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Where to start  

This highly competitive sector requires preparation, knowledge and a good understanding of the wider concepts with the financial services sector.  Some of the career paths covered by this sector will see you working exclusively with finance companies or ones selling financial products. By contrast, opting for financial management as a career path can take you into almost any employment sector. The Prospects website has a good overview of the finance sector in the UK.

Careers in the financial services sector include:

Accountancy, Audit and Tax careers

There are two main types of accountants: Chartered Accountants work with multiple clients to conduct audits, record and report on financial trends and offer business advice. Management Accountants work within one organisation, providing financial intelligence to them or their client. ICAEW provides students with an online toolkit to help develop commercial awareness. Including the Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business CFAB. See Careers in audit, Accountancy, and Taxation.

Actuarial careers

Actuaries make financial sense of the future, evaluating, managing and advising on financial risks.

To learn more about the tasks that actuaries perform, see the Prospects website’s Actuary profile, or Actuarial Careers.  

Insurance careers

There are many major insurance companies, with many specialised positions to fill. For further advice on roles in insurance, read this guide by Reassured.

Pension careers

This is a growing industry that needs talented people to devise solutions to the new and complex challenges of pensions in our modern society. See Inside Careers’ guide to routes into pensions.

How to know if you’re suited to this sector

These careers are suited to analytical people who enjoy details, problem-solving, and have an affinity for numbers.

You should be comfortable with taking a high-level business overview, rather than being ‘hands-on’. You should be organised, able to cope under pressure, and capable of building good working relationships.

 

Look at vacancies and job descriptions on the following websites, and check out the skills needed:

How to get the experience to be credible

Gain work experience through spring insight programmes, summer internships, work shadowing, or virtual internships. Read how to get started with internships and find internships on RateMyPlacement.

Develop commercial awareness by gaining knowledge of the industry: read sector news and the Financial Times (free to Cambridge students). Work on essential skills by taking part in extra-curricular activities.

These could include societies, projects, or building technical knowledge through online courses.

Online study of Financial management and accounting would be particularly valuable. Learn programming skills and demonstrate them on Github, or learn Python at LinkedIn Learning.

Further study or certification required

Professional qualifications are an essential part of financial services. Target Jobs gives a summary of what to expect.

Accountancy qualifications

It is a legal requirement for accountants to be qualified. Choosing which qualification is right for you and your career is especially important. Read about how to become an accountant to get an overview of where to start, and look at this guide to getting professionally qualified. The main accounting qualification bodies: ACA- ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA.

Audit

The IIA has a guide to finding out which qualification is right for you, as well as how to apply for qualifications.

Actuarial qualifications

 The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) offers several qualifications if you wish to pursue an actuarial career. Find the study route that is right for you. You could also develop your quantitative/math skills by studying for a Master’s in Actuarial Science.

Insurance qualifications

The Chartered Insurance Institute offers several professional qualifications in the industry. See Inside Careers’ guide to Insurance training.

Pensions qualifications

See Pension careers and the Pensions Management Institute.

How to find employers or training courses

Accountancy, Audit, Tax

Use ACCA global, ICAEW, ICAS and CIMA to research and target companies. Read this guide to choosing an accounting firm.

Actuarial

Insurance & Risk

Pensions

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Practice all aspects of the recruitment process. Especially the areas you may be weaker in or not had a chance to develop during your studies.

Look through our guides to interviews, Psychometric testing and assessment centres. Numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning, and Situational Judgement Tests are the most common in the finance recruitment process. Verbalise and practice your interview questions.

Before you apply, get up to date with what is happening in the financial markets and current affairs by using the following sources: Financial Times, BBC Business News, Reuters, Bloomberg

What Cambridge offers to help with this career
  • See Handshake for job vacancies, sector-related emails, skill sessions, events, connecting with employers. It will also give you access to alumni: you can look at their career paths, how they built up experience, what qualifications they took, and the employers they currently work for.
  • LinkedIn Learning Cambridge Hub for learning new skills.
  • Projects and societies. Look at CUSU society listings and join a relevant society that has sponsors from this area. Take on a society role like a Treasurer. Show that you can manage budgets, as well as profit-and-loss accounts.
Other things you should know

A number of investment firms are trying to achieve a more diverse workforce, and improve the ratio of under-presented groups in their workplace.The recruitment organisations they work with include: