Careers in Banking
For the majority of people, the visible side of the banking sector is that offered by high street bank branches.
Retail banks provide services to individual customers and small businesses. Despite the rise of online banking and the use of call centres, they are still amongst the largest employers in the banking sector.
Retail banking activities include:
- • Safe custody of customers’ money.
- • Transferring money between accounts.
- • Loaning money to customers.
- • Foreign exchange.
- • Providing financial advice and financial services, including insurance products, mortgages and investments.
Retail banks are highly diverse and provide a huge range of opportunities, from customer-facing work at branch level to centralised offices where services such as leasing, credit cards and trade credit are processed.
Will a Banking Career Suit You?
Many employers are now interested in how well you fit into the organisation, as well as how motivated and skilled you are. When you apply for jobs in banking, it’s very common to be asked to sit a psychometric test. The kind of person who does well in this sector demonstrates the following basic skills and aptitudes.
- • Numeracy. Are you good at figures and do you enjoy working with numbers?
- • Literacy and written communication skills. Record-keeping is essential.
- • Verbal communication and interpersonal skills. Are you good at relating to people and customers in particular? Can you build relationships in a business environment?
- • Teamwork. Do you enjoy working within a large group, while understanding why your area of work is important to the whole operation? Are you good at working co-operatively with others?
- • Good self organisation and timekeeping. This must extend to every aspect of your work, where accuracy and attention to detail is paramount.
- • Business sense. Are you interested in how the commercial sector works? Are you interested in businesses and how these are reflected in finances.
For positions involving decision-making, you also need the following:
- • High motivation. Are you proactive and results-orientated?
- • Communication and negotiation. Can you persuade others to see your point of view?
- • Conceptual thinking and creative problem solving. Can you see patterns and underlying issues to problems? Can you respond with individual solutions based on facts?
- • Critical and analytical thinking. Can you break down problems and address each aspect?
- • Ability to follow protocols and adhere to legal regulations. The financial sector is highly regulated and this affects how you conduct many aspects of your work.
Career Areas in Retail Banking
Accounting and Finance
Accounting and Finance is concerned with the financial administration of the bank itself, meaning it’s a very central function. Everything from investment decisions, performance analysis, product launches to monthly reports and budgeting is conducted in partnership with this department.
Administration and Support
Administration roles are located throughout the organisation and at every level. Roles include executive support, personal assistants and data processing.
Claims and Underwriting
Involved in developing and processing insurance products, this involves understanding customers’ needs through giving advice, analysing finances, assessing applications and processing claims.
This work involves directly communicating with customers, either face-to-face in a branch or over the telephone in a call centre, receiving applications for various products and offering advice or working as a collections or credit officer.
These branch based advisors and managers are involved in helping customers select and acquire the most suitable financial products.
The bank’s legal teams ensure compliance, ensuring that all financial activities are conducted within relevant laws and regulations.
Human resources are concerned with all aspects of staffing, from recruitment to salaries and compensation, training policies and staff development, assessment and reviews, etc.
Technology is absolutely fundamental to retail banks and all their activities. The latest technology underpins and drives all processes, meaning that development, maintenance and support is a massive area that takes in every area of the organisation.
This team is concerned with building funds through appropriate investment advice. Portfolio management, credit management, investment analysis and business analysis all come under this area.
This central area works with many other divisions, being concerned with communicating information about the bank’s services and products to customers through brand identity, media relations, advertising, sponsorship, etc., while also feeding into product development through research into markets and the customer base.
The bank would fail to provide services if the infrastructure that makes it possible were not developed and maintained.
There are numerous areas of work, including resource planning, vendor management, processing payments, and change management.
There are innumerable roles involving people management throughout a bank, from senior managers to branch managers and team supervisors.
Private Banking advisors help the bank’s wealthiest customers with protecting and developing their wealth through tax efficiency and strategic investment.
This area involves ensuring that the bank is a stable financial organisation by quantifying and responding to all risks throughout the organisation.
As well as the physical security required for a financial organisation, modern day banking requires a high level of security aimed at cyber crime and fraud.
If you can demonstrate the abilities and attributes required by banks, you will be an eligible candidate for a position on a graduate recruitment scheme, no matter what your degree subject. A good degree shows that you can think logically, analyse information, present your logical processes and conclusions, and communicate generally. The bank will train you in the specialist area that you’re recruited to work in.
Banks regularly attend university careers fairs as part of their recruitment drive, as they’re interested in finding graduates with the ability to develop business. If you’re interested in a bank job, you may even be able to secure a secondment or traineeship before graduating.
Graduate and intern schemes cover areas such as Global Retail Banking, Corporate Banking, Investment Banking and Wealth Management. Most major high street banks are committed to leadership development, which can lead to employment in many of the above listed areas.