Banking and Financial Services Career Guide

The banking and financial services sector is large and varied. Organisations in this industry do everything from providing traditional high street banking to innovating with cutting edge Fintech (Financial Technology) solutions. There are, as you might imagine, a large and diverse amount of job opportunities available in this field as a result. The banking and financial service sector is one of the highest paid industries to work in. It’s also notoriously demanding and highly competitive. Whether you’re interested in building a career as a Financial Advisor for one of the top investment banks, or developing new software solutions for a blockchain, below is an overview of the skills, qualifications, and earning potential for some of the most popular careers in banking and financial services.
digital money transfer technology background

Potential Roles in Banking and Financial Services


Not all banking and finance roles are focused purely on hard data and numbers – there is often a demand for industry commentators and specialist journalism too. A good understanding of people can get you just as far as being highly numerate, although the truth is both skills are often required. The most common roles in this sector tend to fall into the below categories:

Banking roles fall into three specialisms:

  • Retail banking, which covers high street banks and loans 
  • Commercial banking, which focuses n business and customer transactions
  • Investment banking, which is centred on helping businesses to raise money in financial markets and handle mergers and acquisitions

Financial Advisor jobs are focused on helping people and/or businesses make the best financial decisions. Financial Advisers can work solo, as part of a team, and in large and small organisations. 

Fintech opportunities usually require some degree of software, IT, or programming skills in addition to a good understanding of the financial landscape. It can be one of the most exciting areas of finance to work in, given the focus on innovation and start-up culture. 

Salary and Career Progression


Banker salaries vary slightly depending on which area you want to specialise in. Retail bankers can expect to start on anything from £18,000 to £25,000 per year, depending on the company and role. Branch managers can make up to £40,000 per year – more with bonuses. Senior management roles can bring in earnings of between £40,000 to £80,000. 

Commercial banking salaries tend to fall in a similar bracket to retail, although starting salaries tend to be higher. Commercial bankers can earn anywhere between £25,000 to £50,000, and this can rise to £100,000 or more for specialists and experts.

Investment banking has the most earning potential careerwise. Starting salaries in this field can be as high as £30,000, and rise to £150,000 or higher depending on experience. 

Financial Advisors, when fully qualified, can expect to earn from £30,000 to £45,000. This can increase to £60,000 at mid to senior levels, and up to and in excess of £100,000 per year when working for some large private banks. 

Fintech is a potentially riskier field than the other career options, but can also be very financially rewarding. Starting salaries can be low to average, as many Fintech companies are in early or startup stages. However, the median earnings for fintech professionals are around £70,000, and can rise exponentially if a business is successful. 

Financial reports on a desk during a meeting in a top bank

Qualifications, Education and Experience


If you want to get into banking, then you’ll need any of the following qualifications:

  • Finance degree
  • Economics degree
  • Management degree
  • Business degree

Marketing and management degrees are also viable, as is a completed apprenticeship scheme from a bank. A level 3 vocational qualification in business is another option.

Financial Advisors will need the following qualifications and/or experience:

  • A degree in financial services, business management, or accountancy
  • Financial advisor higher apprenticeship
  • Financial services professional degree apprenticeship

Fintech roles are not as clear cut, but any of the following qualifications can be very useful:

  • Computer science degree
  • Software engineering degree
  • Accounting degree
  • Mathematics degree
  • Data science or related degree

Skills


If you’re interested in a career in banking, then the following skills will be essential regardless of whether you choose to go into retail, commercial, or investment banking:

  • Problem-solving
  • Self-discipline
  • Excellent written and verbal communication
  • Customer service focused
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Excellent numeracy 
  • Leadership
  • Well organised

Financial Advisors will benefit from having these skills and traits:

  • Able to network and build client relationships
  • Self-motivated
  • Highly organised
  • Excellent numeracy 
  • Good IT skills
  • Target driven
  • Decision making
  • Customer service
  • Negotiation
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Discretion where required
  • Able to explain complex information simply

Fintech professionals will need a variety of skills depending on their area of specialisation (software, client relations, etc), but the following are a good starting point whatever aspect of Fintech you’re interested in:

  • Programming
  • Applied statistics
  • Cybersecurity
  • Communication skills
  • Empathy 
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Problem-solving

A programmer working on some Fintech software on a laptop.

Working Hours


The working hours for bankers can vary greatly, usually in line with earning potential. Retail bankers can expect their working hours to be fairly predictable, and more often than not limited to 9-5. 

Commercial bankers, on average, tend to work from up to 40 to 60 hours per week. 

Investment bankers work the longest hours. 80 hour weeks are common, and working at the weekend is often expected. Some investment bankers can easily average 100 hours per week in total.

Financial Advisors tend to work around 40 hours per week, although it is worth noting that working hours can be non-traditional. Financial Advisors might be required to meet with clients over the weekend or in the evenings, for example. 

Fintech working hours are highly variable, and many Fintech companies offer flexible and remote working. That said, depending on the nature of the role and the level of the business, working in fintech normally means working weeks of 40 hours or more. 

Notable Locations


While London is well known as a centre for financial services and banking, it certainly isn’t the only option. London, and the Square Mile, in particular, does tend to offer the most opportunities and the highest paying roles. There are many other locations worth considering, however, including:

  • Manchester
  • Leeds
  • Bristol
  • Edinburgh
  • Liverpool

Notable Companies


Below are some of the main banks and financial organisations that operate in the UK. Many of these organisations offer good entry-level opportunities and long term career progression:

  • Bank of England
  • Barclays
  • Deloitte 
  • HSBC
  • UBS
  • Morgan Stanley 
  • PWC
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Citi Bank

Some notable Fintech firms are:

  • Monzo
  • Atom
  • Revolut 
  • TransferWise

Next Steps


If you’re already looking for the next step up in your financial services or banking career, or an apprenticeship opportunity, then make sure to see what finance roles are currently available across the UK now. 

You can also register with us here at JobLookup and set up regular job alerts. Don’t forget to check our Ultimate Jobseeker Guide for general job search tips as well. 

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