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How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-07-2006, 11:18 PM   #1
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How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I'm 24, just started a new job with the financial services segment of my employer (a large multinational). Prior to this, I spent 2 years right out of college with their industrial segment working on a variety of finance/accounting type roles...reviewing revenues and margin, forecasting performance, reconciling the balance sheet, that sort of thing.

The new job I just started with the financial services segment is similar in that I am preparing budgets, monitoring performance, and other special projects as assigned (although this is all for leases and loans, versus industrial equipment in the past). Although I like this segment a lot better than the last one, the particular role I'm in is not very exciting, I feel like I am not very close to the "action" and a lot of the financial reporting I have to do is the result of misguided requests from corporate, not reporting that actually helps run the business. I really like working in excel and dealing with quantitative processes, but I want my efforts to have an impact on the business - right now I feel like I am mainly just a beancounter/accountant rather than part of the operations.

My question to the board is - how difficult will it be for me to jump from my current role to one in credit analysis/risk management or underwriting from where I am now, once I have a year or two of experience? I am debating whether it is worth putting up with my current job for a year or two in the hopes of making a switch within the company (which I am pretty happy with overall), versus starting to look for an opportunity in one of those functions outside the company.

Another wrinkle is the possibility of doing a part-time MBA starting next year, with my employer picking up the bill ($70k over 2 years). It would be at a top 50 school but not a top 10 school. Would I be better served by going to a full-time MBA program at the same school (I have no desire to relocate to an ivy, even if I could get in) given the lost wages and tuition is another $70k? I'm not looking to change functions because I expect a much bigger payday, I just think the work is more interesting. I have a hard time justifying the "investment" in a full-time MBA from a financial perspective. Will getting the part-time MBA help me move within the financial services industry?
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-08-2006, 07:33 AM   #2
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I can't help you on the moving question, but on the MBA program, it would be foolish to go for a program on your own dime if your employer is willing to pick up the tab. There is no way the pedigree would pay you back the $200k hole you would be starting out in.

If you really want to stand out, pursue a professional designation in addtion to the MBA. But I would concentrate on the MBA first.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-08-2006, 09:47 AM   #3
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I can't speak about the MBA, because I don't have one and I don't see the advantage (for me) from where I am now

As for movement within the industry. I will say this.

Right out of college I went into what is now called "Wealth Management" . Despite my good grades in college I was pretty much locked out of the I-Banking and Analyst positions because I didn't go to a top tier school.

The problem you will find is that the longer you have been at your job, the more they will want you to specialize. The more you specialize, the harder it will be for you to move. From personal experience I have found that despite a couple designations (CFA and CPA) getting an MBA will be the only thing that would really allow me to start over into a different field within finance. (not that I want to right now)

As always, try and get around, see what you like. Despite it probably having the lowest prestige factor I've found my comfort zone in wealth management. I'll never pull down a seven figure bonus, or make the front page of the WSJ. However I do make a more than decent living, and get to go home while it's light out most nights which has an increasing appeal to me the older I get.

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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-08-2006, 12:07 PM   #4
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

saluki's reply interested me because I was going to say that in the finance world, a CFA would probably get you farther than an MBA. It even helped get me a promotion in my government job!

I'd definitely do the MBA on their dime if you choose to go that route.

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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-08-2006, 01:45 PM   #5
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I may as well make the fourth CFA holder to respond.* At 24 I wouldn't worry too much about being stuck in one position.* If you show skill and good judgement in your job you will be valued and have more interesting assignments that have more impact on the business.* You superiors likely just need to grow to trust you.* If you are paid 67m/y in a low cost area at 24 years old they likely expect your responsibilities to grow over time.

Business school on the employer's dime in the mean time is not a bad idea.* If CFA or another accreditation is respected at your firm go for it.* If not skip it unless you are looking to move on.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-08-2006, 02:14 PM   #6
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I guess the real question is, am I willing to put up with this job (which I increasingly dislike after only a month onboard) for a year or two or do I start looking for greener pastures now. Of course, I could go somewhere else and find that it has different problems...the devil you know and all that.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-09-2006, 03:37 PM   #7
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

soupcxan, I feel your pain. I have managed both a career transition within the financial services sector and a part-time MBA, so hopefully I can offer some insight.

First, it is hard, but certainly not impossible, to transition to an unrelated job within financial services. But unless your current work experience is in some way related to the job you hope to do, I'd start trying to make a move sooner rather than later. Many areas in financial services are highly specialized so additional experience in an unrelated area may not help, and could hinder, your transition. In extreme cases you may have to start over again in entry level type positions to gain the relevant experience . . . not only does this become harder to do the further along you are in your current career (and salary advancement), but prospective employers also become less willing to consider older candidates for more junior positions.

An MBA can be a great way to make a career change! I'll offer some unconventional advice, however, in suggesting that the full-time program may be the better choice especially if you are looking to move into a specialty unrelated to your current work experience. All quality MBA programs offer internship programs, networking opportunities, and career placement services that are specifically (and sometimes exclusively) targeted to the full-time student. In my field I've found that many entry-level MBA jobs are filled by the folks who proved themselves as outstanding summer interns . . . it's tough for your resume to compete with someone who's spent 3 months on the job showing what they can do.

Other things to consider that are frequently overlooked: Going to work full-time and class at night is hard! More so if you have a demanding job. My part-time program took 4-years to complete - including taking classes over the summer. All during that time I felt that I was short-changing both my employer and my education . . . there simply isn't time to give 100% to both. My friends that went full-time finished two years earlier then I did and were able to begin their preferred careers that much earlier. I, however, was still trying to transition careers but was locked into the narrow set of employers who would both pay for tuition and allow the flexibility to accommodate night classes.

Another intangible is the last-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a full-time student again. While I was toiling away day and night seven days a week, my full-time classmates were backpacking across Europe and partying like . . . college kids.

I'm not sure I would go the part-time route again if I had a chance to do it over. Although I graduated without any student loans, I can't say with any certainty that after a decade I'm better off financially then my friends who went full-time. So were the initial savings worth it? In my case, probably not.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-09-2006, 05:20 PM   #8
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

I'll second the partying aspect in full-time program. Just as I was heading out the door last night, I got dragged to yet another party. Damn. Life is hard.

In all seriousness, I wouldn't want to do a part time program ever again. Everybody yells at you because nobody thinks you're doing 100% at anything. You yawn at a meeting, and people automatically assume that you partied too hard the night before even though you have told them numerous times that you're going to school.

In my case, I also had an asshole boss who demanded "seriousness" all the time which didn't make life any easier. Now I realize that he's one of those technocrats who has never met a constipated expression that he didn't like.

Going full time was what I should have done right from the start. As it stands, I wasted a year and several thousand dollars pursuing a part-time program. It hasn't been a complete waste. Compared to my classmates who came into my current intensive one-year MBA program untrained in any business discipline, I'm having a much easier time.

I do wonder what my chances are at getting an associate-level position. I'm putting in all the key words that hint 1) I'm unmarried, 2) I'm able to relocate at the drop of a dime, and 3) I'm kind of a nut job when it comes to work. Some banks have generalist training programs specifically designed for former techies, so I'm targeting those. Ah, the indignity of work never ends.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-10-2006, 08:51 PM   #9
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

Interesting thoughts all. Having thought about it, I am leaning towards the full-time option. No question that it is more expensive, but I think I could find some ways to cut living costs while I was back in school, plus I could find some part-time employment to help cover my expenses. The stress level of my current crappy job plus a part-time program seems like a lot - the one thing that keeps me going during the week right now is my free time on the weekends, and I'd have to give that up for the part-time MBA. I think I could do the part-time if I was comfortable in my current job (and if the hourly demands were lower), but that's not the case. Plus, with the part-time program I would come out with two years of experience in a field that is not directly related to what I want to do. So what good is that?

Though it's not like I'm in a rush...still have several months to decide.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-10-2006, 09:25 PM   #10
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

You should certainly pursue additional qualifications. Sounds like you need an MBA and an accountancy designation.

The simplest and cheapest option is to take advantage of your employer's offer and do the part time MBA at a top 50 B-school. However, you need to consider (1) how long you will be obliged to stay with this organization if they pay your tuition; (2) whether you will have the opportunity to select a B-school with credibility in the financial sector; (3) whether you can handle the opportunity cost of not working for 2 years (What's your current net worth? How much debt do you have now? How much more can you handle?).

My understanding is that where you get your MBA has little influence on your future career, with the exception of a few high rollers in the financial sector. But you need to take some care in the selection.

One thing that you can do now is to develop financial scenarios that include your debt repayment schedule and anticipated salary after your MBA. Determine the NPV of several different scenarios, including the possibility that you don't earn much more immediately after your degree. Finances should not be the only factor in your decision, but they are an important one.
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-10-2006, 10:26 PM   #11
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

The way I see it, there are three options:

1) Stay in current sucky job, start part-time mba in January 07, put up with stress for 2 years and then try to take the degree elsewhere. This is clearly the best from a financial perspective.

2) Stay in job until August 07, then leave for full-time mba.

3) Stay in job until mid-2007, then leave for another employer in a more interesting field. Hopefully get a better job (more interesting/fewer hours), then I could start targeting the part-time MBA to start in January 08. Even if I had to pay for it myself, it would still be cheaper than option #2 because I wouldn't miss the wages.

Is there something to be said for #3?
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?
Old 09-11-2006, 08:11 PM   #12
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Re: How hard to switch functions within financial services?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soupcxan
Is there something to be said for #3?
Sure. But the "hopefully get a better job" part will be the deciding factor, which is one that is not the slightest bit within your control.
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