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In a sector beset by scandal and under greater scrutiny from the authorities, is it any surprise that there is growing demand for jobs in financial regulation?
“Currently, anything connected to regulation is growing,” confirms Rico von Wyss, an assistant professor who runs the master in banking and finance degree at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland.
Apart from the Basel III legislation requiring banks to hold a certain amount of capital reserves against losses, authorities around the world are monitoring the financial industry much closer, generating additional jobs at regulators, auditors, banks and insurance companies. Typical jobs include ensuring that affected companies implement and adhere to the banking rules. Additionally, Prof Wyss says there are roles in the consulting departments of the big four firms: PwC, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte.
With increased regulation, there is also more focus on risk management jobs — a growing profession, states Gregory Hutchings, director of specialised masters programmes at Washington University’s Olin School of Business in the US. In particular, the ability to identify, prevent and quantify risks for a company is in demand.
According to Mr Hutchings, there are much more opportunities in buyside companies, such as hedge funds, asset management and private equity firms. These are mainly large institutional buyers of stocks for investors, large insurance companies and mutual funds, for example.
Investment banking hiring activity, having fallen steadily since the financial crisis, appears to be picking up this year too, notes Christian Dummett, head of finance careers at London Business School. The number of internships in this area offered to the school’s Masters in Finance and MBA graduates have increased for 2015.
An increase in western GDP, dislocation (or turmoil) and consolidation in certain markets, combined with cash-rich corporate balance sheets globally, has led to an increase in M&A activity. This is likely to be the main reason for an increase in hiring, he states.
Mr Dummett explains that investment bankers regularly move on to other roles within their company or elsewhere, so there is always a hiring need for fresh entrants at the associate level.
Over in Hong Kong, the wealth management sector targeting mainland Chinese investors is another source of hiring. “There is a strong demand for our Master in Finance graduates from asset management firms both in Hong Kong and China,” says Dragon Yongjun Tang, associate professor of finance at the University of Hong Kong, explaining that this is due to the increased number of rich people in China with thriving businesses looking to allocate their assets effectively.
“The securitisation and bond markets, including alternative finance companies, are hiring aggressively,” he highlights.
Anne Murphy, head of UK financial services at Odgers and Berndston, a global executive search company, explains there are growing prospects for master in finance graduates interested in roles relating to cyber security. She also points out that as businesses merge, different IT systems need to be fused together and remain operational while ensuring client service is not adversely affected, thus creating roles in operations and technology.
“Determining how best to use technology to attract customers and to enable them to interact effectively with online financial services is an ongoing theme for financial services institutions which is also creating opportunities. Managing data, analytics and reporting is another big priority area, not least due to the requirements relating to regulatory reporting,” she continues.
In addition, there is a rise in opportunities at financial technology companies, according to Henry Yeo, senior manager of postgraduate career services for banking and finance at Singapore Management University. These companies provide services that are traditionally provided by banks, such as processing payments online. Some banks even invest in or partner with fintechs as a way of getting access to new financial technology.
However, there is, in general, less job security in the finance profession compared to earlier years, he notes. “The only exception seems to be in wealth management, risk management, compliance and IT.”
James Schroder, executive vice-president of global executive search firm DHR International in the US, points out that job security is fragile, especially in the financial sector, so it is important to have a five-year career plan.
He says that a master in finance is an attractive qualification in the jobs market, but having relevant experience and evidence of success before the degree makes candidates more employable. Passion for the finance industry and a work ethic is important as the hours are long. The ability to manage up, down and across your peers to deliver results is essential too.