Despite uncertainty over how Brexit may affect the rules surrounding corporate tax and VAT, there remains a strong demand for skilled and qualified workers to enter the finance profession

What areas of finance can I work in?

Employment opportunities in this sector can be grouped into:

  • Accountancy and finance - This covers employees in audit, tax and accountancy businesses, as well as those performing financial functions in the relevant departments (for example, treasury) of other businesses or not-for-profit organisations.
  • Banking and building societies - The sector's biggest employers, these enable individuals and businesses to manage their money and access products such as loans, mortgages and insurance.
  • Financial planning - Jobs in this area focus on the provision of advisory services, and supporting people and organisations looking to plan their financial futures.
  • Insurance - Employees in this area work closely with other professionals, including doctors, lawyers and fire officers, to gather evidence, assess risk and resolve claims against insurance policies.
  • Investments and pensions - Employees research the likely performance of funds and look to mitigate financial risk and liability for their clients, with the key functions of investment companies including performance measurement, investment support, risk assessment, data management, and trading and stockbroking.

For examples of specific job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in accountancy and finance.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The 'big four' accountancy and professional services firms are:

  • Deloitte;
  • EY;
  • KPMG;
  • PwC.

Many well-known high street brands can be found among the UK's retail banks and building societies, including:

  • Barclays;
  • HSBC;
  • Lloyds Banking Group;
  • Nationwide Building Society;
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

In investment banking, large companies that employ graduates include:

  • Barclays Investment Bank;
  • Deutsche Bank;
  • JPMorgan;
  • Morgan Stanley;
  • The Goldman Sachs Group.

The main UK insurers are:

  • Aviva;
  • AXA;
  • Legal & General;
  • Liverpool Victoria (LV=);
  • Prudential;
  • RSA Group;
  • Standard Life.

Many of the largest financial companies are multinational and offer some of the most generous starting salaries for graduates (see below). There may be opportunities to work overseas - although job requirements for these posts sometimes involve additional language skills.

In the UK, there are a greater number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than large companies, with small businesses often enabling graduates to get a foot in the door through work experience. While recruitment, selection and training may not be as formal, you'll get a good insight into working in the finance sector. Indeed, SMEs may also provide support for professional training and development, and are likely to offer a more varied experience.

Graduate jobs in accountancy exist within charities and not-for-profit organisations, but the majority of opportunities in this sector are in profit-generating businesses.

What's it like working in the finance sector?

Graduates working in accountancy, banking and finance professions can expect:

  • to work long hours in a fast-paced and high-pressure office environment;
  • starting salaries of £16,000 to £42,000 in accounting and professional services, £27,000 to £50,000 in banking and finance, and £35,000 to £56,000 in investment banking (High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2016);
  • salaries to increase rapidly if you gain professional qualifications;
  • substantial bonuses;
  • good opportunities for progression;
  • further employee benefits, such as joining-up bonuses, private healthcare, pension plans and sports club membership.

For more information about typical salaries and working conditions, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the finance sector?

TheCityUK's 2016 report UK financial and related professional services (FRPS): meeting the challenges and delivering opportunities reveals that the nation hosts more company headquarters and exports more services than anywhere else in the world. The sector is also a key driver of the UK economy, accounting for 12% of its output as well as employing 2.2million people.

While banking and finance employers are expected to recruit more graduates than ever, according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2016, threats to industry growth come in the form of skills shortages, off-shoring and automation.

The industry may have recovered from the banking crash and the subsequent recession, but Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) has highlighted the uncertainty and potential future challenges that are faced by the sector. On the other hand, Brexit may create new opportunities.

The professional services are bigger employers than the financial services, but the reach of both strands extends far beyond London. In fact, two-thirds of jobs in the financial and professional services are located elsewhere in the country, with hotspots including Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. However, you'll need to ensure that you have the necessary financial qualifications for the profession that you're applying for.

The essential guide to the sector


Accountancy, banking and finance digital magazine

Gain an insight into the accountancy, banking and finance sector, explore graduate careers, learn about pensions and wealth management, and discover what professional qualifications you'll need to be successful.