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How to get an accounting job in banking and finance

  • Accounting and finance jobs involve keeping the bank’s own financial pipes flowing nice and smoothly.
  • Roles and responsibilities can be very different from one another in accounting and finance.
  • Although banks have special rules they need to follow they are, at the end of the day, also very large companies.
  • Although accounting and finance roles can be very lucrative and offer great work-life balance, they’re not considered among the best-compensated in the industry.

What do finance and accounting jobs in investment banks involve?

The finance and accounting teams in banks fulfill four discrete purposes. They are:

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Commentators: Commentators explain the numbers. They describe what took place during an accounting period and why.

Business partners: Business partners work closely with the business on value creation and the planning process. The also ensure the completeness and accuracy of transaction reporting and the accuracy of P&L (profit and loss reporting).

Scorekeepers: Scorekeepers maintain the firm’s books and records for investors and regulators. In this way, they provide investors and other external people a method by which to assess the bank’s performance.

Custodians: Custodians are about governance. They ensure that policies, procedures and regulations are strictly adhered to with respect to financial reporting.

These are the broad functions. If you’re joining as a trainee, you’ll likely get an opportunity to rotate between different jobs in accounting and finance, but it’s good to have an idea of what might suit you best from the outset.

Jobs available in accounting and finance

There are a number of jobs available in accounting and finance.

Financial control jobs

It’s the financial controllers who are responsible for the accounting processes within a firm. They produce financial reports and maintain official books and records. They establish controls to reduce risk and enhance the accuracy of reported financials. They make sure the bank complies with accounting regulations like GAAP. The duties of a controller involve ensuring the business operates efficiently and records its transactions accurately. Financial controller responsibilities often also include reporting and payments to taxing authorities.

Financial reporting jobs

The financial reporting function is responsible for the disclosure of financial information to stakeholders (such as shareholders) about the financial performance and overall financial position of the firm. The reporting function provides regular information about the firm’s position and performance to a broad array of users. It provides information to management for the purpose of planning, benchmarking and decision making. It provides information to investors, and to creditors about the financial condition of the company. And it provides information to shareholders and the public.

Product control jobs

Product Control is responsible for keeping track of daily profit and loss (P&L), along with its explanation and attribution for a particular area. They also monitor transactions to ensure they are within specified size and risk limits. They are also responsible for ensuring that traders in investment banks mark their trading books to fair value prices. If you have a job in product control, you can therefore expect to produce, analyze, explain and validate daily P&L for trading books. You will also need to ensure the appropriate establishment, classification, and maintenance of books according to GAAP and regulatory requirements.

Business planning and analysis jobs

BP&A develops and implements business plans. These are strategic jobs within the accounting and finance division: you’ll be defining business strategy to meet performance objectives. The people in BP&A identify and propose solutions for business needs, analyze complex risk and mitigation procedures, and keep an eye out for potential issues for which they develop solutions.

Tax jobs in banks

The people in the tax department are responsible for ensuring that tax returns and financial records are prepared and reported in compliance with tax law. Their job is to minimize tax liabilities within the rules established by tax authorities. They consult with the business on structuring issues as well as maintain a tax-efficient booking model.

Accounting policy jobs

The accounting policy team is responsible for maintaining the principles, rules and procedures that are chosen and followed by management in creating and reporting financial statements. They look at issues like the consolidation of accounts, impairment, revenue recognition, depreciation methods, goodwill, fair value principles, disclosure, and pricing.

Investor relations jobs

Investor relations are for multi-talented people. They require knowledge of finance plus communication, marketing, and compliance. Investor relations is all about enabling clear and effective communication between a company, its shareholders, and the investing community. IR coordinates meetings for shareholders and the press, releases financial information, and provides financial briefings.

Office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) jobs

The office of the CFO develops financial strategies at the enterprise level (i.e. the level of the whole bank) by combining financial and accounting information with analysis to manage the strategic direction of the firm. The CFO advises management on issues regarding performance, forecasting and budgeting, headcount and compensation levels, balance sheet management, and profitability.

Treasury jobs

The primary purpose of the treasury team is to ensure the prudent management of cash in line with board approved directives and strategies, as well as managing the bank’s regulatory capital position. The treasury function spans asset/liability management (ensuring that liabilities can be paid-off with assets) and capital management (overseeing the issuance of debt and equity to maintain an appropriate capital position).

Which skills do I need for a career in accounting and finance in a bank?

It goes without saying that finance professionals need strong accounting backgrounds. People in accounting and finance roles tend to be very analytical, process-oriented and inclined to pay great attention to detail. A company’s books and records are the primary vehicle through which it presents itself to the public, and so accuracy is paramount. Regulatory authorities are stringent about the accuracy of corporate disclosure, and there’s little room for mistakes.

If you work in accounting and finance, you’ll also need to be intrigued by the management of process and inclined towards problem solving. There are often many ways of addressing complex pricing and accounting issues, from which product controllers must choose. This must be done carefully and with an eye towards accuracy and transparency. Most of all, though, you’ll need to care a great deal about detail.

Education & qualifications for accounting and finance jobs in a bank

Your university degree is important but not critical for an accounting role. Taking a look at Bank of America’s accounting and finance juniors, for example, most graduates are in economics and finance and mathematics.

Accountants take professional qualifications as they train. The relevant qualifications include the Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) in the UK, as well as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), or the Chartered Public Accountant (CPA) in the US. The exact qualification depends on the accounting role you do and its location.

Salaries and bonuses in accounting and finance jobs 

Compensation in accounting and finance is on par with other middle-office functions as risk and compliance, and tracks closely with lifestyle opportunities (work-life balance) in those professions.

Our own compensation figures indicate that pay for accountants in banks ranges between $53k for junior and $320k for senior accountants at financial services firms, with bonuses between 10 and 50% of salary, depending on seniority.

The author acknowledges the following sources:

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