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What to do if you haven't studied finance
Interested in banking but didn't study finance? No worries – this article by GradAustralia shows you how different degrees can be used in commercial banking.
With statistics from GradAustralia’s survey showing that 37 per cent of graduates in banking and finance have never studied business, finance or accounting, you can rest assured many people with different degree backgrounds break into this industry.
Banking and finance firms look for grads with a whole range of skills and backgrounds as this brings diverse ideas and thought processes to an organisation. The trick is to know how to effectively sell the different skills you have and position them as relevant to the industry. For example, if you ran a small side business while you were at university studying fine arts, this shows great business acumen.
Or maybe you were president of a university club – this can demonstrate leadership strengths.
Even just demonstrating academic excellence and a strong record in extracurricular activities highlights your work ethic and ability to manage your own time and productive output.
Think about your various skills and pull out those you think could relate to the finance industry. There are many different skills you will have picked up in your studies that will put you in good stead for a finance job – you just need to be good at explaining why they are relevant.
Here are a few ideas for different fields of study to give you a head start.
A technical degree
It might not be immediately obvious how a technical degree such as engineering or IT can apply to the finance industry but students with a tech or engineering background are among the most highly sought-after.
For example, if you have worked with computers, you will probably be able to quickly grasp how investment banking operating systems work. Modern banks rely heavily on technology, and will employ an army of tech experts to keep things running smoothly and ensure they’re at the cutting edge of new developments. Moreover, they increasingly require staff that have a keen understanding of where the technology sector is moving and how this will relate to the evolution of banking.
An engineering background shows you have great analytical skills and problem-solving skills, which are critical in a banking environment. You’re likely good with numbers and a logical thinker, with is a diverse skill applicable across the entire bank. Engineering graduates will often take quickly to financial modelling and analysis, taking advantage of excel skills and structured problem-solving skills they’ve developed while studying. Check out a day in the life of Nirvan Gelda, graduate software engineer at Commonwealth Bank.
You may think an arts degree (particularly given they can be so broad and diverse) has nothing to do with business, but this doesn’t have to be the case! In fact, traditionally Arts degrees were undertaken by most university students (such as at Oxford University) – used as an avenue to develop critical thinking that could then applied to a broad range of industries and professions.
Arts degrees encourage students to think critically about their world, environment and major works.
Questioning the motivations and logic behind concepts is a critical component of Arts, whether this is in political economy, anthropology, international relations, gender studies, philosophy or history. This thought process and logic is a universal skill that can easily be applied to the banking industry. These subjects also often provide a broad understanding of the world and current affairs that are important to staying on top of and predicting the trends of any industry.
Closely related to Arts, politics is an area that similarly prompts its students to think critically about established concepts and current problems. Moreover, it helps develop the skills to form a clear and rational argument – an ability that is crucial in any business environment.
If you have studied politics, it often demonstrates you have a worldly interest in different global events, and this knowledge can be practically applied to the finance world. Financial market performance can be closely intertwined with local and global politics. If you have a genuine interest in finance which you have gained while studying politics, make sure you mention this in the interview.
The legal landscape in banking and finance can be complex, with many banks using large in-house legal teams in the course of their day to day business. Moreover, the banking industry is facing increasing regulatory scrutiny and compliance requirements. Having a background in law is increasingly valuable in this context.
Think about how the banking or finance field you’re applying to is influenced by the law, and be prepared in your interview to talk about examples that interest you. Have you studied any commercial law subjects in your degree? These are often directly relevant to how banking and finance business is conducted. For example, having an interest in and understanding of the legal framework of mergers and acquisitions is sure to impress.
Marketing and communications
Marketing and communications are crucial to any business, and the banks are no different. The marketing engines in commercial banks are often vast and well-resourced. If you have studied communications or marketing and have an interest in finance, you could well become a part of the team writing media releases, covering public relations driving marketing campaigns for the company.
Moreover, a strong understanding of marketing often comes with a solid business acumen and understanding of the customer needs. If you’re interested in other divisions within banking and finance such as research, sales, or trading, make sure you showcase your relevant strengths in the recruitment process. For example, with a marketing background you may be familiar with consumer opinion and sentiment – paint this as a strength that will help you judge how stocks can move with company announcements.
Studying geography gives you a whole set of skills that can be applied to the business world, even if the crossover isn’t immediately apparent. For example, working in the geography field teaches you how to collect data, research various elements, analyse and evaluate and then write a report to be presented. This scientific method is critical in banking to ensure robust and logical recommendations are provided.
When described in this manner, it is immediately obvious how producing a geography report based on fieldwork could set you up for business skills such as creating a business plan or researching stocks.
Regardless of your field of study, graduate jobs in banking and finance are still well within reach. It simply takes some insight into how your skills are suitable for the role, then going after the position with passion.
Up next: the perks and lows of commercial banking.