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The unexpectedly high-paying roles in financial services

Occupying a high-paying finance role no longer means trying to be the next swashbuckling bond trader like John H. Gutfreund who catapulted to fame in 1985 as the “King of Wall Street” only to resign amid a scandal six years later from Salomon Brothers, ending a career that made for literary and film fodder. These days, there’s money to be made in decidedly more stoic roles that can provide longer-term growth if not immediate fame and fortune.

They may not be especially glitzy, but there are still some high paying roles in the middle and back office, said Neil Owen, global practice director of Robert Half Financial Services: “While investment bankers and traders continue to earn the largest packets, opportunity still exists in middle, back office and support roles, particularly within compliance, finance and accounting. The ongoing wave of regulatory change combined with a focus on delivering financial results in a challenging economic environment has resulted in some solid remuneration gains for roles that one may not expect.”

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Here are four areas to consider for ongoing earning potential:

1. Regulation and compliance

As firms grapple with the on-going changes and challenges of Solvency II, Basel III, IFRS and Dodd-Frank, there remains a significant need for risk, regulatory and compliance professionals. As demand outweighs supply, companies face increased budgetary pressure to secure the market’s most sought-after individuals.

In the U.K., entry-level roles within regulatory accounting can start at £35k ($53k) a year and increase to £100k ($152k) or more for qualified accounting professionals with more than eight years’ experience. In the U.S., compensation for regulatory reporting professionals ranges between $52kand $110k based on years of experience and seniority.

Compliance managers in the U.K. can expect pay gains of as much as 7% over 2012, bringing in £68kto over £100k. Robert Half’s 2013 Salary Guide shows that compliance managers in the U.S. can earn between $63,500 and $104,000, but a significant uptick in demand throughout the second quarter has started to put additional pressure on salaries as we progress throughout the rest of the year. Some roles are paying as much $120,000 a year.

2. Financial business partner

Focused in the past on traditional tasks, finance executives are increasingly being asked to support other parts of the business through finance business partnering, whereby the finance function supports strategy development and decision-making across various departments including sales and marketing, human resources, IT and operations. Financial professionals with strong commercial acumen are being called upon to provide a financial perspective across the business to drive efficiencies, reduce expenditure and source new revenue-generating activities.

Over the past couple of years, U.K. businesses have carved out specific financial business partner roles that pay between £51.5k and £83.5k based on the size of company and specific functions of the role. In the U.S., the role isn’t defined in the same way, but those with a strong commercial acumen and business can qualify for numerous roles within finance and accounting.

3. Internal audit

The internal audit function has grown in importance since the accounting controversies of the early 2000s and continues to play a pivotal role as companies look to provide a systematic approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes. The introduction of new regulations has prompted the need for a more holistic approach, leading to the rise of integrated governance, risk and compliance programs, or what some regard as the holy grail. Advantages include reduced compliance costs, improved business performance and optimised risk-return outcomes.

Internal auditors within financial services firms in the U.S. can anticipate entry-level salaries starting at $49,750 nationally and as much as $92k in New York. Internal audit managers can make $150k or more, which between 3% and 4% over 2012 levels. In the U.K., starting salaries for newly-qualified professionals range between £50k and £62.2k, and rise to between £76.2k and £95k for management-level roles.

4. Leadership functions

Financial leaders, including CFOs, FDs, group accountants and financial controllers are continuously called upon to deliver sound financial management while providing strategy and overall direction for the business. With the rise of financial regulation and a focus on risk, they are also charged with remaining compliant during a period of unprecedented change. A survey of financial services CFOs and COOs by Robert Half found that, on average, chief executives are spending as much as one full day per week managing regulatory change.

U.S.-based CFOs can expect base salary prospects between $148.2k and $350k, before additional compensation like bonus, pension and long-term incentive plans which can be lucrative at the C-Suite level. In the U.K., CFOs can expect base salaries ranging between £105,000 and £190,000 or more within the London financial services market.

Follow the author on Twitter @natashagural

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  1. In other words, investment banks have either become, or are becoming, high-pay-environment service companies requiring professionals, such as in legal and compliance, with the the ability to understand each organization’s products and services to those marketing them, but with an even-temper and a bias against what’s possible but potentially risky and the art of healthy (though legal) entrepreneurship.

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