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How to enter the Financial industry - advice from a seasoned recruiter

Published on Friday, 27 Feb 2015


I am a penultimate year student majoring in Economics at LSE who would like to work in private banking in the future.

Having carried out some internship hunting, I realised there weren't many private banks in HK offering internships for undergrads. Therefore, instead, I applied for programmes in investment banking and the competition was indeed fierce. According to past banking interns, I am at a less advantaged, if not disadvantaged, position as I do not have any previous banking related working experience.

So I was wondering if there would be any way to enhance my CV and to increase my chance of entering the industry? (I heard taking the CFA would be a good option.)

And is getting into investment bank first a possible way to enter private banking?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by AL

Dear AL, Without doubt, having a degree in Economics at LSE is an excellent start to pursuing a career in banking. However, this is only part of the process of securing your dream job after university. Having higher level and additional qualifications is always a great way to ensure your application stands out from the competition, so a Masters degree or taking the CFA examinations can be helpful, but is not critical for entering either retail or private banking. In today’s banking market, where all banks are so heavily focused on cost control, securing the best possible talent in the market is essential. Gaining an internship or relevant work experience is a must in the current employment market to differentiate yourself from other applicants and to show your commitment to prospective employers of your interest in their industry. Whilst having experience in an internship related to private banking would be the ideal scenario, realistically this may not be possible, so gaining any internship or work experience within the banking or financial services will be better than nothing. Without doubt, the more proactive you are about securing an internship within a quality organisation, the better placed you will be against other candidates. In order to secure an internship, attend university job and career fairs as often as possible to understand which companies offer internships programs, do extensive online research and approach companies directly to offer your assistance. Networking through social media, industry events and your own contacts (family, friends, colleagues and academics) to meet with industry professionals is also often a great way to get your foot in the door. If you are not successful initially, be persistent and persevere as private banking, after all, is a relationship driven job and in order to get into the industry you need to have good relationships and these take time to build! Entry level positions such as Private Banking Assistant, Relationship Manager or Junior Private Bankers do exist in the industry, but are highly sought-after. Joining a retail bank as a Relationship Manager, or Bank Teller, at an even more junior level, is a common starting point to developing a career as a Private Banker and many retail/commercial banks have management trainee programs for fresh graduates with rotational programs, thus allowing you to learn about different departments, as well as broadening your exposure across the bank. Finally, in answer to your question, is getting into an investment bank first a possible way to enter private banking, yes, it could be. However, the above would still apply as gaining a position within an investment bank is also increasingly competitive at entry level so, either way, gaining relevant work experience or internship experience is a must. Best of luck!
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