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The Financial services sector

Almost 1.2 million staff in 34,000 workplaces constitute the UK’s financial services sector, from online car insurers to retail banking giants, and from self‐employed independent financial advisers (IFAs) to global investment banks. Operating under a regulatory framework unique to the UK, the sector facilitates the allocation of capital, promotes confidence and continuity in life and business by managing risk and maintains the transaction systems that the rest of the economy relies on to conduct its business.

The financial services industry is represented by the Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC) which includes the following activities:

  • Banking – for individuals and businesses to manage their money, access loans, buy property, exchange currencies and many other activities. It is organised into three core categories: Retail; Corporate; and Wholesale banking.
  • Investments – managing and growing the wealth of individuals and organisations
  • Insurance – covers a huge variety of risks, from cars and houses to ships, planes and satellites.
  • Financial Advice – about working with people to plan their financial goals, based on their current situation and looking at the best ways they can achieve their financial objectives, such as helping someone to choose a mortgage, invest their savings or plan for their retirement.

Key facts:

  • 47% of firms employ 250 people.
  • Employment is dominated by a handful of large employers, most notably the high street retail banks, e.g. Barclays, HSBC.
  • 29 % of the financial services workforce is employed in administrative or secretarial roles.
  • About a quarter of the workforce is in associate professional and technical roles.
  • Managerial roles, including owners in private companies and the self‐employed, account for 37% of the workforce.
  • Employment growth in UK financial services has been weak when compared with other countries, notably the US
  • Recently, there have been notable declines in employment numbers because of the recession
  • Staff turnover has declined, as fewer vacancies and concerns about the recession may be deterring people from changing jobs

Jobs in the industry range from:

  • Insurance – underwriting, broking, customer services, sales, risk management, compliance, training, actuarial and administrative roles
  • Investments – asset management (sometimes called fund management), product development, product management, investment analysis, relationship management
  • Banking – retail banking (customer services, customer advice, financial advice, foreign exchange and branch management); corporate banking (corporate advice, relationship management, small business management and corporate management); and wholesale banking (mergers and acquisitions, research, sales and trading, and corporate finance)
  • Financial advice – mortgage adviser, independent financial adviser, compliance practitioner, pensions adviser

Entry and progression
There is a wide range of career opportunities within financial services, and therefore the entry requirements and application procedures for each of the options differ. For a general guide:

  • GCSEs, NVQ 2 or equivalent, or A levels, NVQ3 or equivalent would enable entry to a career in administrative, sales, and customer services roles/li>
  • Foundation degree, undergraduate degree or equivalent are required for professional and technical roles/li>
  • Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships are available for Providing Financial Services and Advising on Financial Products/li>
  • A Level or Equivalent Leaver Training Scheme would enable entry to the industry but the individual would be expected to undertake professional qualifications as part of their training/li>
  • Graduate Training Schemes offer formal training schemes for people who have achieved a degree with a good classification – most employers will require a degree classification of a 2.1 or above./li>

Financial services employers place value on professional qualifications and look for employees who are committed to achieving relevant exams. Most employers would not expect new entrants to have relevant professional qualifications, but would require them to have good maths and English skills, alongside the minimum academic qualification required for the role. There is an expectation that new entrants will be committed to achieving relevant professional qualifications once in post.

Within financial services, there are many careers available across the sector. There are a range of progression routes. Skills are important when looking to progress; employers will require employees to be able to demonstrate the required skills needed for their next step in their career. Specific qualifications may be required for progression.

For job specific entry requirements, job profiles should be consulted.

Skill requirements and shortages
In the last two years, compulsory redundancies across financial services have been steadily reducing headcounts. Employers report that there is a high importance to improve workforce attitude and commitment to work, along with industry and technical knowledge.

There seems to be a trend that jobs will increasingly need people with higher level skills; the increase in the use of technology may impact upon those roles, which are currently at the lower skill level.

Employers report that there is a lack of qualified and senior managers, although the current economic climate means that there are substantial changes in the availability of skills within the labour market. This has an impact upon employers’ ability to recruit to certain posts.

Occupational trends
The industry in undergoing constant change; diversification of services and products to offer retail and corporate customers vary, together with sophisticated financial solutions. There is an increasing need for:

  • compliance, risk management and corporate governance professionals, which is in response to an increased need for a review of regulation policies and practices/li>
  • customer service and relationship manager for both retail and corporate customers/li>
  • fraud specialists to deal with the increase in financial crime/li>

Salary levels
In England, the average pay scale for financial services employees is estimated at £49,826 per year. However, this figure is biased by the London job market, which has a higher salary level. Employers often offer a ‘basic’ salary and a ‘package’, which may include an annual performance related bonus, pension, and private health care insurance.

Further sources
Financial Services Sector Skills Council (FSSC)
Directions (the FSSC careers website)
National Skills Academy for Financial Services
Association of Independent Financial Advisers
British Bankers’ Association
British Insurance Brokers Association Investment Management Association
The Institute of Risk Management
Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters