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Financial Careers - The Basics

What are financial careers all about? What do they encompass? Click here for an overview of the major career paths and employers.

Financial Careers Spotlight10

Where the Wealth Is

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I'll be appearing on "Secret Societies of Hollywood," an E! Channel series premiering tomorrow, Thursday April 17, at 8:00 PM EDT. In tomorrow's episode, "Deals and Dealers," I discuss my experiences with rich and famous clients during my days at Merrill Lynch.

Throughout my business career, both in financial services and in other industries, I've been astounded by how frequently senior managers harbor completely erroneous notions, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. While I was at Merrill Lynch, for instance, a key executive was fixated on luring Hollywood celebrities and pro sports stars as clients, insisting that this would be a highly lucrative market. He ignored copious internal intelligence that suggested just the opposite. Moreover, an influential book entitled The Millionaire Next Door offered observations much in line with what the internal analysts had uncovered: a surprisingly large trove of wealthy clients who resided in unfashionable Zip Codes and/or who pursued unglamorous lines of work. Meanwhile, amazingly few of the A-list celebrities we counted as clients had especially large accounts, or appeared to be adequately profitable.

Desperate to mine illusory opportunities in the celebrity market, this executive wasted countless staff hours on pursuing ill-advised deals with Hollywood accounting firms. Luckily for Merrill Lynch, the paltry financial assets on offer killed these initiatives. Unfortunately, he unwisely gave away the store in a deal with sports superagent Mark McCormack, founder and CEO of the mighty IMG agency. The deal proved to be a sinkhole for Merrill Lynch and a career killer for the executive.

Whether the wealthiest clients are indeed the best and most profitable financial services clients is another question, for another day. The point here is that finding clients with large sums to invest often requires looking in unexpected places. This is a lesson both for business strategists and for financial practitioners.

The Millionaire Next Door was an enormously useful and instructive book from the standpoint of my financial services career. Please feel free to visit my forum and share your own recommendations on books or websites that can be helpful to someone pursuing a career in financial services.

Should You Take the Bloomberg Aptitude Test?

Monday April 14, 2014

The Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT) is gaining prominence as a means for young workforce entrants to get started in financial careers. Going beyond a mere resume enhancing credential, it is part of a larger process that matches students and recent graduates with employers in the financial field. Moreover, depending on the testing venue that you select, it can be free of charge. Follow the link for full details.

There are no guarantees, of course, that taking the BAT and registering for its associated job matching service will get you started in a financial career. Nonetheless, given the competitiveness of the current job market, it is a low risk (no risk if you avail yourself of one of the free options for taking the test) option to consider. More and more leading colleges and universities are promoting it to their students in business and finance.

Managing Wealth

Thursday April 10, 2014

Much of the financial services industry fancies itself as being in the wealth management business and market, focusing on serving the upper crust of investors. A subset of these are so-called accredited investors or qualified investors, those deemed sophisticated enough by law or regulation to make certain high risk investments typically denied to the general public. Follow the links for some core concepts in the field.

The real question is whether this is the appropriate strategic focus. As leading financial firms trip over themselves in trying to entice the clients from the same limited pool of the very wealthy, are they making a big mistake? Are these really the most profitable and desirable clients?

Extras for Clients

Monday April 7, 2014

According to various surveys, growing numbers of clients appear to be disenchanted with their investment firms and investment advisors. One way that firms and advisors are responding is through the aggressive offering of client perks that may attract some new business and solidify existing relationships.

Curiously, though, the same firms often are cutting back on established loyalty programs, such as rewards points on the credit and debit cards that they issue to the same client base. While Morgan Stanley has followed this trend, its Morgan Stanley Reserved loyalty program nonetheless stands out as a fairly robust example. Follow the link for details.

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