Can you tell us a bit about your role as a financial advisor?
I work at a boutique financial firm, and work with high-net worth individuals who need help understanding and managing their finances. Working at a smaller shop, I do not really have an “average” day. Most of my time is spent preparing financial plans for clients, researching investment opportunities for our firm, and pursuing new business opportunities for our company. I work hand-in-hand with our clients to better understand their needs and what their most important future goals are. Using this information, I invest their assets in a manner that gives them the highest probability of reaching their goals. The best part about my job is that I get the best of both worlds, client interaction and in-depth analyst work.
Did you study finance?
Yes. I was undergraduate biology, master’s degree in finance.
How did you get your foot in the door?
As soon as I started graduate school, I looked for internships. I was lucky enough to be hired by Infinium as a financial analyst, and they hired me on after I completed my degree.
What are the first few years in the industry like for entrants?
Lots of new experiences, and hard work. You will get thrown into new situations often, and many times you have to figure out the problem on your own. Be prepared to put in 10-12 hour days learning the business and building your base of clients.
Do you have advice for young grads about the skills and competencies that employer firms are seeking?
I found that firms look more at personal attributes than they do grades or the classes you have taken. If you have a strong work ethic and can demonstrate that you are intelligent and can learn quickly, employers know that they can teach you the skills you need, and that you will figure the rest out on your own. Employers also look for perseverance, the ability to handle multiple responsibilities at once, and a great personality. Try to show these things in your resume by taking lots of leadership roles and participating in multiple extracurricular activities.
What are a few key differences between various specialties in the industry?
Private Wealth Management – Provide financial advice to individuals, families, foundations or endowments. You are in charge of the investment decisions.
Investment Banking – These banks assist companies by finding buyers. They will underwrite new issues of bonds or stocks from a company, and find buyers to buy them. A recent example is Alibaba going public. Investment banks underwrote the shares, and found buyers of the stock for Alibaba. You can work as an analyst at an investment bank, help raise funds for companies (stock and bond purchases), and offer advice on mergers and acquisitions.
Venture Capital/Private Equity – These funds use money from investors to invest in small startup companies early in their life or to buy private companies. They hope to sell the company for a much higher price in the future. Some funds will also run the companies they take over until they sell them.
Commercial Banking – Work as a bank teller or loan officer, or potentially as a branch manager.
For those with no finance degree, but an interest in finance, how do you find your feet without a specalised degree?
Actually, many finance jobs prefer to hire someone with a science or engineering educational background. However, not having a finance or business degree is going to limit your opportunities to find a finance job. To be hired at any high level job, you need to understand the finance extremely well. I recommend studying for the CFA exam to get an in-depth knowledge of the industry and learn the ins and outs of finance and investing. Another great way to gain experience is by interning. It is easier to get an internship than a job, and if you prove during your interview that you know your finance concepts, you may be able to land it. If you work hard and impress during the internship, you may receive an offer from the firm or at the very least get a great recommendation from a financial professional that reinforces that you understand the finance concepts you need to succeed in the industry.
In a grad interview when asked, “Why do you want to be the finance industry”, what should you say?
I really think you should be honest in any interview. If the real reason is to make money, say that. Just be sure you have an in depth explanation of why you want to make money, how you plan to do it, or what really drives you to want to make money and be successful. My answer: I love investing, and I want to know as much about it as possible so that I can create a career for myself doing something I love.
What are the highs and lows of a career in finance?
Highs – Great financial upside, challenging and changing work environment, using your hard work, intelligence, and experience to try and outsmart the market, fun work if you enjoy investments and money. Depending on your field, the ability to help others reach their lifelong financial goals.
Finally, is there anything you wish you knew?
Work smart, not hard.
Max is a Senior Financial Advisor at Infinium Investment Advisors