"All bankers are dicks", "To become successful in the financial world, you need to work 80 hours a week", "Financial people only care about making as much money as possible", "You are always competing with your colleagues" and "If you fail, you get fired instantly."
These are very often heard statements about the financial world. But are they true? As many of us are finishing our study, we have to choose where we want to work. In the previous years, I gained lots of information about these matters at company visits. Gained information and impressions were reviewed by employees and summarized in this article. We will start with general information about the differences in the sector and conclude with a small guide of the best way to get an offer for the job you desire!
First of all, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing, by defining the type of firms. The definitions given are not on dictionary level, only the relevant parts are defined. For the sake of simplicity, only four types of firms are mentioned in this article.
Banks: Large financial institutions, in the Netherlands you can open an account at most of them (e.g. Rabobank, ING) but many known banks are not open to the public (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs). We focus here on the investment banking department of the banks and not on the commercial-banking-related jobs.
Corporates: Large companies that are owned by shareholders and controlled by a board. Often production companies, like Unilever, Shell and Philips.
Big Four: These firms are most known for their accountancy services, but they also offer every kind of financial advisory on a large scale, like consultancy. The big four consists of: Deloitte, PwC, E&Y and KPMG.
Boutiques: Small firms that offer financial services for a particular segment of the market, often a specific industry or just smaller clients. Therefore, the names are also less known. (e.g. Marktlink, Zanders)
A face-time culture causes you to stay at the office until late, even if there might be no work to do.
Extreme stories about company culture, salaries and working hours are often based on London and the USA. This article is based on Dutch firms and might therefore be a bit less extreme then the so often heard stories. However, certain differences between different kinds of companies can still be huge.
Working 80 hours a week as a standard is not common in the Netherlands. However, this does not mean that these kind of working hours do not occur. Usually you work on project-basis. Therefore, pressure becomes higher when deadlines approach, causing the team to work quite some overtime. At some banks, a face-time culture dominates. Face-time is an employee’s physical time at the office, which gets noticed by their supervisors. This results in people staying at the office until late, without necessarily being busy on a project. Especially the Big Four are trying to get rid of this culture, but it can still often be found at banks. Many people flow out of the hectic life of financial advisory after a while, to go work at one of their corporate clients. Here, the working hours are more stable, so more time can be spent on family.
The Big Four and banks usually have large corporate clients, which leads to massive projects with multiple departments involved. This means your team specializes in a small part of the whole process. Boutiques often serve the whole project with one team, so you are involved from the beginning to the end. In a boutique, at every rank you are involved both analytically and commercial wise. At large firms, at the start of your career you focus on the analytical side and this gradually changes to a client relationship focus at the higher positions. An example of a career timeline in investment banking can be read in this article.
Where London and America have an extreme bonus culture in the financial advisory sector, the Netherlands capped bonusses in 2015 to a maximum of 20% of your base salary. Therefore, the salary is mostly dependent on your function and less by your performance. You will probably start with a base salary of about € 3.000,- before taxes, being a bit higher as a banker. This may sound quite low, but it will increase fast in the upcoming years. Exact numbers are hard to find, but everyone confirms that your hard efforts will be compensated generously.
Get the job
So how do you get your job? Especially at large firms, a large number of people apply for a few available spots. Therefore, just applying on the website often does not even get you a job interview. The approach mentioned below will offer you the best chance to get you an offer for the job that suits you best!
If you train yourself well, it's almost impossible to fail at this part.
First of all, discover what kind of job is most interesting for you and what company culture fits you best. You can start orientating by attending an inhouse tour, where you visit multiple companies. Here you can experience what type of jobs there are (there are more different departments than you think) and get a taste of company cultures. After visiting several firms and possibly also attending individual company inhouse days (which can be found on their websites), you should have spoken to multiple employees and collected some business cards. Now you can contact them and ask if you can come by and have a coffee with them! They can tell you all about the job and what kind of people work at that specific firm. If you experience mutual interest, you should ask them to introduce you to the recruiter. This increases your chances of being invited for a job interview tremendously. Read up on the firm and prepare yourself well to solve a job-specific case, and your chances of getting the job will be maximized!
Do you want more specific information on topics? The risk career support is there for you! They can tell more about specific topics, answer your questions and bring you in contact with people in the working field. Moreover, you can get free access to online assessment training via the website of Risk. If you train yourself for this assessment, it’s almost impossible to fail at this part.
Financial students are blessed with more recruitment events than in any other sector. These events are not only interesting for your orientation, but also fun to attend. Be smart and make use of this.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy your search for the right kind of work and go find the best company for you!
- Banks, Corporates and Big Four are huge and have many departments, which all differ. The views given are just in general for the kind of firms.
- Not all firms fit perfectly in one of the four mentioned categories. For instance, pension funds and strategy consulting firms. For sake of simplicity we did not add special categories for them.
- There are always exceptions, information mentioned above does not hold for everyone and not for every firm. Go have a look and judge it yourself!