How Do I Find a Job in Finance?

I regularly get people asking me how they can get jobs in finance.  Many of them are young.  Some are older and have done other things, but have been bitten by the investing bug, and want to make a shift.

Now, before I start, let me say that if you are smart, driven, motivated, organized, and generally capable at all that you do, and you are working in another field, say chemical engineering, and you want to move to investing, you might be better off asking your supervisors to give you projects with dotted-line relationships to the investment function of the company.  That could propel you to later roles where you head a division, or run a smaller company.  The ability to invest wisely has all sorts of positive spillover effects in managing an enterprise.  So before you head off to work in investing in the public markets, take a step back, and see how you can combine your existing expertise, and try to invest in the private markets, where you may have Buffett’s “unfair advantage.”

The first thing I tell them about is my career.  In short, here it is:

  • Actuarial Trainee — Pacific Standard Life
  • Actuary for the Domestic Annuity Lines at AIG
  • Investment Actuary for the Pension Division at Provident Mutual
  • Investment Actuary for the Annuity Division at Provident Mutual
  • Mortgage bond manager and Risk Manager for Mount Washington Investment Group, which was managing the assets of Fidelity and Guaranty Life.
  • Manager of of the investments for Fidelity and Guaranty Life. (Still risk manager too)
  • Corporate bond manager for Dwight Investment Management (Still risk manager too)
  • Senior Investment Analyst for Hovde Capital Advisors, covering insurance companies, and managing the profit-sharing and charitable endowment funds.
  • Concurrently, writing for RealMoney.com.
  • Chief Economist and Director of Research for Finacorp Securities, which allowed me to work from home during a difficult personal time for my family.
  • Concurrently, writing the Aleph Blog.
  • Principal of Aleph Investments, offering stock and bond management strategies, and a strategy to switch between them.

That’s a lot for 25 years.  Do you notice something unusual here?  Most of the jobs I switched to I did not have the full complement of skills to handle.  I learned as I went, but there were two costs to that:

  1. Only risk-taking businesses would hire me.  That meant more pressure, which in general, I did not mind.  I liked challenges.
  2. I had to learn more as I took the jumps.  Not everyone likes to do that.  I love a challenge.

For those looking for jobs in investments, if you can’t find the opportunities you would like, I would encourage you to look for adjancencies. Look for jobs that are close to investing.  Here are examples:

  • Investment marketing
  • Investment accounting
  • Investment auditing
  • Investment management consulting
  • Working for the rating agencies (anyone can get a job there)
  • Working for the regulators
  • Working for government investors, pension plans, GSEs, Supranationals, etc.
  • Working for endowments
  • Working in the Treasury arm of a corporation.  Hedging, pension plan, short-term investments, etc.
  • Work in a bank, thrift or insurance company.  Look for projects where you can show off investment expertise.
  • And more.

And in all of these ideas, network.  Join your local CFA Society; get the credential if you can.  Talk with people in investing.  Volunteer and show your competence.  This will not return void.

Those with energy and a willingness to learn have a huge advantage over the rest.  If this article benefits you please e-mail me, and let me know how your career has benefited.

1 Comment

  • John Q says:

    David,

    The investment management industry is very dysfunctional. This is a major reason why your advice for career changers to consider working on “projects with dotted-line relationships to the investment function of the company” and to “look for adjacencies … jobs that are close to investing” is excellent.

    The investment management industry is all about who you know and your pedigree, with an exception for those with their own capital. Getting hired to manage investments is not about what you know or having an above average investment track record, never mind that these are major considerations of investment management clients. The business of investment management is about the marketing sizzle and not the steak.

    My own career demonstrates this. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that even after building an investment track record that is noticeably above average (in large part because I successfully maneuvered through much of both the dot-com and credit busts), earning a CFA, getting along with people, demonstrating “energy and a willingness to learn”, and following your eminently logical concluding suggestions (“network. Join your local CFA Society; get the credential if you can. Talk with people in investing. Volunteer and show your competence.”), my career has been a struggle and basically did “return void”.

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