From education to employment

Your career in finance – what really counts

The finance industry is booming – with a variety of roles available to those seeking to turn their academic achievements into a career in finance. With the purpose-driven gen-z entering the workplace, the finance industry provides an opportunity to make a difference whilst forging a professional career.

The recent Future of Skills report published by CFA Institute digs into the priorities of employers and employees in the investment sector and the challenges the industry currently faces in recruiting and upskilling employees to meet its evolving needs.

The report delves into key issues such as the skills gap in AI and machine learning, the hunger of many to learn more about ESG and sustainability and trends such as the rise of T-shaped skills and softer skills, all of which are essential for success in the industry. T-shaped skills refer to a combination of deep knowledge in a single domain, as well as wider knowledge in other fields and the ability to connect them. These skills are usually developed with more experience in the industry.

Mind the Skills Gap

One of the positive findings from the Future of Skills report is the desire of those working within the industry to develop and learn new skills. It’s clear that the commitment to life-long learning runs across the industry – which is vital for firms to remain innovative and competitive.

Of the emerging disciplines in the financial services industry, it is sustainability and ESG investing which the respondents were most keen to learn (70% of respondents cited this as their learning priority), followed by machine learning (64%) and soft skills (64%).[1]

Whilst many are keen to learn these new skills, there is currently a significant gap in proficiency and therefore the ability to provide this expertise. Take machine learning – just 3% of respondents claimed to be proficient in this, leaving a skills gap of 62% from those who wish to learn about it. This was followed by sustainability (with a 61% skills gap) and decentralised finance/blockchain (58% skills gap).[2]

Given these gaps, it’s probably not surprising that 83% of investment firm leaders reported that finding top talent was a concern for their business. This is not simply a question of finding employees with the right training, but the right combination of soft skills and a commitment to continuous professional development. [3]

The power of three: skills, grit and experience

For those starting out, technical skills are amongst the most important – as those who are often the ‘doers’ within an organisation, this specialist knowledge is vital for day-to-day work. However, as people progress, T-shaped skills are most in demand, as work invariably requires a need to connect specific skills or knowledge areas to a broader context or industry trend.

The need for life-long learning that comes with a career in finance links to the second key attribute employees look for – grit. Defined by Angela Duckworth as the “passion and perseverance for long-term goals”, this attribute and evidence of a commitment to hard work is essential for employees to see. It’s for this reason many firms look to hire CFA charterholders as completing the CFA program is seen as a sign of this dedication. It takes approximately 4,000 hours of relevant work experience and about 900 hours of study to pass all three levels. Some employers say this evidence of hard work is just as important as the knowledge gained during the process.

Finally, experience that manifests itself as intuition is highly valued by clients of financial advisors. Clients want to feel confident that their advisors understand the market and have a flair for understanding how a scenario could play out.

The path ahead: building a career in finance

The evolution of the financial services industry has reshaped the traditional career path – as people move across from different industries (i.e., tech) and the demands on advisors change. To meet this ever-changing need, the Future of Skills report identifies four types of skills those looking for a career in finance must develop. These are technical skills, soft skills, leadership skills, and T-shaped skills. Some of these skills naturally develop and some involve additional investment – either with formal training or in the form of mentoring by industry leaders.

We all have a role to play in filling the skills gap in the financial industry and setting today’s students up for success to be the leaders of tomorrow. Through commitment, determination and investment, we can help close the gap and ensure the industry continues to meet the needs of investors.

Peter Watkins, Director, University Relations, CFA Institute

[1] Future of Skills, page 22

[2] Future of Skills, Exhibit 22, page 22

[3] Future of Skills, Exhibit 26, page 26

Related Articles