On Feburary 23, 2022, at 8:30 PM EST, AAIA Youth hosted an online seminar to help students with the job searching process in the finance industry. Campus advisor of RBC, Alex Gao, shared information on the banking industry, his experience with assisting students in transitioning from school to a professional work environment, and provided tips for students on networking and interviewing.
Introduction of Common Departments in a Large Banking Institution
In general, there is the division of front office, middle office and back office in a banking institution. As shown in this image, the purple circles represent positions that are categorized as in the front office. It is mostly focused on retail, where sales roles and management roles can be found. Some common services the front office provides include insurance, retail banking, and wealth management. It is mostly client facing. The orange and blue circles represent positions in the middle office, where it deals with more services involving analysis and calculations such as compliance, accounting and risk management. Some fields they work in are corporate banking and institutional security. Some roles in the middle office include portfolio manager and trader, people who generally tailor to the needs of the client and control risks in their investments. Last but not least, the teal coloured circles represent the back office, where it focuses on maintaining the online banking system and ensuring smooth operation and security of the institution.
It is the most convenient place to start for students looking for their first job in a financial institution. It usually deals with personal or small business matters. Some of the areas one works in the front office are: retail banking, private banking, commercial banking, wealth management, and people management.
Retail banking, also known as consumer banking or personal banking, is a service provided by banks to the general public. Retail bankers work with regular people rather than corporations. Students in retail banking generally progress from being a banker to a manager, to a financial advisor, to a financial planner. A financial planner focuses exclusively on investments.
The private banking sector consists of banking, investment, and other financial services that are provided primarily to high-net-worth individuals. To qualify for the services, the client must have a certain amount of income. It requires more experience to be a private banker than a retail banker.
Commercial banking is on a larger scale than retail banking and private banking. Large corporations are the main focus of this type of banking. The employees must be highly skilled in credit management and have strong interpersonal skills. As this role is based on experience, 3-5 years of experience will not suffice. Commercial bankers often handle the finances of Coca Cola and other large companies.
Wealth management involves providing services to a wide range of clients, ranging from affluent to high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) people. Wealth planning is the process of structuring and planning wealth to help grow, preserve, and protect wealth. The requirements are more extensive than in private banking. For students who wish to enter the wealth management sector, the typical career path is to begin as a wealth management associate, then advise clients as an associate advisor, and eventually build up a client portfolio as an investment advisor. It typically takes 10 to 20 years to build up a portfolio of booked clients by this method.
People managers, as their title suggests, manage people. They include branch managers, human resources officers, recruiters, and national office managers. They act as the bridge of communication between employees and also ensure front office and back office operate smoothly
As previously mentioned, the middle office manages risk and calculates profits and losses for investments. Credit/risk management, finance/accounting/compliance, portfolio management, and IT are a few examples of departments within the middle office.
The risk management department develops and executes plans to mitigate potential losses. Programming is a major component of this job. The employee must possess solid technical financial expertise and basic coding skills, such as knowing how to use the C and SQL languages. The majority of jobs in this department require a Master’s degree or extensive experience in risk management. Some example roles are analyst or coding developer.
Finance / Accounting / Compliance
Working for large corporations is often part of this role. For instance, helping large corporations create their annual accounting reports. Financial compliance refers to the regulation and enforcement of laws and rules in finance and the capital markets. Compliance officers ensure that financial regulations are maintained and followed. Some examples of roles in this field are financial analyst and accountant. There are generally a very small number of accountant postings.
Management of a portfolio involves selecting investments that meet the long-term financial goals and risk tolerance of investors. The portfolio manager selects when to sell and when to buy. He or she is also responsible for analyzing the portfolio. Students are unlikely to get a job as a portfolio manager right away since it requires experience, which usually is at least a Master’s degree. A typical student role in this field would be a junior portfolio analyst. In this role, they would work with a team of people to analyze portfolios and make suggestions to the Vice President.
Research / Business / Equity / Lending
This covers a wide field. A bank offers a variety of products, such as credit, mortgage, investment, loans, accounts, and fees. Each product will need its own research, business, equity, and lending team to make sure that the benefits are maximized and determine product pricing. Strong technical skills are required, such as knowing Excel, VBA, PowerBA, Tableau, and programming languages such as R and SQL.
Back office professionals handle settlements, ensuring that payments are processed for trades. Human resources also falls under this category, making sure bankers get paid, hired, or fired. They also have an IT department, making sure that the bank’s central systems are running correctly.
System & Payment Support / Operation / Marketing
This department is responsible for supporting infrastructure, including online and mobile banking, that involves technology. The person hired for this position will need some technical skills and debugging experience. It is because they will be responsible for developing and maintaining mobile apps and a bank website, as well as solving occasional technical issues. This department typically requires a thorough understanding of the bank’s inner workings and some technical experience.
Clearing / Settlements
This department is responsible for settling transactions between payers and payees and delivering faster payments either in real-time or on a deferred schedule. Jobs in this department typically do not have high standards, so students applying directly for this position may succeed. Changing from front office to this type of role is also acceptable.
RBC Work Culture
Alex also shared some perspective on the RBC work culture and some events RBC hosts for its employees to help with their career development.
Monthly Regional Career Development Coffee Chat
Internally, senior managers organized this meeting to help employees develop a clear career development plan. During the meetings, they share their own career advice and experience, giving employees a chance to ask them questions. The employees will also be encouraged to continue to connect with the managers after the session in order to maintain the relationship and continue mentorship.
Annual Manager Career Discussion
A performance review will be conducted by the direct manager at this event. As part of the conversation, the manager will find out what the employee’s career goals are and how they can assist in achieving them. The manager will also offer advice on how to achieve the goals.
Peer Shadowing Meeting
This is a worthwhile opportunity for someone looking to explore other career options. Attendees will be invited to a workshop where someone in the position they are considering will discuss their daily activities and answer some questions.
This is a company culture where managers encourage employees to change jobs approximately every 3-5 years. Management hopes that a person will explore different jobs every three years in the front office. After three years in a position, the manager will ask the individual to change jobs or offer a promotion. Typically, an employee uses the first year to develop skills, and the second year to become more efficient at work. The employee usually gets promoted after three years if they worked hard and received positive results in their previous two years of employment. It is easier to change jobs in the front office. It usually takes around 3 to 5 years to change jobs in middle and back offices, since they need more technical skills and expertise.
RBC On-Campus Purpose and Services
Alex also spoke about RBC On-Campus, which offers a special set of services to university students. As advisors and HR partners who serve as a point of contact for students, the On-Campus team provides an all-in-one solution. By providing them with financial information workshops, they increase students’ financial literacy. They also support students’ career development and personal development by hosting events and inviting recruiters to speak about their experience and answer questions. They also organize networking events with professionals from the financial industry. Students can also participate in mock interviews and resume review sessions to improve their resumes and interview skills. Additionally, they organize massages and scavenger hunts during exam week to help alleviate stress and help students relax. Last but not least, they promote social and cultural awareness, such as hosting cultural celebratory events.
RBC Career Development Resources
Additionally, Alex shared some career development resources for students looking to land their first job in a banking institution, provided by RBC.
Suggestion on Where to Start for Students
Alex listed some example entry level jobs for students from the front office, middle office, and the back office.
- front office – banking advisor;
- middle office – associate analyst;
- back office – operation officers. Students can also find jobs of interest by visiting the
- RBC internship webpage:https://jobs.rbc.com/ca/en/students-graduates
Alex advised applicants to always conduct enough research about the position they are applying for in order to know which specific requirements they are seeking in the position. Additionally, it is advisable to network with employees already at the company to get a referral, which will enhance the application.
Q & A Session
- What is your opinion on early career goals being more about exploration?
Everyone thinks differently and has different thinking patterns. Their environment is always changing. After studying accounting at university, I went on to various different careers, eventually becoming a campus advisor. I think having a variety of experiences is very important. Personally, I enjoy my job very much. In order for young people to decide their careers, it’s imperative that they discover their passion first. While in university, students should participate in different experiences, such as attending information sessions or reading books, to gain different experiences and determine what they really enjoy. When it comes to looking for a job, they should read the job description and understand what the requirements are. From there, they can arrange coffee chats with people in that role to learn more about their experiences in the field. Students can also seek advice from upper-year students who have previously worked in coops in that field. Building up both interpersonal and networking skills, as well as technical skills, is a long process. Having fulfilled all of these requirements, it is time to apply for the dream job.
- Long-term career goals: how to set up a successful career development plan?
As I mentioned before, make sure you learn more about yourself and explore different options to find your passion. A long-term plan should span one to three years, maximum five years. The reason for this is that in large corporations, things change rapidly, and you can never predict where you will end up. Then you need to know what skills you need for the job you want, including both technical skills and interpersonal skills. The technical skills related to the job may involve the need for a Master’s degree, certifications, or a strong background in programming. It is also important to always stay patient. It is often difficult to predict the future, but we must be prepared to welcome it by doing our best. In my position in the front office, I learn something new every day. You can continue learning at night to work towards your goal, whether it’s a certification or a technical course. Once you have learned these skills, apply continuously for the jobs you desire and be patient. The opportunity will come to you if you love what you do, are well prepared, and are patient.
- How to calm social anxiety at a networking event?
In my first role at RBC, I was a banking advisor. It was actually because I knocked on my manager’s door, introduced myself, and asked for job opportunities that I received this opportunity. I later applied and was hired. I think that networking is extremely helpful. You should attend social networking events in order to increase your chances of getting hired since 80% of all jobs are referred. I recommend having two to three coffee chats with a person more senior to you and in the role you want to be in. During these meetings I would suggest demonstrating your skills to them and trying to learn from their experiences. If they think you are a suitable fit, they will consider you. I recommend to all students to be proactive in their job search. If one of the reasons you are shying away is because you think your English is not fluent, do not worry and say what you have to say. People will only care about the content you speak. You can overcome your fear of public speaking if you have a specific goal in mind because you will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. In case you feel uncomfortable networking in a large group, you can always contact the person afterward for a one-on-one meeting. The conversation will be more private, and they will be able to better understand your individual needs.
Summary Advice from Alex
The most critical advice I would offer today is to be open to all opportunities at your disposal. Make the most of your time by constantly studying and developing yourself. You will need to develop good time-management skills in order to succeed. Additionally, networking is extremely helpful for building professional connections. Keep a positive attitude and be patient with yourself. You will do fantastically!