Financial Services in a Nutshell

The financial services sector is a section of the economy made up of firms and institutions that provide financial services to commercial and retail customers. Here’s what you need to know.
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Jevitha
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Financial Services in a Nutshell

About The Industry 

The financial services sector is comprised of a variety of employers including banks, finance regulatory bodies, insurance companies, and even non-financial employers such as real estate developers, consulting firms, or the government.

While monetary remuneration in financial services is typically not as high as those in the investment banking industry, they are still attractive. Working hours in this sector are also less demanding, allowing for a better work-life balance. 

The Malaysian capital market continued to support the economy in 2021, with steady growth recorded in the financial services sector. 

The financial services sector saw an increase in alternative financing for the year 2021. According to the Annual Report 2021 by the Securities Commission Malaysia, peer-to-peer financing increased to RM1.4 billion (2020: RM640.4 million) while the assets in the fund management industry increased to RM951.1 billion (2020: RM905.5 billion).

Must-have Skills 

Because there are many different roles and positions in the financial services sector, the necessary skills can vary. However, a genuine interest in client service, analytical ability, the willingness to work with numbers and a good understanding of industry technology is all you really need to make a good start.

According to a local market survey conducted by recruitment firm Hays in 2022, financial services employers are also increasingly favouring candidates with a mix of finance and technology skills. Specifically, they are looking out for expertise in IT systems and automation, implementation, or migration projects. So even if you’re a STEM graduate, there might be plenty of opportunities for you in this sector too.

Working in the financial services sector allows you to build transferable skills that will prepare you for managerial roles across different areas of work in the future. Many aspects of this industry are client-facing and service-oriented, so communication skills, problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills are also essential for a career in financial services.  

Getting In 

The financial services sector is generally open to graduates from a broad range of backgrounds. So even if you do not have a finance-related degree or relevant working experience, most employers will at least be willing to hire you as an intern to start off. Some employers will also offer structured on-the-job training to bring you up to speed with the necessary financial knowledge, on top of working on your soft skills. 

Some employers may also match you with a mentor or a senior ‘buddy’ to provide support and guidance and to help you make the most of your opportunities. That said, additional qualifications may be required to advance in certain areas of work within this sector (e.g. insurance, actuarial work, etc.). So it’s a good idea to check in advance if your prospective employer offers study leave for any mandatory certifications. 

Areas of Work 

If you’re interested in a career in financial services, there are various options you can consider during your job search. Here are some key paths: 


Retail banking

Retail bankers work in banks and other financial institutions, where they provide the public with financial advice and access to banking services such as savings and checking accounts, personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards. 

Insurance 

Insurance professionals help both individuals and companies hedge against financial risk by selling them financial products to safeguard their assets in the event of unexpected complications or disasters. 

Regulatory work

Financial regulations are all about maintaining trust in the economy by creating safe and fair financial services for all. You can either work as a consultant, advising clients on adapting and complying with existing and new regulations, or work for the government and play a role in supervising the implementation of such regulations.

Actuarial work 

Actuaries use mathematics and statistics to estimate the financial impact of uncertainty and help clients minimise exposure to risk. They do this by assessing the risks of financial investments, insurance policies, and other potentially risky ventures before advising stakeholders on how to mitigate those.