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Jobseeker’s Guide: Front Office Banking

Know the difference

When applying for a job, it would help to understand the job role/department before going for the interview. Yet when it comes to banks, the complexity of the roles offered may confuse some, especially those with no exposure to the industry. Jobs in banking are typically separated into front, middle and back office functions – with various roles in each function. This article will focus on the main roles that can be found in front office banking – ie. the revenue-generating roles.

#1: Investment Banking

In a nutshell, investment banking is the function where the bank uses its expertise in capital markets to help clients raise funding or conduct deals, such as mergers and acquisitions. Raising funds can take many forms, such as equity (IPO)/debt (bond issuance). Investment bankers add value because they have expert knowledge on financial asset valuation, and because of that they serve as middlemen between investors and the fund-raisers.

Typical skill sets required for entry-level investment banking are a strong understanding of company financial statements, interpersonal skills, and expertise with Excel for financial modelling. Long working hours are also the norm (think 12-hour days) for junior investment bankers.

#2: Sales and Trading

Sales and trading (S&T) is one of the departments most of the general public has less insight into. In a simplistic sense, the function of S&T departments is to provide specialized dealing services to institutional clients (who tend to be other financial institutions/MNCs/funds etc.) Salespeople provide the direct link with clients and give them indicative pricing from traders for various products (From spot FX to complex derivatives). Traders serve a market-making function, meaning they provide buy/sell prices for clients based on market conditions.

Typical skill sets required for entry level S&T are strong quantitative/logical reasoning, interpersonal skills and the ability to process information quickly in high-pressure environments.

#3: Wealth Management

Wealth management, or private banking, has become another important revenue source for banks. By providing high net worth individuals (HNWIs) with personalized services, from convenience-related services to portfolio management, this function tends to also be very profitable due to the large sums of assets involved.

Jobs within this function can range from 100% client-facing (Relationship managers) to technical liaisons (product specialists) to 100% technical (portfolio/product managers). Therefore, the skill sets required depend strongly on the specific role rather than the entire department itself. For example, portfolio managers are expected to have strong experience in financial markets but typically are not required to speak to clients themselves.

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