The financial services industry has a history of attracting energetic, ambitious people searching for a challenging career with a big pay check. On one hand, the industry is built on the pragmatism and dedication of accountants, statisticians, and mathematicians; on the other, it celebrates a sales tradition of long working hours, booms and busts, and overt greed.
The largest financial robberies in human history have taken place within the realm of contemporary Wall Street, yet in the wake of these modern catastrophes, the perpetrators have largely been rewarded for their indiscretions rather than punished. This is a fact reflected by the implications of interminable power and prestige that accompany the largest firms in the financial industry, and in the competitive recruiting strategies these companies use at premier academic institutions around the world.
Wall Street is accurately branded to prospective employees as a cutthroat, profit-driven environment built for competitors. Below are a few of the significant selling points for prospective employees in the financial services industry:
The financial services industry is noted for compensation structures that are, overall, much higher than in other sectors of the economy. In particular, successful financial services sales professionals tend to be especially well paid in comparison to their non-sales colleagues and to salespeople in other industries.
Financial services firms tend to place less weight on seniority or experience when judging the readiness of an employee for advancement. High performers can move ahead regardless of age—a tendency that makes the industry particularly attractive for ambitious young people.
Breaking into the financial services industry is slightly more challenging in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, due to the consolidation of financial firms and the scaling back of traditional entry points such as financial advisor training programs and Goldman Sachs Junior Analyst Program. As such, financial internships are growing in importance as avenues to the best jobs in the industry, albeit through unpaid work with no guarantee of a future position.
Bureaucracy is an important consideration in choosing employers, as it implies the pathways for being promoted and growing within the business. There are comparatively few layers of management in financial services firms, and decision-making tends to be rather quick. Opportunities for getting face time in front of senior management also tends to be better in financial services firms than in other industries, thanks to thinly-staffed departments that report directly to company leadership.
Financial services firms do not normally operate in the highly formalized, chain-of-command fashion that is typical of industrial bellwethers. Even when a financial services employee is highly-specialized within their niche, such as a CPA, they are still more likely to juggle multiple responsibilities within their job description when compared to other companies.
A premium is placed on fast thinking, fast acting, and constant production of results. This is unsustainable for most, but exhilarating and highly-rewarding for others. The thin staffing and comparative lack of bureaucracy inspires this hard work, focus, and commitment to staying afloat.
As a general rule, the banking and insurance sectors of the financial services industry tend to be more bureaucratic, more deeply staffed, and less lucrative at all levels than firms whose principal lines of business are securities brokerage (or financial advisory services), investment banking, securities trading, investment management, and/or securities research. These latter types of firms include what is commonly called Wall Street.