June 22, 2014 10:06 pm

Finance graduates sense job-security

No. 1 Canada Square stands surrounded by the offices of global financial institutions in London©Bloomberg

Is job security in the finance profession a distant dream? What concerns do master’s in finance graduates have about working in the field?

In a recent FT survey of finance graduates, about 85 per cent believe that having a master’s in finance degree increases their job security. The qualification has been credited with enabling students to explore subjects in greater depth and gain relevant technical skills for the workplace.

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The poll was conducted in May 2014 among the master's in finance graduation class of 2011 from schools that took part in this year’s ranking. A total of 307 graduates, from pre-experience programmes, responded to the survey.

However, one participant pointed out that her degree did not boost her sense of job security in her current role, as her employer values work experience and professional qualifications more than formal degrees. In the survey, about a third of the group have one or more professional qualifications such as the CFA.

“But [the degree] does increase my confidence in the sense that I have a broader and deeper knowledge of finance than my peers and also, if I leave my current job, I feel I have very good employment prospects anyway,” she says.

For those employed in financial roles, 75 per cent either feel secure or very secure in their current jobs, which is a small drop from the 83 per cent reported in last year’s poll.

The current survey results also show that 74 per cent of the respondents work in finance three years after completing their master's degree, compared with 80 per cent in the 2013 poll – again a slight fall.

Has the industry become less appealing as it is characterised by long hours and stressful working conditions?

One individual explains: “With regards to job security, I personally opted to pass on any financial sector job because of the high lay-off rates and the unhealthy, unbalanced lifestyle that many high achievers in the financial sector lead and impose on their subordinates.”

He highlights the tragic case of the death of intern Moritz Erhardt at Bank of America, who died of an epileptic fit last year. According to a coroner, the seizure may have been caused by overworking.

“I believe that other industries are in need of highly qualified finance professionals and offer a more balanced lifestyle,” the graduate adds.

Respondents working in finance perceive the three biggest threats to their job in descending order as: the prospects of another economic downturn; company restructuring; and government regulation.

In particular, the banking industry has been the subject of regulatory changes. For example, in May this year, Barclays Bank announced it would cut 7,000 investment banking roles. According to the FT, a banking analyst at JPMorgan Chase mentions that Barclays is placed at a “significant disadvantage” by higher capital requirements, compared with US, German and French rivals.

For participants working in the banking sector, nearly half – 44 per cent – say recent large-scale job cuts at leading banks have lowered their sense of job security.

Despite awareness of threats to their roles, commitment to the finance profession is fairly high for those already in the field. About 75 per cent of the group say they expect still to be in the sector in five years. Only a small number – 11 per cent – have looked for a job outside the financial sector in the past six months.

So what does one need to do to enhance job security? One individual is convinced that the master's in finance can make you more competitive in the job market, but it is not enough to ensure job security. To promote career longevity, he believes this boils down to being a high achiever and possessing leadership skills.

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