On A Whim

VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – Banking as a career

One of the most interesting calls till now in the VoiceTAP careers and colleges series was yesterday’s call on a career in the banking sector. Ambuj Chandna, Head (Western Zone) of ING Vysya Bank was the expert in call. He has over 16 years of banking experience and has previously worked with Citibank too. No wonder he was such well placed to answer queries succinctly!

Banking industry in a nutshell

This was by far the most interesting bit of the call, where Ambuj summed up the part so the baking industry and different career paths so lucidly. Banking industry can be divided in to the four distinct parts:

  1. Retail banking: This consists of credit cards, personal level loans, savings / current / fixed deposit account etc. It’s the face of banking which most of us get to see during our transactions with banks. High quantity but possibly low volume.
  2. Corporate ‘wholesale’ banking: Handling the banking needs of large corporate firms at various levels. There are certain types of customers which would fall on the borderline between retail customers and corporate customer who placed in either one of the categories depending from bank to bank for management purposes.
  3. Private banking: This involves giving investment advice and managing the portfolio of high value assets (i.e., people with net worth more than Rs 5 crore – in the Indian context). Customers at this level are given much more personalized care by the bank.
  4. Investment banking: Sometimes this is clubbed with corporate banking. It involves managing portfolios of big corporate firms, trading large volumes in the stock market, et al.

Another criteria of classification is according to functional areas in the banking setup. The major ones are sales / distribution, operations, and risk management; with smaller areas such as IT, HR, treasury, etc. The most common entry path is to do an MBA and then get into one of the first two main areas; the MBA route is a ‘safe’ option because it also leaves the chance to migrate to other industries. While those with just bachelor’s degrees (BBA / B.Comm) are not excluded from joining as such, the preferred route is to do a professional course like an MBA. If a candidate is sure that they want to go into a vertical like risk management then they have the option to do specialist programmes on that (which are not very easily available in India, but there are quite a few international certifications). Doing actuarial science or statistics for bachelor’s could also be a first step towards moving into the risk management vertical. Candidates aspiring for private banking are could do courses in chartered financial accountancy – again, a course which is more easily available abroad than in India.

Typical career paths are different for different functional backgrounds. If you get into sales, then you’ll start of as a customer relation manager, work in that role for few years and then move on roles of team manager, branch manager, cluster manager and so on. Alternatively, your title might remain the same but you could grow in terms of the affluence of the client you’re dealing with, so you could move from mass market retail banking to private banking for affluent customers. On the other hand, those who get into the operations side of the business move from being a process analyst to senior process analyst and eventually to head of operations.

Those aspiring to rise to higher managerial levels are advised to work in both sales and operations, as a premium is placed on those who have done both. Sales is more valued out of the two, so even though you might not have hands-on experience in operations you can still rise.

Private banking sector prefers to take in freshers with a professional degrees (like MBA) or ones with certifications. It’s best to start off with this as a career because banking it’s difficult to switch in to banking later on in career. Public sector banks on the other hand have no such preference for professional degrees. They take in plain graduates through exams they conduct and then train them on the job. Hiring over the past year has been slow due to recession in both public and private sector banks, but this is expected to rectify soon.

Bottom Line

If you have a knack for numbers (being good at mathematics is essential) then banking is an exciting – and potentially windfalling – career for you.

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