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Could Language Skills Boost My Finance Career?

As you’ll be all too aware, business these days is a very international affair. The world of business is seeing rapid developments in emerging markets and growing economies in regions such as the Middle East and South East Asia, and the European market continues to be a great source for business opportunity. With this is mind, what kinds of opportunities could language skills present to you for your future finance career?

It’s true that a lot of business is conducted in English, and some people will argue that language skills are totally useless for those from the UK (much to the embarrassment of the UK…).

The case for lingo learning

Yes, you can build a highly successful career in finance without skills in another language, however there is certainly something to be said for having language skills on your CV. Imagine the advantage to a firm of having members of their teams who can fully understand and converse with other international offices, clients, and prospective new business in their own language, without having them be the ones to work harder in a second language, or the firm having to source external interpreting services. Who wants to appear as arrogant and single-minded in the world of international business?

So, of course, international firms recognise and demand candidates with skills in the languages of foreign businesses to whom they provide financial services and do deals with. It’s the people with language skills who form part of the teams that can pioneer business in new regions for a firm.

What’s more, studying a language is so much more than just getting to grips with vocabulary and grammar. As you learn, you’ll acquire a deeper knowledge and appreciation of other cultures and regions of the world – as it’s likely that you’ll develop an interesting alternative and advantageous perspective on the UK economy and UK business too! Learning a language at degree level requires you to spend time living and working or studying in a country where it’s one of the official languages. This is also a great boost for your employability, and could open up opportunities to get involved with international projects at an earlier stage.

Today’s most useful languages for business

If you’re thinking about a single or joint honours degree in a language or taking up an extra module or class or two in a language alongside your degree, then you could consider these handy languages to give your career a boost:

  • European languages: French, German and Spanish
  • Arabic
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Russian

Job opportunities with language skills

Accountancy:  Some accountancy firms will advertise directly for applicants with specific foreign language skills to conduct work for international clients. The ability to deliver complex information to clients in their first language is a huge advantage.

Financial services: Language skills could take you into areas such as risk analysis or relationship management. Credit controllers, for instance, run credit checks on applicants for loans and chase payments to ensure loan repayments are made on time. If you’re doing this for international applicants, you’ll be required to make calls abroad and use your language abilities.

Research and editorial roles: Financial institutions, wealth management and investment firms and investment banks require some professionals with language skills to carry out investment research which will form a basis for decision-making and business expansion for fund managers. Language skills coupled with extensive knowledge of the markets could also lead you into a career as a reporter or editor for information solutions and financial news resource companies or publications.

Infrastructure roles: As well as editorial opportunities, there are also roles that require language skills available in sales, selling information solutions (products and packages which provide up-to-the-minute bespoke news and analysis on the markets to companies and applications that help them to conduct analysis).

Investment banking:  Fluency in another language or two can definitely be an advantage in many different areas, from front office to middle and back office roles.

By Jos Weale, Editor, AllAboutFinanceCareers.com