What type of business would suit me?
The world of business is a big place, and to find your place in it you’re going to have to think hard about the type of business that would best suit you for your career.
Each type of finance firm has its own type of culture. It’s all very well knowing you want to work in business, but when it comes to making your applications you need to be able to tailor your answers to demonstrate you have an idea of what to expect, and have direct examples of how you can fit into this culture (significantly bolstered by your exemplary finance work experience!).
Some firm types and culture won’t be for everyone. So it’s well worth starting to take a look at some the types of business and expand your research into life and business at these different firm types to help you narrow down your options.
Even the largest of the world’s finance firms started life as the tiny seed of a start-up company. Start-ups will typically have a very small amount of employees. As brand new businesses, they are work exceptionally hard to position themselves in their chosen market and grow their client network to become top competitors.
Working for a company that’s in its infancy can give you a huge amount of exposure to the way a business works. It could be an ideal place to start gathering some work experience in the first instance to give you a real insight into the inner workings how a business works as a whole. A start-up company could also be an ideal fit if you’d like the freedom to utilise a talent for entrepreneurialism.
If you’ve looked into business at all before now, it’s highly likely you’ve come across the acronym SME. It stands for "small and medium enterprises". If a company has less than 50 employees, it’s defined as "small". Companies with fewer than 250 employees are defined as "medium".
SMEs can still provide you with cracking exposure to other areas of a business. Some may have a global outlook to their business too, so there can be opportunities to get involved in international projects—although possibly not as much as with a multinational financial firm such as some of the professional services firms.
A social enterprise is a company which trades to support societal and/or environmental issues. They can vary greatly in size, so there’s lots of choice for employer options in this business type. The majority of their income tends to be generated through trade of their services or goods. They have a clear mission statement in terms of the cause they are supporting, and reinvest the profits the business makes in their social mission. Examples of social enterprises are organisations like The Big Issue and The Eden Project.
If you like the idea of working for a business that exists to support a social/environmental mission, then social enterprise could be for you. You can find out more at Social Enterprise UK.
Professional services firm
There can be lot of flexibility and opportunities to discover various different areas of finance within one company at a professional services firm. You could have the choice of either specialising in your area of expertise or in a particular industry, or working with a wider range of clients from all sorts of industries.
The Big Four (PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte) are the biggest players in the professional services industry. Each has a gigantic network of clients in the public and private sector. If variety appeals to you, then take a look into professional services!
Specialist or boutique firm
There are considerably less employees in a boutique firm; we’re not talking global leviathans here.
Boutiques usually have a niche areas to focus on. For example they may deal exclusively with high net worth individuals, or focus on a specific industry. They provide highly tailored services for their clients, so if you like the idea of really honing down on one particular area of finance, this type of firm may be worth a look.
Working hours can be intense, although boutique investment firm hours may not always be as long as at the big banks. However, top boutique investment banks will very much involve the hectic, extensive hours of other large investment banks.
It could be that in a boutique firm people will be more aware of the work you do, as it’s a smaller firm. Salaries and bonuses may not always top the scale like the big investment bank opportunities if it’s not a top boutique firm, but they will still be relatively high!
Global firm/bulge bracket banks
Bulge bracket banks are the giants of the banking world. The bulge bracket (BB) nickname comes from back when the names of the top investment banks used to "bulge" out in larger fonts on "tombstones" (the public notification of a deal).
Life working for these global banks is fast-paced and the salaries and bonuses can be extremely high. It’s possible to make an incredible amount of money in a short period of time. The work hours are, however, exceptionally long and it’s not uncommon for investment bankers to work into the early hours of the morning.
However, if the salaries and prestige of a bulge bracket appeals to you, then seriously consider gaining work experience via a placement or internship to see if it’s for you. (As a head’s up, you generally need to have gained work experience with a bulge bracket investment bank as a mandatory requirement to even be considered for one of their graduate roles.)
Starting your own business
There are some finance professionals who choose to go their own way and start up their very own business when they reach a certain point in their careers. This only really becomes feasible when you’ve gained a lot of experience (and often Chartered Status with a professional body in your particular industry), and have managed to build up a strong network of contacts to help you on your way in winning new clients.
There are experienced quantitative analysts who are flexing their entrepreneurialism by using their quantitative analysis skills and market knowledge to set up their own hedge funds.
Some accountants, tax specialists and consultants set up their own specialist companies and consultancies further down the line too. It’s a lot of hard work, but ultimately working for yourself and even employing others can be very rewarding if you like the idea of being your own boss.