Financial Services is an umbrella term used to group a wide-range of finance related activities from personal money management to technology-based financial platforms. Below is a brief description of the most common financial service categories. Within each of these categories there are a variety of roles, ranging from a customer service agent to a back-end computer programmer.
Asset Management supports individuals or entities in developing plans to meet their specific financial goals. This involves investing money on behalf of individuals, corporations, and government.
Commercial Banking assists consumers and corporations in managing their day-to-day money needs including loans, savings, checking, etc. Commercial banking positions range from tellers, bank managers, loan officers, to marketing positions.
Corporate Finance helps companies manage financial assets to run the company by capitalizing on company value and minimizing financial risk for return.
Insurance/Actuarial careers specialize in identifying and managing risks within a company. They use a combination of research and quantitative analysis to predict a targeted risk level/target.
Private Equity and Venture Capital refers to direct investment into companies and organizations for ownership. Private Equity firms find and/or provide financial backing for businesses not publicly listed. Venture Capitalists invest money in emerging technologies or companies positioned for quick growth and/or success.
Prop Trading involves the exchange of assets (bonds, commodities, stocks or other financial tools) with the firm’s private currency.
Real Estate Finance refers to the process of borrowing and lending money as it relates to physical property. It is based on understanding the present value alongside the potential value.
*For information regarding Investment Banking, please visit the Investment Banking industry page.
Skills to develop for success in this field
- Learning agility (Ability to quickly understand and process new information)
- Strong work-ethic
- Verbal communication (Ability to engage with team, clients, and Pitch)
- Written communication
- B2B or similar platforms (Salesforce and etc.)
- Finance Division Specific Knowledge
- Financial Market Knowledge-Understand trends/issues/opportunities in the market
- Financial Market Knowledge (Understand trends/issues/opportunities in the market)
- Financial Modeling Skills (Basic Accounting, Excel, and Problem-Solving/Design/Logic)
- Basic Accounting: Understand Fundamentals; Reading financial statements
- Excel: Pivot Tables, V/Hlookups, Creating Shortcuts, Formulas
- Probem-Solving/Design: The approach to dealing with problems, including: intake, assessment, solutions, and the ability to present process in an easy-to-understand way
- Statistical Data Skills (Common tools to be familiar with are Stata and R)
- Valuation Methods
Online Resources specific to the industry
- Firsthand* is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession. *Note: Registration using Northwestern email address is required for access.
Job posting and other career informational sites relevant to the field:
- Bloomberg: provides the reader with a network of data, people and ideas, delivering business and financial information, news and insights.
- Investopedia: provides financial and investment dictionaries, advice, reviews, and overall ratings.
- Finimize: a daily newsletter that explains what's happening in the world of finance in 3 minutes.
- Morning Brew: a daily newsletter designed for young business professionals. Each morning’s email has a stock market recap and a few short briefs on important business news of the day.
- Street of Walls: provides finance industry-specific resources, from helpful articles researching investment banking, private equity and hedge funds, to training offerings focused on topics such as investment banking interview and technical prep.
- Wall Street Oasis: an online community with finance forums for aspiring professionals looking to break into investment banking, private equity, asset management, and other corporate finance careers. *This resource may have fees associated with usage.
Key information or knowledge for this field
- Economics is not a required degree to pursue financial service positions. With that in mind, it can be beneficial to have related coursework, student group engagement or industry research to develop a stronger foundation for your pursuit and showcase your interests.
- Understand the credential requirements for specific position functions. This is common for Actuarial Science, Accounting, and sometime asset management roles. For example, employers may target students for insurance related roles that have completed the first actuarial exam.
- Given the nature of the work in this industry, it is very important to follow the news, both global and finance specific. The relationship between news events and its related economic impact will increase your knowledge of financial concepts, your understanding of financial services, and the quality of conversations with contacts.
- Be tech savvy and/or have technology awareness. Every area of financial services has experienced significant changes over the past 5 years because of technology. Stay informed and when possible develop skills to support your work amidst the advancing technology.
- Employers value experiences, be it in finance or another area. Pursue opportunities for internships, research, as well as involvement in campus activities.
- Networking is an important part of the recruitment process. Start your networking efforts by talking with upperclassmen. This can be a more comfortable starting point and also provide insight into the many financial services areas and their respective recruitment process.
- Given the breadth of roles in financial services, the recruitment timeline is expansive as a whole. Conduct research to determine when the peak of recruitment activity falls for your target area. *Please note that bulge bracket firms have a tendency to recruit across all their divisions and position functions simultaneously and are known for an early recruitment cycle.
- In order to stay informed about positions, events, and recruitment timelines, create a profile in the bank's career portals you are interested in and follow them. This will increase your access to information directly from the source
- Actively use Handshake - create a public profile, indicate your career interests, review postings and explore events (in order to receive the NCA Finance Newsletter, be sure to select “Financial Services” as one of your career interests).
- Incorporate number descriptors throughout your resume. Financial services is a number-oriented career and using numbers to describe your experience/impact can showcase an alignment in thought process.
- Many banks will use a virtual platform to conduct first round interviews. The virtual interview typically consists of 3-5 questions and includes a combination of personal interest, behavioral, and technical questions.
- Some financial service interviews (such as corporate finance) may have a case component. The case will typically focus on profit-based problems. They are quantitative in nature and the math used is algebra. It may involve identifying the key figures presented in the case.
- For more technical roles, it is common that the first contact from an employer after submitting your applications will be an online technical challenge.
Relevant student groups and professional organizations
- Investment Banking Club (IBC)
- Investment Management Club (IMC)
- Investment Management Group (IMG)
- Institute for Student Business Education (ISBE)
- Minority Business Association
- Northwestern Capital Management
- Undergraduate Real Estate Club (UREC)
- Women in Business
External Professional Organizations: