The global financial services market is expected to grow from $22.5 trillion in 2021 to $28.5 trillion in 2025, recording a compound annual growth rate of 6%.
To support this growth, the demand for highly-qualified finance professionals is expected to increase in the next 5 years.
Interested in a career in finance, but unsure which path is right for you? Check out our brand new, free finance career quiz to find out which career suits you based on our career aptitude test!
- Portfolio management
- Investment banking
- Private equity
- Buy-side research
- Corporate finance
- Wealth management
- Alternative investments
- Risk management
- Financial planning
- Financial consulting
Finding the right finance career for you
Not only is finance a highly competitive industry, but there are dozens of roles and career paths to consider.
Following a path that aligns with your skills and personality is a great way to achieve both professional success as well as higher levels of job satisfaction.
So which financial career is the best fit for you? We built a personalized test to help you find out.
Finance career quiz: Find your finance personality match
To get your recommended career list, take our quiz below – it takes less than 5 minutes. Our quiz consists of a few simple questions to determine your preferences and work personality. We analyze this, before recommending a list of career choices for you, ranked by how closely they match your preferences and personality.
After you’ve submitted your quiz, you’ll be sent a personalized report and a recommended range of finance careers that best suits you.
Thinking about your strengths, what motivates you and what you enjoy is an essential first step to identifying a career you want to pursue. This enables you to make an informed choice about which direction to take at the appropriate time in your career, as well as helping to identify where you might need to upskill; whether through professional qualifications or relevant on the job experience.
Whether you’re looking to start a career in finance, or to progress from your existing position, it is important to be aware that specific talents and traits will often be required to excel. This is particularly true for many of the most common career paths followed by CFA charterholders.
This leads us to several important questions:
- Which skills provide benefits in relation to a specific job title?
- Which kind of role would be the best match to your personality type?
- How can you improve your chances of getting the job you want through personal or professional development?
Let’s take a look at a handful of popular finance careers, and the respective skills and personality traits that match these roles.
Skills & personality suited to various finance careers
Portfolio managers are investment decision makers responsible for creating investment opportunities for clients and overseeing the progress of these assets over time. This can be a highly rewarding career, which is one of the reasons why landing a portfolio management job is a goal of many CFA candidates.
As these roles are often associated with large sums of money, managers need to possess superior analytical abilities to be able to assess market movements. Critical thinking is an important skill, as pragmatic decisions will often need to be made under pressure in order to ensure a positive return-on-investment.
Anticipation is another crucial trait to bring to the table. This is due to the simple fact that asset values are liable to change over time, and portfolio managers must possess the capability of thinking ahead so that potential losses can be avoided. Being able to assess events happening in the wider world and their potential impact on a portfolio is vital.
As most portfolios are associated with long-term financial goals, this ability to think outside of the box in order to identify opportunities while protecting against losses can help to ensure that clients’ portfolio can withstand most economic shocks in the longer term.
Keeping investors updated with the latest portfolio performance and market commentary is key to building high levels of trust. This is why great communication and interpersonal skills are also essential for those who wish to choose a career associated with portfolio management.
Investment banking (check out our full guide to IB) can be a lucrative and satisfying career to those who enjoy working with numbers and who are keen to leverage the tangible benefits associated with making informed data driven decisions at the appropriate times.
Analytical skills and attention to detail is crucial for investment banking, especially at a junior to senior manager level. Being able to present complex valuation ideas persuasively and confidently to your clients is required to help with mergers and acquisition and capital raising deals.
Certain decisions could very well impact the financial liquidity of the client in question. This means there is often pressure to make the right call, and having the confidence to do so while remaining calm is a valuable skill to have.
Some other traits which can help to benefit an investment banker include:
- Excellent leadership skills and the ability to work within a team.
- A dedication and passion for providing superior levels of customer service.
- The ability to make snap financial decisions when needed.
- A talent for performing well under pressure.
- Commercial awareness and a familiarity with the financial marketplace.
- The resilience to work long hours and be on call 24/7 for your corporate client when a deal is live.
As investment banking is extremely competitive, candidates should also possess a strong drive to succeed alongside the ability to demonstrate their willingness to rise above their peers when provided with the opportunity.
Private equity managers uses their investors’ funds to invest in private companies or buy out large public firms. By obtaining a certain level of control in these companies, they look to make operational improvements to increase profitability in the long term and later sell the firm for a profit.
So in a way, private equity is similar to investment banking, but with a more entrepreneurial slant, as they make investment decisions and take on operational ownership of target companies too. So it is not surprising that private equity firms tend to hire investment bankers who have a few years experience under their belt.
Similar to investment bankers, private equity associates must be comfortable with financial analysis, have some deal experience from previous work (industry knowledge is a plus), excellent networking and project management skills.
Private equity associates tend to thrive within high-pressure environments and they are keen to take on new challenges. These professionals should therefore possess the innate ability to come up with entirely unique approaches depending upon the project in question. This type of innovative thinking can often determine whether or not a venture is ultimately successful.
A buy-side research analyst works for an investment fund and identifies lucrative investment opportunities that is aligned with their firm’s investment strategy and portfolio.
This role is slightly different from a portfolio manager, as buy-side researchers are generally limited to providing investment advice in regards to specific asset classes.
Managers will thereafter monitor the performance of these assets. However, both positions share a number of personality traits in common.
Buy-side research analysts must have the ability to undertake detailed financial analysis, develop investment decision ideas, be comfortable with making a judgement on valuation based on both industry experience, critical thinking and technical intuition. Report writing skills are required, as well as good interpersonal skills to convey the latest investment ideas.
On a final note, buy-side research analysts must demonstrate the confidence to react quickly to market conditions that may be necessary to leverage a sudden investment opportunity as soon as it becomes available.
Corporate finance deals with the capital structure of a firm, including funding and how the value of the company can be increased. Given the broad nature of this role, the associated responsibilities can vary quite significantly depending upon the specific role.
Having said this, most corporate finance professionals will be required to oversee several important responsibilities such as:
- how to invest a firm’s own capital for projects for maximum return on investment.
- how a firm should be financed and to optimize the capital structure with a mix of equity, debt and hybrid capital.
- how much of retained earnings should be kept or distributed to shareholders.
Often used interchangeably with investment banking, there is some overlap in skillset here although investment bankers work on sell side and corporate financiers usually work in the industry itself (e.g. a car manufacturer).
Superior communication skills, attention to detail, strong quantitative and analytical skills are a must for this role. Good presentation and communication skills are essential for board presentations too. Building up an in-depth knowledge of the industry you’re in is a big plus.
Private wealth managers advise private, high net-worth individuals on financial planning and how to invest their portfolios to meet their financial goals. This typically includes a few related services such as portfolio management, estate and retirement planning and tax services.
Thus, wealth management requires a broad range of knowledge in portfolio management, financial planning and in-depth knowledge about various asset classes. In fact, good interpersonal and communication skills (foreign language skills is a plus) is crucial for this client relationship driven role.
As a general rule of thumb, a common entry point into wealth management starts with an assistant relationship manager role, before progressing to a relationship manager / client advisor responsible for your own list of clients. Thus, having solid sales and business development skills are useful as one gains seniority in this sector.
Overall, having an inquisitive and analytical mind, great communication skills and the confidence to take calculated risks are all traits that may serve you well within the field of wealth management.
Not only is this level of confidence key when making important financial decisions, but it also demonstrates the potential for strong leadership capabilities. This is obviously important within a fast-paced corporate environment for anyone wanting to rise quickly through the ranks.
Alternative Investments includes any assets that do not fall into the traditional asset class categories of equity, fixed income or cash. It includes derivatives, venture capital, private equity, real estate, commodities, hedge funds, arts and antiques. For the purposes of this article we have separated private equity out in its own category.
Alternative investment specialists are responsible for investing and selling these assets which tend to have less liquidity and higher risks compared to traditional stocks and bonds.
In terms of general personality traits, alternative investment professionals tend to be quick thinking and possess the innate ability to quickly spot and analyze new opportunities for investment.
A strong financial acumen, attention to detail, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work well under pressure are all desirable traits which employers seek. Alternative investment professionals also need to be able to embrace non standard valuation methods for alternative assets classes and be comfortable making higher risk investment decisions.
These skills help an alternative investment specialist to provide the right advice and make the best decisions at the appropriate times.
While a CFA does include some coverage of alternative investing, many individuals interested in this career path choose to pursue CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst) certification for better specialization in this sector. This provides even more room for upward mobility and career advancement in the future.
For those looking to pursue a career in alternative investments, it’s worth considering the differences and similarities between CAIA and CFA qualifications to identify which best suits your requirements.
Risk managers play a key role within the world of finance. Unlike the title of this position may suggest, the primary responsibility of these professionals is not centred around eliminating risk in and of itself (such as those associated with a long-term real estate investment or open-market volatility).
On the contrary, the ultimate concern for risk managers revolves around mitigating perceived levels of risk in order to maximize an overall return-on-investment.
For a holistic risk management approach, risk managers collect relevant data for analysis of various aspects of risk (event risk, credit risk, operational risk, financial risk, climate risk etc), report on their findings with suggested mitigation measures to minimize negative financial impact to their firm.
Some core responsibilities of a risk manager include:
- Compiling and interpreting risk data
- Performing regular internal audits
- Ensuring that no compliance or governance issues are present
- Quantify potential downsides of various types of risk within an organization
- Reporting and communicating any findings and propose solutions to the appropriate stakeholders
This tells us that one of the most important personality traits of a risk manager involves a sense of transparency. Having a solid financial acumen, the ability to communicate complex risk concepts succinctly and strong project management skills are additional competencies which would serve risk managers well.
If you’re considering the CFA Program but are particularly interested in risk management, you might want to look at how CFA compares to Financial Risk Manager certification to find the best professional development path for your needs.
Alternatively, there’s a competing risk management qualification called Professional Risk Manager and you can compare that to FRM to decide which certification matches your needs best.
Financial planning is similar to private wealth management, but focuses more on retail investors who need help on lifestyle planning to achieve financial goals. This includes budgeting, cashflow planning, saving for college and retirement. In contrast, private wealth managers focuses on high net worth individuals who need more help on estate planning and tax matters.
Financial planners’ duties include asset oversight, presenting clients with new investment opportunities, risk management, balancing portfolios, and analyzing how a portfolio is performing.
Other compulsory skills for finance roles within this client facing sector include:
- Overall wealth management knowledge
- A detail-oriented personality
- The ability to think critically and analytically
Strong interpersonal skills and an empathetic mindset are also important for many client facing financial planners. The ability to build relationships and understand a client’s position, requirements and goals will enable a good financial planner to offer the most appropriate solutions in any situation.
Financial planners must possess a hands-on mindset in order to offer the right advice at the appropriate time. As many CFA career paths are directly linked to financial management, an in-depth knowledge of financial principles is critical in order to pass the relevant examinations.
If you’re interested in financial planning as a career and considering the CFA (which is helpful but perhaps over specified for that goal), you might want to look as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered SRI Counselor (CSRIC) which are financial planning specific qualifications, the latter being a sustainable investment add-on certification for financial planners. Check out how CFA compares to Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification to find the best professional development path for your needs.
One of the most popular finance careers involves providing consultancy services. Financial consultants are often hired as an extra pair of hands to provide financial advice to corporations on varied projects within a firm, such as mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, designing executive compensation, operational strategy etc.
Teamwork and strong stakeholder management skills are particularly useful for consultants, since they are often working in various teams within a firm for their client projects.
Consultants also need superb attention to detail, strategic thinking and analytical skills to dissect and process lots of information into actionable recommendations for their clients. As one progress to a senior level, client relationship management and sales leadership are highly valued to source new clients and projects.
What’s interesting and engaging about this role is that not one project is the same, and the learning curve is steep with lots of travel to clients’ offices required.
Putting it all together: Personality traits define the position
We can now see that there are a number of skills for finance roles to appreciate if you hope to make the right choice.
While many positions share a handful of traits in common (such as an attention to detail, excellent numerical skills and an aptitude for building interpersonal relationships), we need to remember that each career will also require unique qualities based around the duties in question.
Whether you are interested in wealth management or you wish to become involved with a private equity firm, all of the CFA career paths mentioned above can offer extremely rewarding professional experiences, and lead to high levels of job satisfaction.
We hope our finance career quiz result led you to a finance career path with just the right mix of interest, intellectual challenge, pay and work life balance you’re looking for. Share your thoughts/questions via the comments below!
Meanwhile, here are related articles that may be of interest:
- CFA Careers: What Are Typical Job Opportunities for CFA Charterholders?
- CFA Salary – Here’s How Much Your Pay Increases With CFA
- ESG Certifications That Can Boost Your Finance Career
- Is An MBA Worth It? Find Out With Our Free Tool
- 2023 Asset Management Outlook: 4 Important Trends That Affect Future Jobs
- Epic Career Path Guides: Investment Banking | Corporate Finance | Portfolio Management | Financial Planning | Equity / Credit Research | Private Equity | Wealth Management | Risk Management | Hedge Funds | Fintech | Management Consulting