A career in banking, insurance and the financial services sector

Do you fancy a career in banking, insurance or the financial services sector? Workingmums has some advice.

London skyscraper- finance and banking sector


The service sector dominates, contributing around 80% of GDP. Within this the financial services industry is particularly important. In 2017, the financial services sector contributed £119 billion to the UK economy, 6.5% of total economic output. The sector was largest in London, where 50% of the sector’s output was generated.

Competition in the financial services industry is fierce but well rewarded, with the different parts of the financial services sector are increasingly battling with each other to provide similar services.

The sector covers a wide range of employers, from retail banks and building societies to insurance, reinsurance and actuarial [focusing on pensions] companies, underwriters, financial advisers, private banks and investment banks, which offer advice to industrial commercial and government clients.

Investment banking covers corporate finance and capital markets. The former includes raising capital through issuing shares or bonds and advising companies on mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Capital markets is where the banks trade bonds, stocks and other financial products either for themselves, for individuals or for institutional investors.

Another important area of investment banking is fund management. Fund management is a specialist division of investment banking in which the investment bank competes with other banks and specialist firms in obtaining clients and then growing their investments over the long term.

Fund managers invest money on behalf of their clients.

Qualifications and ways in

Most companies accept candidates with degrees in a broad range of subjects [a 2:2 is usually the minimum grade accepted], but having a qualification in economics, finance or mathematics can help.

You will need, however, to show a genuine interest in and understanding of the profession so it is important to keep up to date on fast-moving market developments.

Other qualities they may look for are leadership, commercial awareness, communication skills and team-working. Languages are a bonus in investment banking as is cultural awareness. Once you are working in the industry, you can do professional training.

The Chartered Insurance Institute has information on professional training in insurance and organisations such as BCM Training and the Matchett Group offer training in banking.

Although many financial services organisations have tried and tested graduate recruitment processes, non-traditional routes into the sector are fairly common, for example, you could build your experience by working in areas such as accountancy, strategic consultancy or other professional services.


Retail banks offer starting salaries from around £35k, but expect more in investment banking plus bonuses. In the insurance industry the average starting salary is around £12-16k, rising to £25,000 or more after two or three years’ experience.

Working hours can be long, especially in investment banking, and international travel may be expected, but many City firms are actively encouraging flexible working and other schemes to encourage talented women to stay in the industry.

For more information on the types of schemes being promoted, see: PWC, KPMG and Lloyds. The main centre for the financial services sector is the City of London, but there are also thriving financial services in cities like Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow and Cardiff.


There are a range of different jobs in the financial services sector, including bankers, corporate financiers, financial advisers, financial risk analysts, insurance brokers, insurance underwriters, investment analyists and financial traders. In addition, there are the usual range of IT, sales and marketing jobs – operations – to be found in any industry.

In retail or high street banking, there are a number of roles to explore, including branch manager, online and digital TV banking, credit and debit card services, credit and risk assessment, independent financial advice and operations management – researching new operational methods to increase company productivity.

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