Industry


The financial services industry around employs thousands of people and is one of the most important sectors of the economy. In the US, the financial services sector represents over 20% of the market equity value of the the S&P 500.

Some of the main areas of activity in financial services are:

  • Investment Banking: banking services for companies and governments – including capital raising and buying and selling companies. This area of activity includes corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions (M&A)
  • Asset Management: managing money for a return on behalf of private customers, institutions or employees, through mutual funds, dedicated pension plan funds, private equity funds and hedge funds;
  • Sales & Trading: buying and selling stocks and bonds on behalf of clients or for a proprietary trading book. This area is often split into sales and trading of equity related products (incl. stocks), and sales and trading of fixed income products (incl. bonds);
  • Retail/Consumer Banking: banking services for private consumers - everything from savings and checking accounts to the provision of certain asset management services;
  • Securities Services: includes administering stock positions for asset managers, holding securities in custody, facilitating short selling by hedge funds;
  • Insurance Services: life insurance and products that can have an asset management element to them.


Larger financial services companies often play a role in more than one piece of the puzzle, and different firms emphasise different areas. Some of the firms that are active in these areas include:

  • Goldman Sachs: investment bank and asset manager, with a very strong presence in sales & trading and securities services. No retail presence other than dealing with high net worth individuals;
  • Fidelity Investments: one of the largest asset managers in the world;
  • Vanguard: one of the largest managers of index funds in the world. See also active versus passive management;
  • CitigroupInternational financial conglomerate with operations in consumer, corporate, investment banking and insurance: 
  • HSBCone of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world with 10,000 offices in 83 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa;
  • UBS: one of the largest asset managers in the world, with a retail presence in Switzerland mainly, and active in all of the other areas; 
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch: large commercial bank with Merrill Lynch as an integrated investment Bank like Goldman Sachs and active in most areas of banking: 


The firms differ in their strengths, focuses and also very importantly their cultures.

The financial services industry is characterised byinnovation. What a stock is, and how savers and users of capital interact, has and will always be largely the same; however, new products are also constantly being developed. For example, one of the largest new product areas in recent years is in the area of exchange traded funds or ETFs – funds that offer an exposure to a market or index, for example the S&P 500 in a tradable form that, effectively like a stock, that offer market exposure in a low cost manner (not unlike an index fund). Related to this is that the financial services industry is therefore also a great place to work for millions of people as it is fast-paced and performance oriented, and also offers good to great incomes for many.

Employers in the financial services area typically look for a number of characteristics in their employees:

  • A track record of success;
  • Motivation;
  • Willingness to work hard and perhaps travel;
  • Openness to new ideas;
  • A university degree – sometimes even advanced degrees.


Specific requirements and application details can all be found on the companies’ individual websites.