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Banking and financial services industry overview

Toby Van Dyke

New Zealand’s banks might be lean, but in one year alone they contributed more than $7.6 billion to the economy while employing more than 25,000 people
Banking and financial services

A role in the banking and financial services industry could see you working anywhere, from a giant blue-chip company to a government-backed regulatory body. Alternatively, you may be involved in insurance, financial counselling, or investing, borrowing, raising, and managing money.

If you’ve got a head for numbers and you’re good with people, retail banking, investment banking, and insurance are intuitive choices. Similarly, if you enjoy solving complex problems, actuarial or regulatory work may be more for you. Finally, if you’d like to combine your interests in commerce and technology, then you may flourish in a fintech career. 

Salaries in this sector range widely based on one’s specific profession, be it actuary, investment banker, retail bank assistant, or otherwise. According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, the median salary for employees in the banking, finance and insurance industry is $65,000, with a pay scale that ranges from $42,000 to $125,000. Those in client services have a median salary of $55,000; in insurance, a median salary of $65,000; in management positions, a median salary of $95,000; and in analyst positions, a median salary of $85,000. 

Job market outlook

New Zealand’s four major retail banks—ANZ, ASB, BNZ, and Westpac—offer structured graduate programs each year, with plenty of opportunities for talented applicants. However, competition is tough due to the sheer volume of applicants. This year’s Top 100 reflected the popularity of established players, awarding places to ANZ (23), BNZ (27), ASB (59), and Westpac (64), as well as NZX (89) and Suncorp (93). 

As of December 2019, the New Zealand government anticipates short- and long-term shortages in the number of graduates and professionals entering the banking and finance sector, which is likely to result in a healthy job market for the coming decade.  

How to get hired

Generally, you’re required to apply directly to a particular area within an organisation, so it’s important to undertake internships and work placements while you’re still a student. This will allow you to determine which sphere of financial services is likely to suit you best. Other ways to get the inside scoop include learning about companies and graduate experiences on the GradNewZealand website, researching company websites to get a feel for their projects, clients and culture, and attending open days. 

If you’d like to ‘try before you buy’, a larger organisation will offer you plenty of opportunities to experiment with different roles. This is particularly true of organisations that offer rotational graduate programs, allowing you to move across different business areas over one or two years.

Fintech placements offer you a path towards employment with cutting-edge startups that are revolutionising the way financial service providers interact with their customers. It can be hard to find a graduate job in this sector, but it’s also possible for you to toy around with your own ideas and get them into an incubator program, effectively creating your own career path.

Key skills you need

Analytical thinking

Grads must be able to grasp new concepts and process information quickly – whether that means gathering and absorbing new data, managing a project, or meeting a new client. While academic performance is important for ensuring your ability to do the work, recruiters will want to see that you’re able to apply this ability to fast and practical problem-solving. 

Communication

A career in banking and financial services involves conveying complex information in a relatable and professional manner to clients and stakeholders. As such, learning to communicate difficult concepts to a non-technical audience is essential. 

Innovation

Employers seek out creative thinkers who can provide fresh ideas for the company,. They tend to be particularly impressed by candidates who possess a can-do attitude and enthusiasm for innovation.