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What's it like working in finance?

I'm interested in finance and i'm not sure how to figure out which specific area I want to go into. I understand IB is lucrative but i'd love to hear what the real world experience is like in any of these areas. The salary always seems solid and the hours are usually long. But what's the work like? how's your mental health, physical health, and ability to balance everything else that's important in life? Is the work fulfilling and interesting?

#finance #investment #business

HI Shivam, I changed the headline of your question so that professionals could better see what you were asking. I've also removed your LinkedIn profile as it goes against our Community Guidelines Gurpreet Lally

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Luiz’s Answer

After several years of working with financial management, I think your working hours will be long. Think about giving up some of your personal time. Imagine hearing criticism from directors and other managers. But, be aware that one who moves away from financial management will never have an erratic financial life. Know, too, that if you are a partner or entrepreneur it will be very useful to know about finance. Dealing with money and being a manager in this area is usually fortunate, but be prepared to say no often.

Luiz recommends the following next steps:

Business Finance

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John’s Answer

Shiva the finance industry spans a wide variety of careers, including those related to individual investors, corporations, banking and stocks. If you're interested in careers in finance but aren't sure about the particulars of the available jobs, I've outlined some broad categorizations that will help you decide which career is best for you.


CORPORATE FINANCIAL CAREERS – Corporate finance, as you may have guessed, involves work with corporations to handle financial affairs. Most positions within corporate finance requires at least a bachelor's degree, and master's degrees or MBAs are often preferred. Corporate finance careers have a high earning potential, and many corporations provide significant benefits to their employees. Some careers you might consider in corporate finance include:
• Corporate Accountant • The average Accountant salary in the United States is $80,250 as of July 27, 2020
They are often considered a generalist and can perform a wide range of duties specific to their position and employer. Staff accountants can work in either small or large businesses and typically work in an office setting. Most of these professionals work full-time and may need to work longer hours during busy accounting seasons, such as tax season.
• Stock Broker
• Financial Services Sales Agent

BANKING FINANCIAL CAREERS – The banking sector offers many interesting career positions, and several careers in banking and finance are experiencing job growth. Because you would be working with money and other people's finances, you should have a strong aptitude for math and likely need good interpersonal skills as well. You may want to consider jobs like:
• Investment Banker • The average Investment Banker salary in the United States is $86,000 as of July 27, 2020
Investment bankers may act as portfolio managers or financiers. These professionals typically work in an office setting, but may travel to a client's workplace in order to conduct meetings and presentations. For example, some investment bankers may meet with clients to arrange and negotiate large financial transactions for businesses looking to expand their operations.
• Bank Loan Underwriter
• Banking Manager

INVESTMENT CAREERS – If you're interested in money management but want a customer-focused career dedicated to growing assets, you should strongly consider a career in investment. Investment career positions are involved with the management of assets for individual and corporate clients and make suggestions as to ways these individuals and corporations can maximize their gains and avoid costly financial errors. Careers in finance and investment include:
• Portfolio Manager • The average Portfolio Manager salary in the United States is $98,500 as of July 27, 2020
A portfolio manager is a high-level financial analyst who makes executive decisions for a company or client. These managers typically work for portfolio management firms or investment banks; however, they can find employment at a variety of firms. A master's degree and several years' experience as a financial analyst are common prerequisites to becoming a portfolio manager.
• Investment Broker
• Investment Relations Associate

If you're just starting your career in finance, you will likely begin with one of several entry-level finance positions . These careers require little, if any, previous work experience and will include some level of professional learning and job training. While a degree is not necessarily a pre-requisite for these jobs, most employers prefer candidates with some college education, such as an associate or bachelor's degree. The following careers are well-suited for those at the outset of their professional practice in finance:
• Financial Analyst • The average Financial Analyst salary in the United States is $88,500 as of July 27, 2020
A certified financial analyst advises businesses and individuals in investment decisions. The main goal of a certified financial analyst is to make decisions about companies, stocks and industries for the purpose of making money for a corporation or individual. Financial analysts work for businesses or individuals, providing their clients with analysis on companies, stocks and investments.
• Financial Advisor
• Financial Examiner

Shiv as you begin considering a finance degree and looking at schools with finance programs, you should strongly consider the career you're most interested in, as you may want to tailor your studies to the career paths you want to pursue. The field of finance contains many institutions and career trajectories, so you might first decide what industry you want to work in and then look at specific roles within those industries. Some popular industry choices include banking, insurance, and corporate finance, and the career choices available within these industries vary.

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Ramona’s Answer

Good morning, Shivam. The great thing about a Finance concentration is that you can use it for many career paths. I followed my passion starting with IB in a global company. I put in the long hours and learned a great deal. When I was looking for more balance, I was able to transfer within my company to a more balanced Finance role. For me the key was finding a company that was large enough to ensure I could use my Finance background for many different roles. If you are passionate about IB, as I was, it's well worth the initial sacrifice. It will help you grow personally and professionally. Good luck.

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David’s Answer

I'd start by asking yourself what you're optimizing for. Most people go into IB to make money while they're young. I interned as a banker when I was in college and the day-to-day work was not something I would find joy in. I knew that in the long term I would want to be an investor, most likely to invest in startups. I also knew as an iBanker working in M&A I'd be helping startups raise funding. This led me to ask myself, what other skills are important to get me to my long term goal, and what would also enable me to have high earning potential.

What I figured out is that with the work ethic of an iBanker, you can make more money doing startup/tech sales. And for me, sales was way more fun. You have more control of your hours as long as you hit your targets, and you'll be able to progress into the VC/PE world with that background. On the other hand, if you know you want to work in finance in the long term, IB is a great launchpad. You'll have a lot of opportunities when you're picking your next move. If you fail at sales, like many people do, you may not have the same opportunities.

In short, sales can make you a lot of money, if you're good. Banking teaches you discipline and important skills around negotiating, presentation, and fundraising. Depending on where you want to be 5, 10, or 15 years out should help you decide what to do next. That said, sales can be risky, but if you're really good, it can be even more lucrative.

David recommends the following next steps:

Intern at a bank and identify if you have the stomach for it.
Develop sales skills, they will be useful no matter what you do.

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Nathan’s Answer

Shivam, while I don't personally work in Finance, I've found myself and many other young professionals drawn towards Finance for reasons rooted in earning potential and job security.

Something you may want to consider is aligning your current classwork and skills with internship job postings, or work with a career department either in your school or in your town, to see if you can get some hands-on experience in a short-term internship. Oftentimes when faced with the typical day-to-day activities, and being able to socialize and talk with people in positions and job titles that you might be interested in pursuing yourself, you'll quickly figure out what does/doesn't work for you personally.

The other benefit is that networking works best when you're providing value or seeking real-time knowledge from mentors or peers who you're directly associated with. Sometimes even if you figure out that a path isn't quite what you expected, you'll make connections through real-life experience who learn who you are as a person, and who will be hugely helpful in guiding you towards paths and options that are a perfect fit for your personality and goals.

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Julia’s Answer

Hi Shivam,

I've been working in the Financial Services industry in various roles for the last 11 years. I started out in Sales and Trading, before moving to Management Consulting for Investment Banks. I've since moved into a Sales / Business Development role at a Tech firm which sells to Financial Institutions, and so Finance continues to be the common thread! A few points on the questions that you asked:

1. Working in finance can be an amazing first stepping stone in your career. I've had the privilege of working with some incredibly talented individuals, and have built a strong network which has helped me throughout my career. The calibre of individuals at Investment Banks is usually high and so you will learn a lot. It can be a great foundation for your career.

2. You will however have to give up some work-life balance - IB in particular is not a 9-5 job. I personally found it a struggle to balance work-life priorities and have at times worked long hours. I was willing to give this up in my early career, however now that I have more professional experience, have prioritized a better work-life balance at my new role. I do think the banks are trying to work to remedy this though so that they can keep the best talent.

3. As you say, the pay is definitely good and there are usually fantastic benefits at most banks. Working in finance can be a great way to pay off any student debt and get a solid retirement nest egg in place.

I would recommend doing some internships at a bank to get a feel for the culture and also the different areas you can be involved in. A lot of the banks offer internships for freshmen / sophomores, and so you can get your foot in the door early.

Julia recommends the following next steps:

Research internships at Banks to get a feel for the different business lines

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Sunil’s Answer

Shivam - you're asking great questions. It sounds like you already are aware of many of the challenges in IB - long hours, mental health, physical health and maintaining a work-life balance (hint: there won't be one). This applies to many high pressure professions - including management consulting.

A starting point in your thought process ought to be asking yourself "why do I even want to consider IB?". Is it because of the prestige? or the pay package? You'll make the appropriate trade-offs when you determine your motivations.

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Ankit’s Answer

Answer a couple of these questions for IB to your self:

Are you a great competitor? Are you a great salesperson? Are you 5 pointer?

What life stage are you in? It is long hrs, high commitment role.

It is a great experience at your early stage in your career one starts to make connections with C-level who start to see you are a trusted, advisor.

Hope this helps!

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Livia Thayna’s Answer

Hi Shivam,

I've been working with Finance for more than 12 years. The most exciting think about this area is that it has so many roles and opportunities such as:
- Accounts payable Analyst ( At this role, you will be responsible for all payments for the company, you need to deal with vendors, banks, and someone who requested the service or the product for the company)
- Credit Collection Analyst ( At this role, you will be responsible for dealing with receivables from customers. Also, you will analyze a potential customer for a company)
- Accounting (At this role, you will be responsible for the general ledger of the company, the analysis of the balance sheet and financial statements).
- Financial Planning and Budget ( At this role, you will be responsible for the budget of the company and to provide updates of the amount budgeted x real)
- Controllership ( At this role, you will be responsible to coordinate some areas and expectations x politics of the company)
- Internal Controls ( At this role, you will create the internal controls for all areas of a company, after the creation, you will validate monthly or annually if the company keeps these controls with a high standard and what you can improve).
and many other areas...
What really motivates me? Solving accounting issues.
For me, the hard time in my career was when I was an auditor of a Big4 company.
I've learned a lot but I also worked during holidays and Saturdays.
I believe Big4 is a good way to start.
Best of luck!

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Richard’s Answer

My son is an investment banker, so I will answer from his experiences.

I think this is a great question and it seems like you understand the basic trade off: long hours for relatively high income for a given age and experience level. But the main thing I want to impress upon you here is that there is a huge variance in the amount of hours a person might work (and the amount they might be compensated for that work). If by finance, you mean a regional commercial banker or small direct lending firm, you could quite possibly get away with a 9-6 job. Even within IB, some firms will work 9-9 (at the junior analyst level) and some from 8a-2a. As for your physical and mental health, that will be largely person dependent, as some can manage physical health quite well at the 9-9 hour tier and some might struggle regardless of hours worked.

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Tyler’s Answer

There are many options in finance that are available for you. Although finance is known for generally having longer hours than other industries, in my opinion, it can be highly rewarding work. You can find yourself gaining knowledge on various industries, become connected with great industry professionals, and learn more about the economic environment that surrounds you. Some areas of finance that may peak your interest outside of investment banking could be: Financial Advisor, Financial Analyst for a corporation, Corporate Banking analyst (sometimes grouped with investment banking), Commercial Banking analyst, and consulting. Investment Banking typically is an umbrella term for positions such as equity or credit research, sales and trading, Debt Capital Markets, Equity Capital Markets, M&A Advisory.

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Andrew’s Answer

Hi Shivam

An important additional consideration for Financial Services is the range of professions available within the banking world.

A bank has a whole range of roles that support the institution. For example:
- lawyers
- programmers
- data scientists
- marketers
- PR
- compliance
- Audit
- building management

You can have strong career mobility opportunities as it tends to be easier to move within an institution based on the reputation you build, the network you have as well as access to the 'invisible jobs' that never open up to an external market. In answer to the question "is it interesting?" The answer very much depends on the individual but key is the mobility option - the chance to change direction.

Work/live balance is based very much on what you do and where you work. Successful people in investment banks usually have a strong work ethic, however I think that is a good generalization regardless of industry!

Best of luck

Andrew recommends the following next steps:

Assess what career you are interested in and how it could be an option within financial services

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Alonzo’s Answer


The investment banking life is what it is made out to be and I am sure you have heard the stories. Buddies of mine who work at BB talk about how they leave the office at 2am and need to be up at 8am working on a multiple deals at once. It is a stressful job but mentors of mine would tell me that the best time to work till your nails fall off is when you're young. Apart from work, you don't have many priorities beside work and networking. With the time spend working you can make a great amount of money and live a good lifestyle. The dreadful hours and work load is really during the two year analyst role. After the two years, you either move up to an associate or leave the bank and join a boutique/pe/hf. Then more flexibility is granted. IB is certainly not for everyone but it pays well and arguably has the best exit ops outside of consulting.

There are more finance roles, even within a financial institution. Almost all major banks will have a commercial real estate, commercial banking sector that offers a superior work life balance, compared to IB, and you'll still be able to apply financial concepts to a plethora of customers in different industries. Give it a look and realize that finance doesn't always mean investment banking. But, if you are up for it - i would highly recommend you give IB a try.

Hope that helps

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Tad’s Answer

Hello Shivam,

I currently work in commercial banking, however have friends that work in IB and can give my opinion of how they describe it.

-The pay is very lucrative and offers experience in the finance industry that passes well into other sectors.
-The hours are very long and many work 90+ hours per week. This does depend upon the team you are in.
-Some of my friends find the work enjoyable and some find it boring. It will depend person to person, but overall it's what you make of it. I imagine no matter how much you enjoy your job, spending 90+ hours at it will be hard to manage mentally.
-Balancing work-life balance comes down to the individual and the priorities they have in life. My friends in IB say it really just depends on how you manage your time. Physically and mentally they are doing well, however they had very busy lives before joining entering the field.
-Lastly, I think they do find it full-filling. Granted in any position the work can be very repetitive and tedious the first couple years, however in the long term it pays off.

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Florian’s Answer

Hi Shivam,

I worked for 6 years now as an accountant and Finance analyst.
Firstly, the world of finance is really large and you will find some jobs with a great work life balance as well as some with mad hours. For what I could see myself on the accounting area, if I grossly separate them in 2 categories according to your question:
- The consulting ones (working for clients) will be the ones with tiring long hours, but also the ones where you'll learn the most and invest the most in yourself to have a lucrative career.
- On the other side you can work within a company in the finance area and have generally much more relax hours, but, as you understand this comes with a bit less experience as your seeing only one company processes and way of working.

I don't think one is better than the other, it just depends of who you are and what you are looking for in life. Many people I know in my area, worked with clients for the first 5 years in audit practices and barely had a life for those 5 years, but now work for companies in highly paid job and get the fruit of their labor. Myself, I went with the second option as I really wanted to enjoy my life beside work in my 20s. I am really happy I made this decision, but again, that's who I am.

There is no secret that the more you'll work the more experience you'll get, the more skillful you'll get and the faster you'll progress in your career, and you'll have this option in the market, but you need to figure out what you want in that regard. At the end of the day if you work well and you dedicate yourself to your work you will do well in both cases.

I know it is hard to know what you really want early in life, but you can do some internships in both to have a taste of it, I did and it really helped me.

I hope it helps, good luck to you in your career.