Millions of financial transactions take place in Ireland each day. The management of all this ‘money movement’ lies in the hands of those working in the Banking, Finance and Accountancy services sector.
According to the Irish Banking Federation, around 89,000 people are employed in the financial services industry. The importance of the financial services industry to the Irish economy has been evident in recent years.
To assist with moving out of economic crisis, the Government has focused its attention on providing capital to Irish banks in order to keep them in business and to allow them to start lending to businesses again. NAMA was set up by Government with the aim of getting banks functioning once again. The recovery process is likely to last a few years, but the banking sector will be one of the first to reap the rewards of such a recovery with employment becoming increasingly available.
Banks, Building Societies, and Insurance and Investment Companies operate in every city and town in Ireland. In Dublin, the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is the hub of this business activity. The IFSC was established in 1987 to attract investment into Ireland from global financial service organisations.
Many young people enter careers in the banking sector after graduating in business, accountancy, economics and financial studies. Others start working in the area on leaving school and build qualifications as they gain experience. The financial services industry has a long history of attracting energetic and ambitious people.
Financial services are Ireland's 4th largest services export sector. The sector can be broadly divided into four areas of financial activity:
- Accounting and Financial Management – see Accountancy and Taxation Sector
- Banking and related services
- Financial and Investment planning
- Insurance Services
We are all familiar with the High street banks and building societies in every town and city in the country. Dublin's IFSC is the hub of financial service business activity in our capital city.
Banking and Financial Services
Banks and Building Societies deal with the every day financial transactions of the public. They provide us with services such as saving and loan accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, foreign exchange and credit card facilities.
Getting into Banking
Many young people enter this area of employment after graduating in business, accountancy, economics and financial studies. Others gain employment on leaving school and may decide at a later stage to arm themselves with further qualifications.
Bank cashiers and other clerical workers require a Leaving Certificate level of education. Most banks seek people who have good communication skills, enjoy public contact and feel comfortable handling large amounts of cash.
Each Bank is overseen by a Bank Manager. He or she has an assistant manager to help with the managerial tasks. Sales representatives and those in executive and management positions usually need a degree in a business or finance related area.
Irish banks have their own professional banking exams which you must be prepared to undertake if you wish to progress through the ranks. The amount of experience and the level of responsibility involved in the particular job influence associated salary levels.
Banks must make good use of the profit they make from their customers. All of the larger Banks in Ireland have their own Investment Banks. They also put their customers money to use in order to make greater profit. This is done by investing in foreign exchange, bonds, gilts and on the stock market.
The people who operate this end of the Banking business are known as Traders or Dealers.
A Dealers job is to buy commodity at one price and sell at a higher price. A typical transaction may involve buying 800,000 in US dollars in the morning and offloading it for another currency at a better rate later that day.
Investment Managers usually work for either large Investment Banks or for medium-to-large businesses. Their main function is to help their company find money to operate and grow the business, make acquisitions, plan for its financial future and manage any cash on hand.
You might work for a large multinational company or a smaller player with high growth prospects. Responsibility can come fast and your problem-solving skills will be put to work quickly in corporate finance. A degree in Finance or Business would be the minimum expected qualification for these positions.
Working as a Fund Manager for a Life Assurance Company is another good example of a career in Investment and Financial Management. The fund (money) usually comes from different sources and is then invested and managed by the Fund Manager and his team of financial investment specialists for the benefit of those who contributed to it. The individuals working in fund management i.e. mutual pensions, trust funds or hedge funds must have excellent educational and professional experience aswell financial management.
There are around 12,500 people employed in the funds industry in Ireland according to the Irish Funds Industry Association (IFIA) and almost all of the world's major fund service providers have a presence here.
Getting into Investment Finance
A career as a Financial Investment Manager or Dealer may involve working for a large multinational company or a smaller player with high growth prospects. In Corporate Finance, responsibility can come fast and this is where your problem-solving skills will be put to use quickly.
A degree in Finance or Accountancy would be the expected minimum qualification for these positions. The work of an Investment manager or Trader tends to be a very pressurised and competitive career demanding a high level of concentration and in depth knowledge of the market.
If you like lots of responsibility and the pressure that goes with it, this career may be worth considering. Most investment Banks and Corporations have their own in-house training for Traders and Investment Managers.
It usually takes at least 2 years on the job training before you gain enough experience and expertise to be given the authority and freedom to trade on behalf of your Bank or Corporation.
Imagine a world without insurance. No shipping and travel, no construction, no factories and offices, no doctors or other professional consultants, no motoring - potentially even no home ownership. Without insurance there would be no risk taking. Without any risk taking there would be no businesses and no innovation.
Getting into Insurance
Insurance companies recruit many school leavers and train them in-house. There are several specialist qualifications that can be obtained and The Insurance Institute of Ireland (III) provides qualifications and support to candidates at all stages in their career paths.
Like the banking sector, the Insurance market has seen an increased demand for qualified candidates in recent times. Due to increased compliance standards and regulation set out by the Central Bank of Ireland, those who provide advice to customers within the broader domestic Insurance market are now expected to hold a relevant qualification.
A wide range of opportunities exist in this field for talented, high-calibre graduates - from highly specialised, mathematically driven roles to general business management, from commercial, business development roles to customer-service orientated or financial management roles.
Jobs in insurance involve working in sales, calculating premiums and processing and assessing claims. The business is all about helping individuals and businesses to manage risk in order to protect themselves from catastrophic losses and to anticipate potential risk problems.
According to the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) there are over 14,300 people employed in this area in Ireland and over half work in life assurance.
Insurance sales today is all about helping clients understand their insurance needs, explaining their options to them and hopefully helping them purchase appropriate insurance policies. The following are some careers you could expect to find in the Insurance Industry:
- Actuaries provide the mathematical and analytical foundations for financial decision-making
- Insurance brokers act as intermediaries between insurance companies and insurance buyers, advising prospective policyholders on the most suitable product for their needs, helping to manage and mitigate potential risks and arranging to put cover in place
- Insurance claims handlers are responsible for investigating incidents and paying claims
- Reinsurance companies are the industry's own insurers, enabling large and small companies to mitigate their own potential risk
- Risk surveyors provide underwriters - who assess risks, and set the terms and prices of insurance policies - with information on levels of risk associated with each client, and the ways in which those risks could be minimised. Roles include risk surveyors, risk control surveyors, risk analysts or risk advisers, some of whom specialise in specific areas such as fire, health and safety, theft or public liability
- Loss adjusters are independent claims experts who help insurance companies and policyholders resolve complex or contested claims and get individuals and businesses up and running again as quickly as possible
- Underwriters assess risks and decide whether to accept applications for insurance cover - and on what terms. A degree in business with a professional insurance exam is a requirement
- A sales representative sells the insurance policy to the client.
The Minimum Competency Requirements (2006), set out by the Irish Financial Regulator, and the new Minimum Competency Code (September 2011) are designed to ensure that the ability of those involved in insurance and financial services is sufficient to serve the customer.
The principle is that consumers are entitled to a certain level of professionalism, education and expertise from all of their financial service and insurance advisers and that these competency requirements will help achieve this goal.
The Requirements apply to individuals who, on a professional basis, act, for or on behalf of a regulated firm and:
- provide advice to consumers on retail financial products (including general and private medical insurances);
- arrange or offer to arrange retail financial products for consumers; or
- undertake certain specified activities.
Compliance with the Minimum Competency Requirements can only be achieved by attainment of a recognised qualification from an external professional educational body. It is the responsibility of the regulated firm to assess which is the most appropriate for individual employees or principals of the firm and to monitor compliance with those Requirements. Examples of recognised qualifications are the: