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Banking and Financial Services
How to Write a Graduate CV for Retail Banking, Insurance, and Actuary Jobs
Increase your chance of getting employed in the retail banking and insurance industry by sending in tailored CVs and résumés that meet the needs of the recruiters.
While employers in the insurance, retail banking, and actuarial graduate industry are rapidly shifting to an online platform for their recruitment efforts, such as the online application form, many of them still require their applicants to submit a CV/résumé. This practice could be attributed to a variety of reasons:
- CVs provide an opportunity for you to submit a cover letter.
- Employers want to ensure that your submitted information (online application and CV) corroborates each other.
- You can arrange and format the information in your CV to highlight your skills more effectively.
But how should you adapt the details in your CV for employers such as DBS Bank, Barclays, and Aviva?
Details for the finance graduate CV
As a rule of thumb, graduate CVs shouldn’t exceed two pages because recruiters rarely spend more than half a minute scanning through each application, so ensure that you only include vital details in your CV.
You should also take time to think about how you should structure your CV for effective exposure, e.g. headings, candidate photo and contact details, arrangement of the sections, etc. For instance, should you make use of the conventional chronological format for your résumé, or experiment with alternative formats instead?
That said, be sure to check with individual employers for specific requirements that you’re required to follow. For instance:
- Barclays’ online application webpage only allows a one-page CV.
- HSBC pinpoints specific sections that you must include in your CV to them, e.g.
- All your working experience (including voluntary and part-time work, as well as internships)
- Extracurricular activities
- Positions of responsibility
- Academic details
- Scholarships and awards.
- Other banks may also impose other prerequisites for graduate CVs, such as to omit or avoid including
- Salary history or requirements
- Hobbies and interests.
Failing to adhere to these conditions might result in a negative impression of you, and in the worst case scenario, could even result in the disqualification of your application.
Demonstrating specific skills
It’s important that you tailor your CV to reflect the competencies that the recruiters are looking for. Typically, you’ll find their desired proficiencies in the job listings, although not necessarily itemised in a convenient list. In most cases, you’ll have to look out and decipher keywords into corresponding skills instead. For example, when employers use terms such as “collaborative working” or “meticulous”, it means that they are looking for candidates who are able to work well in a team and detail-oriented.
Among some of the must-have skills that candidates interested in the retail banking and insurance industry include:
- Able to meet targets and deliver
Roles in this industry places a lot of importance on meeting sales targets and set business objectives, so if you’re keen on landing a position in this sector – especially a sales position – it’s essential that you showcase your ability to meet targets in your CV or during interviews.
Be sure to do the following in your cover letter or CV:
- Include relevant examples
Highlight examples where you’ve met objectives or targets, such as when you were temping in a sales or marketing role. Examples from extra-curricular activities that can help you demonstrate your ability to meet targets are useful too. For instance, if you’ve been involved in fundraising events or marketing drives, do bring it up!
- Mention your achievements
Don’t just stop at generic statements such as “I sold life insurance during my stint in Company MNM.” Talk about your achievements as well, such as internal awards that you’ve attained, commissions that you’ve earned, highest number of sales that you’ve managed, and projects that you’ve accomplished. These are highlights that will convince potential employers of your ability to achieve targets and objectives.
- Offer concrete numbers
To further prove your ability to achieve objectives, consider quantifying your success by offering concrete numbers and percentages. For example, if you were part of the marketing and sales team for a particular event, how many tickets did you sell and how did you measure the success of the marketing drive?
If you are unable to provide an exact number (e.g. sales figure, etc.) for confidentiality reasons, consider using percentages instead. For instance, “I’ve helped to increase sales figure by 30%”. It is also a good idea to contextualise your achievements by mentioning the timeframe, such as “I achieved the monthly target sales within three weeks into the job.”
- Customer-facing and interpersonal skills
As an employee in this industry, you can expect to be serving and interacting with customers from all walks of life. For this reason, good customer-facing and interpersonal skills are immensely important, and can determine how well you are at your job.
In your CV, select and include examples where you assisted customers in solving their enquiries, or where you worked with colleagues or acquaintances to achieve a goal. When sharing, be sure to:
- Contextualise the situation
Briefly mention specifics to help your recruiters understand the situation that you are facing (e.g. the obstacles faced, etc.) and how you employed excellent interpersonal skills to help the customers. For instance, how did you cater to the needs of an irate customer and help rebuild his/her trust in your organisation? Did you work with a new colleague on a project?
- Include extra mile efforts
Often, employees with good customer-facing are willing to go the extra mile for their customers or colleagues. It’s a good idea to bring up these efforts and how it has impacted your relationships with colleagues or customers.
- Share testimonies
If you have been praised by your supervisors or colleagues for your ability to build and cultivate relationships, do mention it – if not in your CV, then in your interviews.
While many graduate schemes at retail banks often start accepting applications in August or September, it’s advisable for you to constantly check on the websites of individual employers to get a better idea of their recruitment cycle.
Whatever their closing dates are, do start your research and application drive early instead of leaving it to the last minute. This is because some employers process the applications as they come in, and might change the closing date/close earlier if they receive too many submissions.
What’s after submission
If your application is accepted, you can expect to encounter several stages of interviews and assessments such as the following:
- Online application
- Psychometric tests
- Interviews (telephone, face-to-face, panel, etc.)
- Assessment centres
Aside from making your own preparations for each stage – e.g. practising with career advisors, etc. – you should also check the employer’s website for advice and guidelines as most will provide details about their individual recruitment and selection processes.
Busting Financial and Banking Jargons: Part 2
Here’s more to expand your vocabulary of jargons and how to use them correctly.
We’ve introduced some key technical terms used in the financial services and banking sector in Part 1 of this article. Here’s more to expand your vocabulary of jargons and how to use them correctly.
Middle office (n.)
What is it?
This is the area or function of a bank that does not generate profit, but instead supports the front office in financial and legal matters[CT3] . In essence, they are responsible in managing risk and ensuring that transactions are executed correctly.
Treasury is part of the middle office, alongside Legal and Risk Management.
What is it?
The practice of outsourcing work to companies to another country but with the benefits of a closer offshore location.
Nearshoring to Indonesia is a better solution than offshoring to China because of the country’s proximity to Singapore which makes contact easier and more efficient while also reducing running costs.
Opportunity Cost (n.)
What is it?
Refers to a benefit that a person could’ve received, but gave it up to take another course of action. In other words, it is an alternative given up when a decision is made.
When making big decisions like investing in treasury bonds for instance, clients will likely diligently research the pros and cons prior to making this financial decision to outline the potential opportunity costs.
Parallel Loan (n.)
What is it?
This one may be useful for graduates who are looking to join the international banking segment.
A parallel loan usually involves two parent companies taking loans from their respective national financial institutions and then lending the resulting funds to the other company’s subsidiary.
In a parallel loan, ABC, a Singaporean company, would borrow Singaporean dollars from a Singaporean bank. On the other hand, XYZ, a Malaysian company, would borrow Malaysian Ringgits from a Malaysian bank. ABC would then lend the Singaporean funds to XYZ’s Singaporean subsidiary and XYZ would lend the Malaysian Ringgits to ABC’s Malaysian subsidiary.
Quid Pro Quo
What is it?
A Latin phrase typically used in financial circles to describe a mutual agreement to exchange goods or services of roughly equivalent value. [CT10]
A soft dollar agreement is a quid pro quo agreement whereby Firm A uses Firm B for research. In return, Firm B executes all of Firm A’s trades as an exchange of services.[CT11]
What is it?
The legal right for the lender to collect the pledged collateral in the event that the borrower is unable to satisfy the debt obligation.
Recourse lending provides protection to financial institutions, as they’re assured to have some sort of repayment, either in cash or liquid assets.
Seed Capital (n.)
What is it?
The initial capital used to start a business that usually comes from the founders’ personal assets, or from their close ones with the aim of covering initial operating expenses and attracting venture capitalists.
Seed capital is needed to support the preliminary activities for the launch of XYZ company, such as market research, product research and development (R&D) and business plan development.
Turnkey Business (n.)
What is it?
A term to describe a business that is ready for immediate operation.
ABC is considered a turnkey business as it has a proven, successful business model that merely requires capital and labour.
What is it?
The process of determining whether to accept a risk and if so, what amount of insurance the company will write on the acceptable risk, and at what rate.[CT16]
Underwriting has helped insurance companies manage risks and to accurately price risk in order to adequately cover the true cost of insuring policyholders. If an applicant’s risk is deemed to be too high, underwriters may refuse to cover it.
Vulture Capitalist (n.)
What is it?
Not to be confused with venture capitalists, this kind of capitalists invest to exploit and profit from unsuccessful individuals or organisations that lack the resources to achieve success.
Vulture capitalists have purchased controlling interest in the troubled company and used its own assets as collateral for the loan used to purchase it. The vulture capitalists then sold the company at a profit.
Yield Building (v.)
What is it?
The illegal practice of underwriters [CT19] (see No. 9) marking up the prices on bonds for the purpose of reducing the yield on the bond.
Yield burning was attempted to reduce the amount of tax that was incurred on fixed-income investments.
What is it?
A term used in Islamic finance to refer to the mandatory process for Muslims to donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes.
Examples of wealth liable for Zakat include gold and silver, paper currency held in cash or in the bank, tradable assets owned by your business as well as crops and herded animals.
Busting Financial and Banking Jargons: Part 1
Here’s Part 1 of gradsingapore’s A-Z jargon guide for graduates to understand key terms used in the financial services and banking industry.
A familiarity with technical terms can impress employers and colleagues alike, but it is important that you use them correctly. Here’s Part 1 of gradsingapore’s A-Z jargon guide for graduates to understand key terms used in the financial services and banking industry.
What is it?
The practice of making a profit from trading on two markets simultaneously. Such trades profit by exploiting price differences of similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms.
If the price of wheat in Indonesia is cheaper than in Singapore, you buy in Indonesia and simultaneously sell in Singapore – earning the difference.
Put in a financial context, for instance, the stock of company X is traded at $10 on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGE) while it is simultaneously trading on the Indonesian Stock Exchange (IDX) for $10.5. A trader could exploit this arbitrage by buying the stock on the SGE and immediately sell the same shares on the IDX.
Bear market (n.)
What is it?
If you’ve heard of the banking term bear, you can most likely guess what a bear market is. A bear market is any market where securities prices exhibit a declining trend for a prolonged period. Because bears attack by clawing down, this term is associated with a falling market.
The recession following the great Wall Street stock market crash in 1929 can be referred to as a bearish market. With investors struggling to get out of the market by selling their stocks, the market incurred huge losses which led to a sustained decline in the economy, known as the Great Depression.
What is it?
No, it’s not the coupon you redeem. In banking terms, it is the annual interest rate due on a debt product, such as a bond or a loan. Not quite as happy as the other kind of coupon to receive!
A $1,000 bond with a coupon of 5% pays $50 a year. Quite often, these interest payments will be semi-annual, whereby the investor will receive $25 twice a year.
What is it?
The amount of money an insured individual pays before the insurance kicks in.
Imagine your deductible is $500, and you incur medical expenses for $2000. You pay the $500, and your insurer pays the remaining $1500. However, if your entire medical bill is $500, you would pay the entire amount and your insurer will pay nothing.
Elevator Pitch (n.)
What is it?
A brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service or project. The speech is delivered in a short period of time – as short as an elevator ride which is usually about 20-60 seconds.
If you’re looking to market on why your product is worth investing in, you would want to use an elevator pitch to get straight to the point to capture the client’s attention.
Fixed Term (adj.)
What is it?
It is to describe an investment vehicle, usually in the form of a debt instrument, which has a fixed time period of investment. Fixed-term investment involves the investor parts with his or her money for a specified period of time and is later repaid his or her principal investment at the end of the investment period.
A term deposit is an example of a fixed-term investment where investors deposit their funds with a financial institution for a specified duration and they’re not allowed to withdraw those funds until the end of that duration.
What is it?
Ghosting is an illegal practice where in which market makers collectively attempt to influence the price of a stock. Corrupt companies do this so they can profit from the price movement.
A firm buys or sells large amount of a certain stock with a second firm doing the same causing a buy or sell frenzy. The two firms ghosting who are supposedly competitors can then profit as the market is unaware of their collusion.
What is it?
A honeypot is a security measure used in banking security to detect, prevent and dismantle cyber-attacks by luring the perpetrators to a specific area of a computer system.
What does honey have to do with this? The term is coined from the idea of a bear stealing honey from a honey pot, and honeypot is in turn used as a temptation for the bear.
Banks are laying traps for cybercriminals that are trying to hack into their information systems using honeypot software.
What is it?
A principle where the insurer seeks to place the insured in the same position after a loss as he or she occupied immediately before the loss.
The insurance company agrees to indemnify (used as a verb) the policyholder against any claim arising from a breach of professional duty.
Jointly and Severally (adv.)
What is it?
A legal term that describes the liability of a group of people bound together by an agreement, often in the context of a loan. In short, all parties to a contract are obligated to perform all of the actions required under contract, with any proportionality.
If a bank loans $500,000 to three people jointly and severally, then all three individuals are responsible for repaying the total amount of the loan to the bank.
Keep and Pay (n.)
What is it?
An allowance that lets a bankrupt individual keep an asset provided that he or she continues to make payments.
Keep and pay allows you not to have your home repossessed although the bank could liquidate the asset if necessary.
What is it?
The non-renewal or cessation of a privilege, right or policy as a result of inaction.
An insurance policy will lapse if the holder does not pay the premiums.
Click here for Part 2 of this article to decode more of the jargons used in this field.
Applying for a job in Financial Services: Your Survival Guide
Applying to work in the finance industry can be quite the undertaking, especially with how competitive the sector is, but it doesn’t always have to be stressful!
Like any other job applications, your application process to finance organisations need to be both well thought out and strategised, if not even more so because of the competitive nature of the industry’s employment landscape. A successful application typically takes a lot of time and thought, where you tailor your responses so that it promotes your available skills to match the needs of the hiring employer – so it’s a good idea to start early!
During your application process, you can expect to encounter a mix of tests and interview sessions, each of which are designed to help the employers better understand you as a candidate. Do be prepared for:
- Psychometric tests: Tests to determine a person’s capability in specific skill or area, e.g. numerical, logical reasoning, and verbal. It may also include personality tests and situational judgement tests.
- Technical tests: Tests to examine your technical or specialised, industry-related knowledge.
- Interview sessions: Meetings with recruiters to assess your job fit with the company’s values and needs. You might encounter a variety of interview types, e.g. panel interview, strengths-based interviews, etc.
- Assessment centre: A series of activities held over half a day or a full day to assess your skills. Activities could involve office tours, case studies, group discussions, and in-tray exercises.
Given that there’s so much to prepare for, how exactly should you strategise your job search without overtaxing yourself? Here are some approaches that you can take:
Be as selective as possible to focus your job search
While you are encouraged to apply to as many employers as possible, do not attempt to blitz 30 to 40 organisations with a generic résumé or cover letter within a short period of time. Instead, select ‘priority’ employees – organisations that you’re most interested in joining, ranging between 5 to 10 companies – and send personalised letters to each of them. It’s vital that you match your skills to their needs and indicate how you can contribute to the company’s growth.
This way, your job search becomes more focused, and you’ll be able to prepare more efficiently for the application process should your résumé gets accepted. After all, quality over quantity!
Learn to love careers events
Career events aren’t merely confined to just career fairs – it could also include employer events, open days, etc. These are great opportunities for you to meet and network with recruiters, and to find out more about employment prospects, requirements, working culture, etc.
It is also a good time for you to clarify concerns that you were unable to clear up from your research, such as mitigating circumstances and training opportunities. Depending on which event that you go to, you may also be able to speak to graduate employees about their journey so far and to make contacts that you can tap into for advice later on.
Always make it a point to do some research before you go for career events so that you have a general idea of the attendees at the event. This way, you’ll be able to pinpoint recruiters whom you absolutely must meet. It would be a good idea to prepare an elevator pitch and a list of potential questions as well to help you kickstart your conversation.
Get up close and personal with your diary
Put your planner/diary to good use and pen down all the events, training sessions, or other job-related deadlines into it so that you do not miss any amidst your other social and academic obligations. A good idea is to colour code your entries so that you can easily identify them at first glance. Alternatively, you can resort to mobile apps and online services such as Google Calendar to help you organise your schedule.
Take time also to prepare a master copy of a document containing the details your qualifications, work experience, and contact information, updating it as and when needed. Once prepared, you can then freely copy paste these details as templates to produce customised résumés for different employers, mixing and matching the details included.
If you’re submitting an online application form, make it a habit to print out a draft of your completed form and review it on paper before submitting it. Even better, get a second pair of eyes, such as your career advisor, to help you proofread and ensure that your responses are grammatically correct and appropriate. You can also consider filing/keeping soft copies of the forms for future references.
Technology is your friend
The financial services industry is constantly on the move, seeing new mergers, transactions, and developments on a daily basis – and it’s vital that you keep up to date with all the news. Not only that, you also need to be aware of the impact that the changes could have on individual employers, such as your potential employer and their competitors. Make use of technology to help you with this!
Follow relevant employers, job sites, and news sites on Facebook and Twitter so that you can receive constant updates and specific recruitment advice.
If you use Google often, then why not make use of Google Alerts to help you keep tab of news related to preferred employers or organisations. Alternatively, you can use RSS Readers such as Feedspot to help you check regularly for new information.
Use rate-and-review sites such as Glassdoor to help you get insights of the working culture of the company. However, be sure to also filter the comments with caution as some of them may be rants.
Get involved – and keep a record
Do not make university life all about studies! Instead, participate in extracurricular activities or societies that can help you develop your skills, especially competencies that are relevant to the finance industry. Build a list of the technical and soft skills that you’d like to develop so that you can keep track of your progress!
It’d also be a good idea to keep a basic record of all the activities or projects that you’ve done so that you can draw on them for examples when you’re asked competency-based questions at job interviews.
5 Unconventional Ways to Break into the Banking Industry
It’s not always about graduate schemes.
Impress recruiters by thinking out of the box and creating opportunities of your own.
With graduates from multiple disciplines looking for a place in banking graduate schemes, the competition to land one is becoming increasingly heated. If you are struggling to break into the banking industry via a graduate training scheme, you may want to consider alternative ways to get that dream graduate job of yours.
Here are some tips on how you can stand out from the rest of the applicants and impress recruiters with your persistence and your aptitude to be creative.
1. Set up a small business
Recruiters in the banking industry value students with entrepreneurial skills and a strong business acumen. It also gives you something original to talk about in your job application and in job interviews.
It’ll also allow you to highlight the skills you’ve learned and used in real-life situations. For instance, you can talk about how you’ve picked up numeracy and organisational skills through your experience with budgeting and planning when running the business.
Problem-solving skills which are highly sought after by recruiters can become your selling point as you are bound to encounter problems during your time as a businessperson. You can bring up concrete examples on how you’ve managed a crisis or solved a problem to your interviewers who will be all ears.
It doesn’t have to be a grand start-up, but you can always start with something small. You may want to consider setting up a small business while you’re still in university as you can take advantage of the resources and student societies there.
For example, you could do something as simple as starting your own film-screening club at a lecture hall (with the permission of the school authorities of course!) and charge students a small price for tickets. You can put up posters on campus or promote the club through social media – all points that you can mention during your job interview to impress your recruiters!
2. Look for internship and training opportunities outside banks
Instead of limiting yourself to graduate training schemes or internships in the banking industry, why not try looking into other sectors that are finance-related or offer finance-related roles?
The idea here is to get the experience that not only can be spun into sounding relevant but is genuinely useful for you to get into the banking or finance sector. You may think about marketing, sales or accounting-type roles in financial services companies such as PwC, Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte and KPMG (the Big Four firms).
Having a notable brand name of a finance firm on your CV can boost your chances of getting the graduate banking job you want, but make sure to contextualise your experience to the banking job you are applying for. The key thing to do is to demonstrate to your interviewers how the skills you’ve learned in your finance-related internship or training can be an added value to the bank.
3. Apply through network
The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough when it comes to opening doors in your career. It gives you the chance to learn from others who share similar interests and meet people with enough influence to either refer you to a job opening or to someone else who could. If you’re lucky, you may even meet the recruiters themselves!
You can start by using online platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find networking groups and events to join. If you are restricted by proximity, for instance, the event you want to attend is too far, you can always take the initiative to start one yourself within your locality. Your use of initiative will be appealing to employers and demonstrate that you’re genuinely committed to a career in banking.
When networking, you will need to make sure that you are mindful of your social etiquettes to best present yourself for a good impression. If walking into a room full of people makes your stomach flip, here’s a beginner’s guide on how to network at events for you before you enter the social minefield.
4. Try for a banking or finance placement abroad
A work placement at a bank or finance services company abroad can most definitely give you the edge you are looking for when applying for a graduate job in this sector. If you are bilingual or multilingual, you would make an attractive candidate to international employers.
A placement abroad often shows that you are adaptable, and able to communicate and work with a different culture. Employers will also see that you are confident and brave enough to step outside the comfort zone to explore opportunities. Additionally, you can polish you commercial awareness of global businesses by being exposed to them in real life, which is much better than learning about it over the Internet or textbooks.
Better yet, you’ll also able to build your own network of international contacts and expand your employment possiblities beyond that of just the country!
5. Find a mentor
This is something that networking (see point 3) can lead up to. Find yourself a mentor who is experienced in the banking or finance sector to guide you on how to break into the industry and provide you insights to the job that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
If you’re lucky, this mentor can put you in touch with the ‘right people’ or just give you the inside buzz about the industry that could help you get into the playing field. At the same time, a mentor doesn’t always have to be someone seasoned with many years of experience up their sleeves. He or she can be a trainee who can advise you on graduate application process and give you tips such as the questions recruiters asked during his or her interview.
However, do remember that banking and finance professionals are often quite busy, so you may not always get a response from them over online platforms like LinkedIn or emails. Hence, why it is just as important to step up your networking game at real-life events to cast a stronger and wider social net.
One important tip when approaching a potential mentor is to be honest about your intentions to learn from them. Most of the time, they will appreciate your candour more than an excessive butter-up. Make it clear that you’re looking for a mentor and email them now and again but also make sure not to flood their inbox.
Time to step up on your LinkedIn game and network away!