of this formalized recruiting calendar. Make sure that your job search includes both the job posting section of Lionshare as well as the on-campus recruiting section.
Summer analyst/associate campus interviews
Summer offers accepted
Recruiting events on campus for underclassmen
Summer and full time internship programs begin
Full time offers extended to current summer interns; full time positions posted on LionSHARE
Full time information sessions and interviews on-campus
Full time offers extended; summer internship positions posted on LionSHARE
Many finance companies conduct on-campus recruitment events and interviews, and informational sessions for interested students. Visit the CCE calendar of events for upcoming employer events, and LionSHARE to search for scheduled on-campus interviews. Look through CCE's tipsheets for help preparing for an Employer Information Session or an upcoming interview.
- LionSHARE: Thousands of finance positions are posted on LionSHARE, for employers such as Credit Suisse, CitiGroup, J.P. Morgan, and many others.
- Fall and Spring Career Fairs: Sample employers who have attended recent career fairs include AllianceBernstein, Royal Bank of Scotland, and American Express.
- Vault and WetFeet Guides: Check out WetFeet’s Careers in Investment Banking, or Vault’s Banking & Finance and Vault Guide to Finance Interviews.
- CCE Tipsheets: Peruse CCE's bank of tipsheets for guidance in your job search, including interview skills, Employer information sessions, networking tips, and more.
Sample Alumni Profiles
- Brian O’Dwyer, Vice President, Credit Suisse
- Peter Law, Analyst, Sancus Capital Management
- Ganesh Betanabhatla, Managing Director, Talara Capital Management
View more alumni profiles here.
- Columbia Financial Investment Group - The Columbia Financial Investment Group (CFIG) is Columbia’s largest undergraduate finance club. Our aim is to encourage an interest in finance and to equip all members with an understanding of the financial markets.
- Columbia Financial Review - Columbia Financial Review is an online student publication that provides a medium for student discussion of relevant financial issues.
- Association of Graduate Economics Students – AGES represents of the interests of students at both the departmental and graduate school level and organizes various social activities for its members.
- Columbia Economics Society - Columbia Economics Society, the largest pre-professional group serving undergraduates at Columbia, organizes events to connect students with professionals from banking, finance, and consulting related fields.
- Multicultural Business Association – MBA engages in a campus-wide discussion on how future business leaders should be gearing up to compete and operate in a multicultural and global economy.
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS & ORGANIZATIONS
The CFA Program:
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Program is a professional credential administered by the American-based CFA Institute to investment and financial professionals. In order to obtain it, a candidate must pass three, six-hour exams, have earned a university degree (or equivalent) and must have four years of qualified, professional work experience. You may register for the Level I exam if you are in your final year of your bachelor’s degree program, or have four years of professional work experience, but you must have earned your degree before registering for the Level II exam. See the CFA website for more details.
Resources and test prep information are available here:
- CFA Institute-Sample Exam Questions
- New York Society Of Security Analysts
- Investopedia CFA Exam Guide
The CPA Exam:
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the title given to qualified accountants, conditional upon passage of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and additional state education and experience requirements for certification. The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), although the rules for certification as a CPA vary by state. Visit the AICPA website for more details about the exam.
Professional associations and industry organization networks provide excellent resources for learning more about financial services. A few of the most widely known are listed below:
- American Finance Association
- American Association of Finance & Accounting
- New York Society of Security Analysts
- Association for Financial Professionals
- Financial Management Association International
- 85 Broads
The following sites provide industry specific information and can be utilized in conjunction with career education sites, such as Vault and Wet Feet available in CCE's online Resource Library.
- Wall Street Oasis: Online forums and articles about investment banking
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Find information about hundreds of occupations from the U.S. Department of Labor
- O*NET: Search for positions by industry, skills, interests, and other categories.
- Careers in Business: career exploration site providing general overview of industry sectors
- Glass Door: peer-to-peer information about the interview process and offer negotiations
- Investopedia: informational and educational tools about investing and the stock market
- Mergers and Acquisitions: site of information and insight into investment banking industry
- Seeking Alpha: stock market analysis from market experts including quarterly earnings for over 1,500 public companies
FIRMS AND COMPANIES
The human resources and recruiting websites of the firms that you are targeting are an excellent place to identify opportunities available within the company. These sites also provide a great way to research the company culture as well as the type of candidate that they are seeking. The financial institutions listed below have previously participated in on-campus recruiting at Columbia.
CURRENT EVENTS & MARKET TRENDS
Being competitive for jobs in financial services requires that you be familiar with current industry trends and topics. While you don't need to read each of the following publications every day, you should be knowledgeable about issues and events that have an impact on the industry - and not just the ones that are on the cover of the Wall Street Journal on the day of your interview. Employers want to see your engagement with the field, that you are knowledgeable of market trends and that you are aware of domestic and international news that effects the financial sector. Familiarize yourself with a least a few of these sites and read them regularly. Or, use a page like eWallstreeter that will aggregate content by division from a variety of print and online resources.
|Barrons||Financial Times||Market Watch|
|Bloomberg||FINS||New York Times|
|Bloomberg Business Week||Forbes||Reuters|
|The Economist||Investors Business Daily||The Wall Street Journal|
Last edit: Feb. 7, 2014