Unlocking your potential

The health of the industry is strong. The key ingredients for job seekers looking for an opportunity include knowing where to look and what skills are needed for their specialty. When considering a job in the financial services industry, it’s important to consider your career path. There’s room for advancement in the sector, and your first position is more than just a job, it’s the first step in your career. 

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, Executive Director of the Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Financial Service Education in Toronto, says it’s common for people to assume banking is the only option in the financial services industry.

“It’s not just banks, it’s insurance companies, pension fund management firms, mutual fund companies, asset management firms, credit unions and so on,” she says. 

Career opportunities

The CoE works with the financial services industry in Toronto to assess which careers are most in demand each year. At the time of publication, the CoE’s  research showed the most in-demand financial services careers include: insurance underwriters, actuaries, claims adjusters, and business analysts. 

“It’s not just banks, it’s insurance companies, pension fund management firms, mutual fund companies, asset management firms, credit unions and so on.”

What career seekers don’t always understand is the diversity of educational backgrounds that make them suitable for these careers, said Dr. Chandler-Crichlow. It’s important to focus on educating post-secondary and high school students so they understand the broad opportunities available and what technical training they need, she notes.

Additional skills

However, technical education may not be enough. Dr. Chandler-Crichlow says it’s up to students and job seekers to develop soft skills like customer service and team work, that are so vital to most jobs in any sector.

“Those who are in most demand are the graduates with the experience as well as a mix of both the technical and the soft skills,” she adds. Students have options for developing these skills, for example they could join a campus club, volunteer, or participate in a case study competition, she said.

Chris Polson, president of CFA Society Toronto also says more than an undergraduate degree is needed. His suggestion is to commit to a designation, like a chartered financial analyst. Having a professional certification may give job seekers an extra leg up over the talent pool.  

“If you’re capable of passing those exams, I think you distinguish yourself at a level above and beyond what undergraduate degrees typically offer,” he says. 

Polson specifies that the candidate doesn’t need to have completed every course or exam within a program to improve their chances of getting an interview. Simply showing progress should help convey their skills and commitment. 

The future of the sector

The financial services sector is working to further nourish the public’s trust after the global recession.  “Providing exceptional service to our clients is first and foremost, the number one thing we can do,” Polson says.

Both Polson and Dr. Chandler-Crichlow said the financial job market is competitive. Job seekers need to identify which area of the financial sector they are interested in, identify the skills listed in job descriptions and work to develop them.