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Career advice in Finance & Accounting

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Wd40 » Thu, 06 Nov 2014 1:33 pm

JR8, your description there is very scary. I am now wondering, which is worse, Finance or IT. PNGMK had mentioned that IT has turned into a clerical job. But from your description of finance, I would rather remain in IT forever.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Thu, 06 Nov 2014 1:52 pm

Wd40 wrote:JR8, your description there is very scary. I am now wondering, which is worse, Finance or IT. PNGMK had mentioned that IT has turned into a clerical job. But from your description of finance, I would rather remain in IT forever.


Sorry, didn't mean to scare you, but that was my experience. To me, the guys in IT were sitting around, headphones on (plugged into the CPU/Box), feet on desk, and entirely chilled out most of the time.

Finance/Middle Office is way more cut and thrust, not least as you're the interface to the trading floor, and have daily deadlines on which the traders very salaries are calculated. Their pay or deduction might be 0.5% of what you asking them to sign-off. And to deal with them you have to take on something of their savage dog-eat-dog manner, as you can end up now and again virtually in fist-fights if they think you're messing with their P/L... or they don't want to sign off their daily P/L report that records they lost US$2mm yesterday (that might be a loss of US$10k of direct pay to him/her, for one day), or, or...

That is different from the legal accounting side of things (more ACCA than say CIMA) who are boring old bean-counters off drawing up statutory accounts. Of course then you have Regulatory Reporting who are perhaps the final bastion of complete boringness, oh hang on, maybe the Tax Department fill that role... :lol: 8-)
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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Wd40 » Thu, 06 Nov 2014 2:22 pm

Thanks for that persespective, JR8. Enjoyed reading it, as always :)

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Finfin » Fri, 07 Nov 2014 8:32 am

Thank you JR8 for your good advice. I guess I am just finding some validation that if I pursue my ACCA, my years and time, not to mention money won't get wasted. Your response just gave me the confidence that I am doing the best option I can currently have.

Yes, I am in my early 40s. Company just closed. And you're right, so long as I stayed within the company, I did not have any issues in terms of career progression. It is an eye opener now that I am in my 40s, having difficulty to find job and not as easy when I was younger. I usually had offers while having a job and ironically, not having a job makes offers hard to come buy. I enjoy working (really hehe) so I don't see myself retiring early but concerned that once I don't do the right path now, I might end up retiring before I turn 50.


And your comment on headhunters! Oh yes, I do agree with you! Once you don't have accreditations, even if I feel I do exceed job requirements, they won't entertain me. In my previous job, I hired people under me who are qualified accountants. Not that I am bragging, but since they are younger than me, lesser experience in the industry, I could say that they still rely on me on certain decisions. Having said that, for me, it showed that experience is more important than having accreditation without experience. But I guess this is something very subjective, cannot be measured, so being lazy and having a lot of resumes to review, headhunters would just resort to the easier path of ticking their checklist provided by their clients.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Fri, 27 Mar 2015 8:33 pm

Hello seniors in Finance and professionals. I want to do masters in Financial engineering Full time from NUS/NTU . I have completed CFA level 2 and wish to sit for level 3 next year. This is because I am an engineering graduate from the local university with many modules of finance education and wish to move to the finance industry as it is challenging and rewarding. But i work in a core engineering area with no finance industry experience. With CFA level 3 and MFE from NUS/NTU will it be easy for me to enter the Banking/Financial sector? Thanks in advance.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Fri, 27 Mar 2015 8:56 pm

nlr3169 wrote:Hello seniors in Finance and professionals. I want to do masters in Financial engineering Full time from NUS/NTU . I have completed CFA level 2 and wish to sit for level 3 next year. This is because I am an engineering graduate from the local university with many modules of finance education and wish to move to the finance industry as it is challenging and rewarding. But i work in a core engineering area with no finance industry experience. With CFA level 3 and MFE from NUS/NTU will it be easy for me to enter the Banking/Financial sector? Thanks in advance.


How old are you, who do you think would hire you, and into what role?

IME getting hired (or even retained) in a banking career can be extremely brutal. If you aren't in and well on the ladder by 25, then good luck!

As an alternative have you considered a path into the more technical side of management consultancy/financial project management? Don't know, just a thought...
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Finfin » Sat, 28 Mar 2015 10:34 am

I remember when I was in was a fresh grad at 21, companies were willing to hire me so long as they see I'm determined with no experience. But as years went by, employers become critical of my relevant experience but not necessarily industry specific. I remember having offers from different industries but same function.

However, seems that the trend is changing. Maybe someone can validate me why recruiters and employers these days, at least here in Singapore look for relevant experience not only in terms of the function but also industry wise. In my job hunting, I found most employers (like 95%) are very particular in the industry you have operated in your past jobs. Which one is the real reason?

1) is it just the trend now? Not only they look at the experience of the applicant (engineer or salesman), but they also look at the industry (ie cement)?

2) or is it just something they look for in experienced applicants?
Fresh grads are still fine with it or if you are in your 20s? Companies are more forgiving? Therefore in nlr3169 case, you may have a shot for companies who are open to no-experience-but-willing-to-learn candidates.

3) Or is it just a reason recruiters/employers give to experienced candidates if they can't find any good reason to turn you down (but the real reason is you're too old and of course they can't say that).

4) Or maybe looking for job in a competitive environment (or is it just Singapore?) - where so many applicants vie for 1 vacancy, and you just have to have the education+experience+qualification+soft skills that the employer is looking for.

5) last reason I could think of and hoping, that this is just a temporary trend/cycle since it is an employer's market these days.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Sat, 28 Mar 2015 4:48 pm

Finfin wrote:However, seems that the trend is changing. Maybe someone can validate me why recruiters and employers these days, at least here in Singapore look for relevant experience not only in terms of the function but also industry wise. In my job hunting, I found most employers (like 95%) are very particular in the industry you have operated in your past jobs. Which one is the real reason?
4) Or maybe looking for job in a competitive environment (or is it just Singapore?) - where so many applicants vie for 1 vacancy, and you just have to have the education+experience+qualification+soft skills that the employer is looking for.


I'd vote for 4 above.
When you're young they can pay you peanuts and you'll work your nuts off to get ahead. This is common as the experience gained has a significant value itself. When you get older and more experienced the employer has to pay full price for your services, but you're probably less inclined to accept that your employer essentially owns you and your entire waking life.

Added to that, recruitment is a sifting process. The employer has spec'd the role, and written up the requirements. If they phrase it too widely they'll attract a lot of unsuitable candidates. So they set the bar higher, and hence you see all the usual corporate blah, 'Graduate', 'Minimum three years relevant experience' , 'Proven team player', blahblahblah. If you spoke the the hiring manager and asked him what were the actual skills etc required, odds on they'd be surprisingly at variance with those stated.

Added to that, for a foreigner to get hired here, they have to have demonstrable skills and experience that cannot be found from a local candidate (enforced via the visa system, and Fair Consideration Framework). This pushes the bar higher still. This is how you might end up with an ad requiring a graduate, when in actual fact not being a graduate would not exclude from fulfilling the job just as well.

Lastly. I think these days being a graduate can sometimes simply signify someone who has mastered general life-skills, learning skills, and that they have already demonstrated a desire to cross a hurdle towards their future, that is now a general requirement, almost a given. For example when I started my career, the expectation was that you'd seek a career within the field of your study. I studied veterinary/parasitolgy, very niche, but that was my then vocation and dream when I had to choose my A-levels, at the age of 15. Pretty brutal isn't it, being held for a lifetime to a choice made so young.

By the time I got into uni, and on that course, my life and horizons had changed so hugely that my heart just wasn't in it. Within the first year I dropped out, and pursued the direction that I just knew was where my future lay. As a result I was almost disowned by my family ('Oh noooo, what will the neighbours say!! :shock:' hehehe...). 30 years later, I got the career I wanted, and achieved from it all I aimed for. Though I'm still not sure my parents are 100.00% over events back then ... unorthodoxy rarely sits easily within parental expectations.

These days I think you're witnessing a huge evolution in higher education. It's gone from only academic students studying what was required for a career in that specific field, to being being almost an assumed step as a part of simply growing up. When I started uni, I was one of the sub-10% of school-leavers who did. Meanwhile -Fast-Forward- the automatic conclusion these days is that if you're not a graduate you're either thick or positively dysfunctional.

Now that almost everyone is a graduate (it seems), then said graduates require a next level to try and differentiate themselves from the masses, and as a bi-product get to comfortingly delay the realities of adult work and life a couple of years longer. So, here we are, 'who hasn't got a Masters these days, and from a prestigious university?'. I've described before a couple of times having to supervise summer MBA interns at my workplace. It wouldn't be fair to say that they knew eff all about the job they were theoretically qualified to do, and yet still didn't have a clue about. But heavens they had expectations and high illusions of themselves. No 'menial work' or long hours for them, they had been sold and persuaded that they were qualified and destined for higher things.

It was around 10 years ago that I first started noticing ads in in-flight magazines offering DBA's. This is presumably pitched at the MBA grads who feel a need to further differentiate themselves, now that it seems that everyone who is anything has an MBA. So what next when everyone has a DBA, what might the next supposed higher rung be christened? Doubtless there will be a lot of 'Top league' universities ready to sell you your dreams. Will it include learning how to use a photocopier, as in my experience this seemingly simple task is something MBA interns can't (or refuse to) do.

If I ran a small business, that say hired a couple of new employees a year, with the aim of them staying for maybe 10+ years, I'd hire non-uni/graduate school-leavers, who were demonstrably sharp-minded, and who had a boiling passion to get a foot in the door and make it. A 'fresh 30 year' old DBA+ grad with no real work experience, but instead buckets of attitude, expectations and self-regard => no way.

Apologies for the ramble aka 'Just my 2000 cents' :lol:
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Sun, 29 Mar 2015 12:37 pm

JR8 wrote:
nlr3169 wrote:Hello seniors in Finance and professionals. I want to do masters in Financial engineering Full time from NUS/NTU . I have completed CFA level 2 and wish to sit for level 3 next year. This is because I am an engineering graduate from the local university with many modules of finance education and wish to move to the finance industry as it is challenging and rewarding. But i work in a core engineering area with no finance industry experience. With CFA level 3 and MFE from NUS/NTU will it be easy for me to enter the Banking/Financial sector? Thanks in advance.


How old are you, who do you think would hire you, and into what role?

IME getting hired (or even retained) in a banking career can be extremely brutal. If you aren't in and well on the ladder by 25, then good luck!

As an alternative have you considered a path into the more technical side of management consultancy/financial project management? Don't know, just a thought...


I am 23 years old. I chose Mechanical engineering due to my passion for physics and maths and midway through my 4 year program when I did many Finance modules I was drawn towards it. That is the reason I could study and pass CFA level 1 while still out of college and level 2 a year later in one go. Should I confine myself lifelong to a job which I do not like for having done a course which I chose when I was not mature enough? By enhancing my finance education through Masters in Financial engineering I thought employers will try me and if they ask for "relevant experience" i will be stumped. That is the reason I am asking for guidance from you seniors.
Also can you throw some light on "technical side of management consultancy/financial project management?". Thanks.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Wd40 » Sun, 29 Mar 2015 1:41 pm

nlr3169 wrote:
JR8 wrote:
nlr3169 wrote:Hello seniors in Finance and professionals. I want to do masters in Financial engineering Full time from NUS/NTU . I have completed CFA level 2 and wish to sit for level 3 next year. This is because I am an engineering graduate from the local university with many modules of finance education and wish to move to the finance industry as it is challenging and rewarding. But i work in a core engineering area with no finance industry experience. With CFA level 3 and MFE from NUS/NTU will it be easy for me to enter the Banking/Financial sector? Thanks in advance.


How old are you, who do you think would hire you, and into what role?

IME getting hired (or even retained) in a banking career can be extremely brutal. If you aren't in and well on the ladder by 25, then good luck!

As an alternative have you considered a path into the more technical side of management consultancy/financial project management? Don't know, just a thought...


I am 23 years old. I chose Mechanical engineering due to my passion for physics and maths and midway through my 4 year program when I did many Finance modules I was drawn towards it. That is the reason I could study and pass CFA level 1 while still out of college and level 2 a year later in one go. Should I confine myself lifelong to a job which I do not like for having done a course which I chose when I was not mature enough? By enhancing my finance education through Masters in Financial engineering I thought employers will try me and if they ask for "relevant experience" i will be stumped. That is the reason I am asking for guidance from you seniors.
Also can you throw some light on "technical side of management consultancy/financial project management?". Thanks.


Many people especially techies do an MBA for exactly this reason, to move into Finance. There are others who all along want to get into investment banking, yet they do a Engineering as undergraduate degree and then go on to do an MBA.

I think MBA is a much better way for moving from tech to finance. At the age of 23, you are still very young and my take is your could do MFE or MBA and join at a very junior analyst/associate level, but if you were much older I think MBA would be better.Spend sometime in other MBA/finance focussed forums to understand whether MFE or MBA is better.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Sun, 29 Mar 2015 2:51 pm

Thanks for the reply @Wd40.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Sun, 29 Mar 2015 2:57 pm

@JRB. " IME getting hired (or even retained) in a banking career can be extremely brutal." When you mean brutal are u talking about the exploitation or the risk associated with retaining the job or work life balance?

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Sun, 29 Mar 2015 11:33 pm

nlr3169 wrote:@JRB. " IME getting hired (or even retained) in a banking career can be extremely brutal."
>>When you mean brutal are u talking about the exploitation or the risk associated with retaining the job or work life balance?



...Sorry, I've/I'm really busy this weekend [sigh].
No it's not exploitation, as such lol [irony], or not as you mean it. It's more that it's very dog-eat-dog. Just about everyone in that building wants to make it, and quite often they'll resort to anything to get it. So despite all the corporate mantras of 'love, peace and mutual respect', the actuality is very different. As long as you're up for that perpetual fight you're ok, but as I suggested no one can take it for ever, your heart and hunger eventually goes out of it. That's why it helps if you get in/underway/up when you're younger and more resilient. >> You'll find veeeery few 50YO+ people in investment banks. QED.

So in some ways you get in and give it your best shot. It can feel like a roll of the dice, but if you have that 'calling' you'll take it. Meanwhile I'd suggest always having a completely alt PlanB well in mind, before the need for it comes and smacks you out of the blue one day.

Brutal. Going into work one Friday after 10 years there, feeling pivotal to the business, and it being announced your department and x,000 other people are being laid off that morning. And to pack any personal belongings into a single Xerox paper box and have left the premises before noon, for good. Times like those you realise the 'corporate mantra' is entirely one-way, no more 'Respect for the Individual' [irony].

It's a very hard game, and you need to know that.


p.s. 'Work/Life balance' phhh! They used to say of Goldman Sachs that to have any chance of making it there you simply had to give up your life. They owned you, and your life. I read other fora, and you sometimes see public jealousy/sour-grapes re: the money paid to some people in banking. Well a) 90% of people earn way less than the flashy headline figures, and b) most 'normal people', i.e. outside the industry, cannot conceive of the brutality of the environment bankers are required to operate in.

It's probably a good industry to try an internship in before making the leap. The reality is really different from the popular perception.

[This is all pretty subjective, I know, but I hope this gives you some sense of what I mean].
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:50 am

Sorry, I've/I'm really busy this weekend [sigh].
No it's not exploitation, as such lol [irony], or not as you mean it. It's more that it's very dog-eat-dog. Just about everyone in that building wants to make it, and quite often they'll resort to anything to get it. So despite all the corporate mantras of 'love, peace and mutual respect', the actuality is very different. As long as you're up for that perpetual fight you're ok, but as I suggested no one can take it for ever, your heart and hunger eventually goes out of it. That's why it helps if you get in/underway/up when you're younger and more resilient. >> You'll find veeeery few 50YO+ people in investment banks. QED.

So in some ways you get in and give it your best shot. It can feel like a roll of the dice, but if you have that 'calling' you'll take it. Meanwhile I'd suggest always having a completely alt PlanB well in mind, before the need for it comes and smacks you out of the blue one day.

Brutal. Going into work one Friday after 10 years there, feeling pivotal to the business, and it being announced your department and x,000 other people are being laid off that morning. And to pack any personal belongings into a single Xerox paper box and have left the premises before noon, for good. Times like those you realise the 'corporate mantra' is entirely one-way, no more 'Respect for the Individual' [irony].

It's a very hard game, and you need to know that.


p.s. 'Work/Life balance' phhh! They used to say of Goldman Sachs that to have any chance of making it there you simply had to give up your life. They owned you, and your life. I read other fora, and you sometimes see public jealousy/sour-grapes re: the money paid to some people in banking. Well a) 90% of people earn way less than the flashy headline figures, and b) most 'normal people', i.e. outside the industry, cannot conceive of the brutality of the environment bankers are required to operate in.

It's probably a good industry to try an internship in before making the leap. The reality is really different from the popular perception.

[This is all pretty subjective, I know, but I hope this gives you some sense of what I mean].[/quote]

Thanks a lot for the very detailed reply. Need to do lots of homework before taking the plunge. That sacking, pink slipping and closing divisions etc are really scary.

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Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Mon, 30 Mar 2015 1:26 pm

nlr3169 wrote:Thanks a lot for the very detailed reply. Need to do lots of homework before taking the plunge. That sacking, pink slipping and closing divisions etc are really scary.


I take it as a good sign that I haven't outright put you off yet! :)
Not that I was trying to, more a case of giving an insight that might be a little hard to come by elsewhere. That's something you might find, you'll see and hear a lot about the glamour and possible 'riches', but... who likes to discuss the negative aspects of their career, unless they're already mentally en-route for an exit. There's an expression, 'an hour on a trading floor is 57 minutes of utter boredom, and 3 minutes of sheer terror', just, most people won't tell you about the 57 minutes :)

My time was also perhaps unusual in that it spanned across what were repeat global shocks to the financial system, the £ being forced out of the 'ERM' (precursor to the Euro), the Russian Crisis, Asian Crisis, and the aftermath of 9/11, which was it for me. Off the top off my head in total these shockwaves seemed to occur each three years: 1989/92/95/98/2001. In more recent times they seem to have been far less frequent, but one shouldn't ever discount such things happening again. Hence my conclusion that banking is not a 'career', in that it isn't something someone does for life, and the longer you stay in it, the tougher the fight to remain in it becomes.

So with that in mind if it is something that you decide you wish to do, you might consider the scenario of two young bankers:-

a) Lives 'up to his salary', i.e. he earns a good income, and spends it. He's driving a Porsche by 25, takes 5 exotic holidays a year, and dresses sharply, Hermes ties, hand-made suits, Gucci loafers. He has a flat in a desirable part of town, that fits his routine 10-12hr working days. He gets engaged and his fiancee wants to start a family ASAP. She owns her own place too, but neither would suit a growing family. So they both sell-up, and together buy a large old house out in the suburbs. She's now the wife of a successful banker, and together 'they're going places'. Pretty soon, her shoe and haut couture buying habit rivals Imelda Marcos. They have one child, and another is on the way, and despite his income they soon begin to feel that money is tight. Feeling the financial pressure he takes to working longer and longer hours.

Then one morning, out of the blue, his career is over. And his wife's lifestyle and social-circle with it. She divorces him for someone else who can keep her 'drip' of money and status pumping. Since they have children, she gets default custody, plus she gets the right to live in the marital home, with him forced to leave. So in say 10 short years he's lost his career, wife, children and home.

b) Same kind of job, but must have been brought up with different values. He wears off-the-peg suits and $20 ties. He drives a 10 year old Toyota Coupe. One day during an aside you hear that he earns more than the President of Ford-Europe, but looking at him and chatting with you you'd have never have guessed it. He's also married, with two children, and his wife shares his quite modest approach to spending. He doesn't 'live up to his income', and instead continues living pretty much as he used to, or perhaps how his parents did/do. Realising that career storm-clouds will roll in one day he saves most of his income, so he'll be well able to weather a storm when it arrives. Eventually it does, he loses his job, but together with his family they survive, get through the economic rout, and some time down the road he gets another job, perhaps down a different path, but due to his prudent approach, he has discretion over which direction to take.

Those two were amongst my former colleagues, and perhaps represent opposite ends of the spectrum. It's a cautionary anecdote I suppose. If you do get into banking/finance and do ok for yourself, try to remind yourself that nothing in most careers is forever; but especially so in that career. Have a plan-B worked out before you need it.
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard


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