How to write a great financial services CV

By Robert Half 10th November 2016

Whether you're targeting your first big break in the City, or are an established player looking to advance your career, there are financial services jobs up for grabs. With confidence returning in an improved economic environment, many firms are looking to hire over the coming months. Employers are aiming to rebuild their teams, and are on the lookout for skilled and experienced professionals who can add value to their organisation.

Hiring activity may be on the up in financial services, but this doesn't mean you can simply walk in to a role. City jobs aren't for everyone - even those with the necessary qualifications, ambition and drive. It can be a cut-throat sector, and plenty of talented people fail to cope with the demands of the job. Employers know it takes a certain type of individual to be successful, and if they have any doubts about your suitability, you aren't going to get the call.

This is why it's so important to have a great financial services CV which ticks as many boxes as possible (you can use our CV template generator to create your own). Within the space of two pages you have to create a compelling case for hiring managers to consider your job application

Qualifications and experience

When hiring managers look at a financial services CV, they want to see evidence of both hard and soft skills - often in equal measure. This means you need relevant qualifications and experience, plus a sign you are willing to commit to the business and are a good fit to the team.

At entry-level, financial services recruits are typically university-educated, with a first-class or 2:1 degree and internship or placement experience. But this isn’t always required, as employers hire people with diverse academic backgrounds.

Many firms will consider career changers for entry-level jobs, on the same basis. Applicants coming from other professions may be particularly interesting to hiring managers if they have transferable business skills and commercial nous. Candidates may need to gain relevant qualifications in order to ease the transition, but the door is always open to those with the talent

Further up the career ladder, financial services employers typically look to recruit experienced, technically-proficient professionals who have added tangible value to other firms, and are able to document this on their CV. Hiring managers also want to see evidence of professional development, and a demonstrable understanding of key regulations, client needs and software

Which technical skills are in demand?

The qualifications, experiences and areas of knowledge expected by financial services employers vary according to organisation, department and role. Naturally, the more senior the position you are applying for, the more impressive a CV you require to make the grade. Here are some of the key skills in demand for financial services sectors that hiring managers hope to see on your CV:

  • Accounting and finance

Employers are expanding their criteria, aiming to access a larger pool of talent and harness a more diverse background and skill set. In the past they may have looked primarily for ACA accountants who have worked for one of the Big Four firms, but entry-level hiring has returned to the industry. IFRS, SOX and UK GAAP knowledge is desirable, while strong IT skills - including Excel to VBA level - can be a major asset. For investment management roles, employers want to see evidence of technical and commercial acumen, and an ability to get involved with/lead multiple projects and initiatives. And for investment banking/brokerage positions, they want senior-level insight, and preferably Basel III and ICAAP knowledge.

  • Banking operations

Systems advancements across the industry have fuelled an increase in operations hiring, but with the long-term view that processes will be automated. This means candidates with proven systems expertise are at an advantage in 2015. Hiring managers will want to see exposure to European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR), the Dodd-Frank Act and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD). Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Know Your Customer knowledge is desirable, along with derivative product knowledge - particularly for credit - and evidence of a commitment to delivering great client service.

  • Risk and compliance

EMIR, Dodd-Frank, and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) exposure is important for candidates. Those skilled in anti-bribery and corruption (ABC), AML and sanctions typically find themselves in high demand, and this should be the case for the foreseeable future. Being able to document these hard skills on your CV, and discuss them in-depth when questioned at interview, will increase your chances of securing a financial services job in risk and compliance.

Which soft skills are in demand?

When hiring managers consider financial services CVs, they are also looking for evidence of candidates' soft skills - qualities that may help differentiate similarly qualified people. It is these attributes that help turn a strong candidate on paper into a genuine contender for a financial services jobs. Employers know that, given the nature of the industry, they need people who can offer more than just technical ability; they are typically looking for rounded individuals with more than one string to their bow. Here are some of the most important soft skills:

1. Commercial skills

When writing your financial services CV, you should be conscious of the need to show your commercial nous - that you understand the nature of the business, the role and mission of the organisation you are looking to join, have knowledge of the marketplace, and can identify challenges, risks and opportunities to the business. Business knowledge, specific to financial services, shows the hiring manager you are genuinely interested in the sector and committed to a career in the City. So document how you have applied your skills and know-how in previous (or current) roles, providing specific facts where possible.

2. Communication

In financial services jobs, you'll be working both with finance specialists, and people - such as investors and other clients - who may have limited financial knowledge. As such, you need to be able to address individuals at all levels, tailoring your communication style as required. When speaking to non-specialists, you need to convey complex information in a simple, jargon-free manner. It's vital that you can get your message across quickly and effectively, given the high-paced nature of the profession. Any experience of communicating in difficult circumstances, or under pressure, is worth noting on your CV.

3. Teamwork

Being a maverick won't get you very far in financial services - not unless you're an established superstar with a proven track record. Typically, employers are looking for effective team workers who can fit seamlessly into existing structures. They want collaborative people who assist and inspire their colleagues, compromise where necessary, and work earnestly towards collective goals. So ensure your CV includes examples of how you have operated effectively as part of a team, and worked with your colleagues to add value.

4. Organisation

If your financial services application is to go any further, the hiring manager needs to be convinced you are an organised professional with strong time management skills. They are on the hunt for people who can juggle commitments, working on several different projects at the same time. You need to prove you are able to hit deadlines, and use your resources efficiently - delivering great output with a high productivity rate.

5. Creativity

If you have an innovative mind, and the ability to solve problems, this may stand you in good stead for a financial services job. Employers are looking for candidates who can fit into existing systems and processes, but also those who can make things better for their organisation in the long term. Do you have ideas as to how things could work more effectively, or efficiently? Include any experience of this nature on your CV, with facts and figures included where you effectively developed and delivered an end product.

6. Emotional intelligence

Financial services organisations rely on their ability to build strong relationships, whether this is with investors, clients, partners, regulators or other parties. As such, employers are looking for self-aware individuals, who understand how their own actions and inactions affect and influence others. These skills potentially feed into other areas, such as problem-solving, team working, communication, and leadership and management. Document your strengths in this area, including examples from both your professional and personal life.

7. Leadership

Employers are always on the look-out for the leaders of tomorrow - the people who will take the organisation forwards in the future. So if there have been instances in your career, education or personal life where you have experienced genuine success in a leadership or management role, flesh out the details on your CV. The hiring manager may see your potential and be interested to learn more about your capabilities at the interview stage.

Submit your best financial services CV

Employers are looking for the brightest and best for City jobs - this is why they are willing to pay a premium to attract the top talent. Your CV is an opportunity to show you hit the mark, and to make a positive first impression. It's important to get this right, and this means investing in your education and professional development to acquire the requisite skills and experience. There aren't any shortcuts if you're serious about building a City career.

The more relevant information you can include on your financial services CV, the better. If you find you can't fit everything on two pages, choose the most salient details and save the rest for interview. A surplus is a much better problem at this stage than a shortage.

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