It has been widely reported that Credit Suisse is moving part of its back-office operations from Singapore to cheaper locations like India and Poland. Job cuts are very much a reality of globalisation and economic cycles. Given this, career planning in financial services has never been more important.
Having been in the financial industry for over a decade, I have experienced crises like the dot-com bust, 9/11, SARS and the global financial crisis firsthand. Career planning demands a multi-faceted approach. It’s a strategic exercise involving both the external environment (growth and threats) and the internal (individual weaknesses and strengths).
Most of us are conscious of our own weaknesses and strengths. There are many corporate and government programmes that support employees in undertaking personal development plans. These are usually aimed at raising your productivity and increasing employability. However, assessing the external environment is an exercise not many of us do too often.
Career planning should always take into account the firm’s financial performance, its business strategies/goals and the general industry outlook. Here are my tips for mapping out a successful career in financial services:
1) Scratch beneath the surface
First, a proper understanding of the business environment facilitates the identification of trends and opportunities. For instance, some people assumed the sector suffered from huge cuts across all business segments after the financial crisis. This certainly wasn’t the case. For example, in the wealth management sector, family offices and external asset management companies experienced moderate to robust growth as a result of wealthy families and individuals switching their relationships away from private banks.
2) Exhaust your internal possibilities
Within a firm, various business functions grow at a different pace. While cuts go on in one area, expansion could continue in others. Internal transfers and overseas postings offer opportunities to advance your career and can provide a fresh perspective. If mobility opportunities are limited, seek out internal projects. These offer you the chance to understand and learn new processes and systems in preparation for the next wave of growth.
3) Get very social both within and without
It used to be difficult to connect to financial professionals within your current firm or externally in other financial institutions. However, with the onset of sophisticated professional social networking tools, it is now easy to reach out to your peers, not just within your country or region, but globally. These professional connections allow you to anticipate key changes and provide access to career opportunities. With a clear understanding of the industry and the right networking tools, exciting prospects for career progression are yours for the taking.
Bernard Tan is a Singapore-based financial professional and blogger. The views expressed are his and not those of eFinancialCareers.
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