Stepping into the multifaceted world of financial services can be both daunting and exhilarating. Some of the biggest areas within the financial sector include financial planning, investment banking, and insurance. The sector as a whole is very large and offers stable careers and advancement opportunities. The sector also needs a growing number of people with specialty skills such as cybersecurity, marketing, and customer service.
When it comes to sourcing out open positions, there are a number of routes you can take. For example, you may begin your search through online job portals. You can also connect with specialized recruiters to guide you through the process. Finally, consider reaching out to your school alumni board or professional networks for opportunities.
To give you some more perspective and an advantage over others, we interviewed Jennifer Honey who is an expert in Financial Services recruiting. Jennifer will also speak live at our upcoming Expert Panel: Careers in Financial Services.
Here’s what she had to say:
Devant: Tell us about your career journey in the financial sector.
Jennifer: I’ve been in the finance world for 20 years now. I started off working at a call center on the collections side. From there, I went on to be a financial advisor for loans, mortgages, and mutual funds. However, the bulk of my career was in recruitment and development.
Over a span of 10 years, I developed my leadership career at London Life Freedom 55. My role as a National Training Manager included recruiting, training and developing managers, and financial advisors across the country. Then, I was recruited to work at Sunlife as a Recruiting and Development Manager. Until about two years ago, when I shifted to teaching in the financial services.
Devant: What type of roles did you hire for?
Jennifer: The advisors that I hired were all commission-based, which is completely different than your typical bank employee who receives an hourly or salary wage. Applying to commission-based roles has its own set of rules and requirements. For example, many recruiters and employers may be looking for candidates with a Permanent Residence (PR) status. If you already have this status, great. If not, you are looking to develop longer-standing relationships with recruiters, until you do get the appropriate status. You may even work other jobs and gain different experiences in the meantime. Find a way to keep that relationship strong while letting them know that you understand the intricacies of working for yourself in the financial sector.
Devant: Do you have to have your PR status to work in commissions?
Jennifer: I can only speak on behalf of Sunlife and London Life. Those are two of the largest financial services companies that have an insurance component to them. At those companies, absolutely you need to have a PR status to be eligible. For banks like TD, RBC, etc. the answer is no. Each institution will have its own requirements.
Devant: For someone still in school, or recently graduated who is looking to take a similar path, how would you advise that they get started?
Jennifer: The first decision to make is determining if you want to run your own financial services business or work at a bank, both of which are excellent choices. If you decide to go the commissions route, then you’ll likely go through the process with a recruiter. If you want to work at a bank, they can accept you to work without your PR.
When it comes to the recruitment process, the first step is usually a testing phase. Once you’ve passed, this is where you need to start asking the important questions to the recruiter. Don’t shy away from asking questions about status, credentials and experience. Sometimes, the potential employee doesn’t ask these difficult questions or the recruiter hasn’t been transparent enough about the requirements. This can result in disappointment and missed opportunities all around.
Devant: What are some new developments in this sector?
Jennifer: The financial industry, despite the challenges of COVID-19, has not been negatively impacted. Businesses have continued to grow by altering a few practices. For example, the use of electronic signatures for transactions and utilizing Zoom to conduct meetings. For the most part, major interactions are completed online while also staying compliant.
What I’m hearing from financial advisors is that business is as busy as ever. COVID-19 has, unfortunately, prompted us to think about our healthcare more critically, prompting individuals to scout out financial security options and insurance plans.
Devant: How do credentials and certifications factor into your job application process?
Jennifer: Continuing education is highly important in the financial world, especially when it comes to keeping your licences active. Once you decide which financial branch you want to pursue, research the specific experiences and certifications you need to round out your portfolio. Many of these programs and certifications are run I’m both self-study and online formats. Once you’ve completed the online material, you can register for the exam online or in person at a local college. Make sure you keep track of when the exams take place because they may only run one or two times a year.
Devant: On the flip side, beyond credentials and certificates, how are human skills incorporated in a role in the financial sector?
Jennifer: Human and soft skills are what set you apart from the other candidates, who also may have the same credentials on paper. One of the biggest things that I teach my advisors is to become great at asking questions. This is a huge asset when it comes to creating meaningful connections, clarifying ideas, and helping make sales.
The phrase “tell me more” is one of the most powerful tools you can use to help build relationships, work on soft skills, and get the information you need. See how far you get by asking, “tell me more about your education,” “tell me more about why you choose this versus that,” “tell me more about experience XYZ.”
Devant: On that note, can you tell me more about the importance of networking in this sector?
Jennifer: It’s very important to stay in touch with industry members and peers. When you encounter people at the events, virtual or face-to-face, make your interactions about the other person. That’s how you become memorable. You want to leave every conversation with the other person wanting to reach out to you.
Another important thing to remember when entering into a networking situation is how you plan to conduct the follow-up. An introduction and an exchange of information is just the beginning. A quick trick I use is evaluating the connection right after you meet them. Is their business card going into your pocket or is their number going straight into your phone with a linked follow-up task? Similar to how you may not send the same cover letter and resume to all your potential jobs, you’ll want to customize your interactions with your contact.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the financial sector, reach out to our Career Coach Sejal Ahir for a free career assessment.