Alright, so you’ve decided to take the plunge into commercial banking. You’re now killing it after finishing the grad program and grabbing a role in the bank. But what next? People often think that going into banking means you stay in banking but the world after commercial banking can be diverse, offering opportunities not just in other industries but also in other disciplines.
Top performers in commercial banking will have plenty of options across different areas within the bank and to climb up the ranks but there are also options beyond the banking world as well. We lay out some of the possibilities below:
If you decide to stay in commercial banking, the route to the top will involve getting into leadership and people management roles. Whether this is at the bank you start in or at other financial institutions, there is plenty of scope to forge a career path in this direction. In your early years at the bank, you’ll typically move up based on your individual and technical capabilities (this can be a progression through roles such as assistant manager, manager and senior manager).
However, after this, the skillset expands to include the critical foundation of people management, particularly of more than one direct report. From roles such as executive manager and general manager, you’ll be required to manage and motivate larger teams. This can be a rewarding progression (both financially and personally) if you enjoy working with people to cultivating a shared vision and strategy to pursue.
Regardless of your role at a commercial bank, there will always be opportunities to take your skills to other industries! With the growing digital focus at the commercial banks, you’ll often see commercial banking staff going into the tech industry as one of the more common transitions. For example, working as a portfolio retention manager at a big commercial bank could see you move into a similar area at Uber – looking to manage and develop the ongoing retention strategy of its drivers. However, skills acquired from product management, finance, marketing, digital data analytics and strategy are transferable anywhere – so you could easily find yourself in other industries with similar roles. Outside of tech, other common moves from banking include the property, payments and consumer goods sectors.
When thinking about the corporate sector, we usually think about two broad categories; ‘client-side’ and ‘professional services’. ‘Client-side’ refers to the organisations that provide their products and services directly to customers.
These ‘client-side’ organisations are serviced by a bunch of ‘professional services’ places that provide advice and other services to assist in that client’s operations. ‘Professional services’ can include anything from auditing, management consulting, investment banking to technology services. While sometimes a sideways move, professional services offer a way for you to get much more diversity in your industry focus and are always open to people joining from industry roles.
Going the startup route can be a challenging and difficult journey but a lot of roles in commercial banking can help prepare you for some of the hard work ahead. The clear customer focus in commercial banking is useful when thinking about what customer problems or ‘pain-points’ you want your business to solve.
Couple this with the overall commercial acumen and smarts needed in a commercial bank and you can skill-up pretty well to start doing your own thing. If you’re not keen on being the classic ‘college dropout’ to start up your own organisation, commercial banking can offer one potential route that provides some insights and experience before going at your own business.
A final word of advice when deciding what to pursue – it’s important to realise that where you start your career after uni is by no means where you’ll end up or have to stay forever! It’s natural to get caught up in the hustle of grad applications and deciding between your potential career options.
However, make sure to maintain perspective in this process, and as we’ve demonstrated above, people will transition through multiple different industries, roles and career paths throughout their long employment journey. Nowadays the 30-year banking veteran is becoming far less common – but the option is still obviously there if that’s what you want!
Your career is a marathon, not a sprint – and you should treat it as such. The best leaders go through multiple different ‘mini’ careers to reach the top. This helps them build a diverse skill set and wide foundation of experience to make them better at leading their teams.
So, considering this in the context of commercial banking, make sure to remember that your long-term job prospects are not limited just to that role or industry. The skills you build in commercial banking will stand you in good stead to pursue plenty of alternative career paths and opportunities.