Overview: The financial services industry has some unique conventions regarding job titles. Awareness of these will help you evaluate job opportunities and your career progress.
Vice President: Most noteworthy is the liberal fashion with which financial services firms give employees the rank of Vice President. In other industries, this designation is reserved for a handful of the most senior executives. In a financial services firm, Vice President generally is an honorific earned by an individual, or an indicator of rank, rather than a descriptive attached to a specific position in the firm. Thus, you might get promoted to Vice President while staying in place, retaining your current job and responsibilities.
Because so many management employees eventually become Vice Presidents, there typically is a hierarchy within this broad category. For example, by the late 1990s Merrill Lynch had this menu of VP job titles for support staff, with the highest at the top:
Among the above, only the two varieties of Executive VP actually attached to specific jobs within the corporation. Director was introduced by Merrill Lynch in the late 1990s, as a way to single out certain VPs for special recognition while leaving them in place. By contrast, getting an upgrade to First VP usually required holding a job at a higher level in the organizational hierarchy. To complicate matters further, First VPs might have Directors or ordinary VPs as their peers on the organization chart.
An upgrade in job title may or may not bring an automatic increase in compensation, or in the potential for future increases. Benefits such as vacation time typically do indeed increase with such upgrades. The rules vary among employers.
Within the universe of producers there normally is an entirely separate hierarchy of Vice Presidents, with different criteria for admission and different benefits associated with each level. For example, financial advisors might be elevated to VP-Investments or First VP-Investments based on reaching specific quantifiable criteria related to the size and profitability of their client bases.
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