Financial service industry careers are some of the most dynamic and challenging available. Williams students thrive in these roles by applying their critical thinking skills, adaptability, strong work ethic, and curiosity. With plenty of resources available to develop technical skills, interested students should embrace the finance recruiting process and know their value-add as a Williams student.
Opportunities in finance are vast, from corporate banking to private equity and everything in between. If you’re considering investment banking, it’s best to get an early start, the application process begins as much as a year in advance, and junior-year internships are extremely important.
The term "financial services" is a big umbrella!
You will hear the terms "sell-side" and "buy-side." Sell-side refers primarily to the investment banking industry. It refers to a key function of the investment bank — namely, to help companies raise debt and equity capital and then sell those securities to investors such as mutual funds and hedge funds. The buy-side naturally refers to those institutional investors who buy the securities, including stocks, bonds, private equity, etc. One of the most straightforward definitions of "financial services" can be found on Investopedia, a website that we in the '68 Center for Career Exploration recommend for its ability to clearly explain financial terms and industry news.We strongly recommend reading the FORTE Guide to Finance, a free, easily downloadable industry overview.
Wall Street Prep does a great job breaking this down in the following visual graphic.
Corporate finance is the area of finance that deals with sources of funding, the capital structure of corporations, and the tools and analysis used to allocate financial resources. The primary goal of corporate finance is to maximize or increase shareholder value.
What to Read:
What to Watch:
Ephs in Corporate Finance on LinkedIn:
Financial Analyst, Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis at Google
Corporate Finance at Goldman Sachs
Corporate Finance and Strategy at Stripe
Investment Management is managing the assets (cash, investments, etc.) on behalf of clients. An asset management firm has dedicated portfolio managers as well as access to internal, detailed equity research reports which should give it an edge over investors controlling their own money. Private Equity Funds, Hedge Funds, and Mutual Funds are different types of investment management firms.
What to Read:
Books to Read:*
- Buffet (Shareholder letters, Lowenstein’s book, Cunningham)
- Graham (“Intelligent Investor”, Greenwald’s book)
- Greenblatt (“Stock Market Genius”, “Little Book”)
- Bogle (“Common Sense on Mutual Funds”)
- Fisher (“Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits”)
- Klarman (“Margin of Safety”)
- Lynch (“One Up on Wall Street,” “Beating the Street”)
*Recommended by Williams alumni in the field of Investment Management.
Ephs in Investment Management on LinkedIn:
Equity Analyst at Capital Group (Mutual Fund)
Fixed Income Analyst at Fidelity (Mutual Fund)
Analyst at Bridgewater Associates (Hedge Fund)
Analyst at Audax Capital (Private Equity)
Analyst at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (Wealth Management)
Investment banking deals primarily with the creation of capital for other companies, governments, and other entities. They underwrite new debt and equity securities for all types of corporations, aid in the sale of securities, and help to facilitate mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and broker trades for both institutions and private investors. They also help corporations, governments, and other groups plan and manage the financial aspects of large projects.*
*This definition was adapted from Investopedia.com.
What to Read:
Investment Banking: an industry overview, key functions, and top companies.
Raising Capital & Security Underwriting: Banks are middlemen between a company that wants to issue new securities and the buying public.
Mergers & Acquisitions: Banks advise buyers and sellers on business valuation, negotiation, pricing, and structuring of transactions.
Sales & Trading and Equity Research: Banks match up buyers and sellers as well as buy and sell securities out of their own accounts to facilitate the trading of securities.
Ephs in Investment Banking on LinkedIn
Investment Banking Analyst at J.P. Morgan (Bulge Bracket)
Investment Banking Analyst at Lazard (Boutique)
Investment Banking Analyst at UBS (Foreign Bulge Bracket)
Financial technology (Fintech) - At its core, fintech helps companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by using specialized software and algorithms used on computers and, increasingly, smartphones. Fintech, the word, is a combination of "financial technology"*
*adapted from Investopedia.com.
What to Read:
What is Financial Technology - FinTech (from Investopedia)
What is FinTech (from thestreet.com)
Ephs in FinTech on LinkedIn:
Project Manager at Visible Alpha
Implementation Analyst at FIS
Account Manager at Oracle
Manager, Data Centered Strategy at Cloudflare
Impact investing refers to investments made into companies, funds, or organizations to generate a social or environmental impact alongside financial returns.
What to Read:
- Impact Alpha
- Bloomberg's Good Business section
- Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Knowledge Center
- The Generation Foundation
- Stanford Social Innovation Review's Impact Investing section
What to Watch:
Examples of Jobs Held by Ephs in Impact Investing:
Analyst at Vital Capital Fund
Analyst at Triodos Investment Management
Quantitative traders use mathematical models to identify good opportunities to buy/ sell securities through high-frequency trading. This career requires hefty amounts of data analysis and coding, so top candidates are exceptionally skilled with numbers, logic, and programming. The interview process is also highly technical, focusing on mathematical puzzles or trading strategy simulations, which are somewhat different from traditional finance aspects. The nature of the work means that quant traders need strong risk management strategies and tolerance of failure, as bad trades can result in huge capital losses. Most quantitative traders work for market maker firms like Citadel Securities, Jane Street, Valkyrie, Akuna, etc., focusing on derivatives like options.
But trading isn't the only type of quant finance job. The website efinancialcareers.com does an excellent job showing the breadth of options. They note that "today, quantitative finance is a catch-all term covering numerous subfields. If you have a quantitative finance job, you might be working in any of the following areas:
- Computational Finance: Computational methods, including Monte Carlo, PDE, lattice, and other numerical methods with applications to financial modeling.
- Economics: Including micro- and macroeconomics, international economics, theory of the firm, labor economics, and other economic topics outside finance.
- General Finance: The development of general quantitative methodologies with applications in finance.
- Mathematical Finance. Mathematical and analytical finance methods include stochastic, probabilistic, functional analysis, algebraic, geometric, and other methods.
- Portfolio Management: Selecting and optimizing securities, capital allocation, investment strategies, and performance measurement.
- Pricing of Securities: The valuation and hedging of financial securities, their derivatives, and structured products.
- Risk Management: The measurement and management of financial risks in trading, banking, insurance, corporate and other applications.
- Statistical Finance: Statistical, econometric analysis with applications to financial markets and economic data.
- Trading and Market Microstructure: Looking at market microstructure, liquidity, exchange, and auction design, automated trading, agent-based modeling, and market-making."
What is Quant Trading (Investopedia)
What is Quant Trading (IMC)
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the finance industry, it's time to reflect on your own skills, interests, values, and even personality.
- What areas of finance interest you the most?
- What work energizes you?
- What roles are you curious about and would like to explore?
- What types of work fit you best?
- What kind of company do you want to work for? Consider the size of the organization, values, culture, etc.
Identify your strengths and the skills you may still need to develop. For additional insights, consider taking the StrengthsFinder. The strengths finder has a $20 fee, but eligible students can apply for the Career Access Fund to cover the cost.
Review your work values to align with work cultures.
It can also be helpful to consider your personality preferences when exploring your options. The 16 Personalities assessment and PrinciplesU both provide feedback on how you think, make decisions, work with others, and apply yourself. Both are free!
Make an appointment with the Business Advisor in the '68 Center for Career Exploration and continue reading for the next steps.
Working in finance requires quantitative skills as well as an ability to conduct research, analyze data, problem-solve, communicate, and work as part of a team in an often high-stress environment. To be most competitive for internships and full-time positions, it's also important to learn excel, financial analysis, and basic accounting. Below are resources to support your skill development.
WALL STREET OASIS - FINANCIAL MODELING COURSE & INTERVIEW GUIDES
This 13-course self-directed program teaches you the technical skills needed to ace your finance interviews, it is a $500 value, and it's FREE through our Williams subscription. Follow the directions below to access this resource.
- Use THIS LINK to access a short registration form from WSO, and be sure to use your Williams.edu email address. Non-Williams email addresses will not be accepted. Once you complete the form, you will receive a welcome email from WSO and can log into the WSO site. If you don't already have an account with WSO, you will be prompted to register for one using the Williams email address that you used on the form.
- Log into your WSO account.
- At the top of the screen, you must double click on "Courses" to access the subscription modules. It's important to remember this. If you click on the courses that appear when your mouse hovers over the courses section, you will be clicking on the ad for the course rather than the course.)
This is what you should see:
SUMMER BUSINESS PROGRAMS
- Harvard HBX CORe: The Language of Business
- Tuck Bridge Program
- Stanford Summer Institute for General Management
- University of Chicago Booth School Summer Business Scholars Program
- Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)
- Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO)
- Girls Who Invest
Margins, Williams Insight, and the Williams Finance Club are just some examples of finance-based student organizations at Williams. To demonstrate your interest in finance, leadership skills, and/or financial management skills, consider volunteering for a board position in one of the many student organizations at Williams. Some examples are Junior Advisor, Business Manager for The Williams Record, SAAC Board Member, or Treasure for Ultimate Frisbee.
WINTER STUDY COURSES & SPEC 21 INTERNSHIPS
A variety of skill-building courses and experiences are offered during Winter Study each year, including Spec. 11 (an immersive investment course with live funds) and Spec. 21 internships.
Networking (also called Informational Interviewing) is the equivalent of checking out a human library book. Through conversations with alumni and other industry professionals, you will clarify your interests, learn about the industry, write stronger application materials with the information you gain, and stand out in a highly competitive industry.
It takes time to build meaningful relationships and trust, so start early.
- The Wall Street Oasis Financial Modeling program has a fantastic module on networking in the finance industry.
- Use EphLink, the Alumni Database, and the Williams LinkedIn Portal, to identify alumni contacts.
- During your summer internships, grab a coffee with your coworkers to learn about their career journeys and perspectives.
Nervous or intimidated about talking to alumni? Watch this video: How to Reach Out and Talk to Alumni.
Unsure of how to approach informational interviews? Watch this video: How to Conduct Informational Interviews.
The recruiting seasons for finance are dependent on the type of organization. Investment banking hires students for junior year internships in the spring of their sophomore year. On the other hand, corporate finance can hire at any time of the year for internships or full-time job offers, with fall being the seasonal trend for larger companies. One thing is certain, it is best to start preparing early!
GET YOUR DOCUMENTS IN ORDER
Be sure to gear your resume and cover letters to both the finance industry and the specific employer. To ensure that your documents are as polished as they can be, have your documents critiqued by the business advisor in the '68 Center for Career Exploration.
Now is the time to ask your professors, supervisors, coaches, etc. for references.
RESEARCH AND COMPILE YOUR LIST OF TARGET EMPLOYERS
Update your Handshake profile with current career interests and experiences. Save preferred job search criteria to receive email notifications of any new opportunities that match your interests.
Take care of your brand. LinkedIn is a great tool to bring your resume and personal brand to life. Customize your LinkedIn experience by following companies and organizations that interest you. Put your best foot forward with a professional headshot and a bio that highlights your personality and passions.
Check the "careers" section of company websites.
Statistics say that 80% of jobs and internships are found through networking. Keep reaching out and tracking your conversations!
PARTICIPATE IN CAMPUS RECRUITING EVENTS
Career Meetups, Career Treks, and Employer Information Sessions offer a chance to build connections with employers and alumni while learning about the company and job opportunities. For details, keep a close eye on the Events section of Handshake.
The Wall Street Oasis program that we referred to earlier in this action plan, has a two-module interview prep course. We encourage you to complete the Behavior Interview course and the Technical Interview course.
- Fine-tune your elevator pitch—make sure it connects your skills and experiences to your goals.
Unsure of where to start? Watch: How to Introduce Yourself, a.k.a Your “Elevator Pitch”
- Prepare for interviews and practice mock interviews with a career advisor, alumni, or friends.
Check out alumni in your interest area in Ephlink- many have checked off "mock interviewing" as a topic they can assist with.
- Invest in Your Future: Interview Prep Sessions - Facilitated by Kris Holmes P'22, Partner at O'Connell Group - Author of Ignite Your Career. Learn the STAR technique and tips for video interviews - Sections one, two, three
Send thank-you notes to all your interviewers to highlight your enthusiasm and important points that you discussed to maintain relationships with your interviewers and organizations of interest.
Congratulations! Now take a deep breath and remember that you don't have to accept an offer on the spot unless it's your dream job, and that is your intention.
Employers typically give candidates two to three weeks to accept an internship or full-time offer, and sometimes that deadline can be extended.
Take this time to:
- Schedule an appointment with the Business career advisor to help understand your offer and strategize negotiation tactics, including extended acceptance deadlines.
- Reach out to the other firms that are still on your wish list to inquire about your status as a candidate. Let the recruiters know that you have an offer with an upcoming deadline. They may offer to speed up your interview timeline with their company.
For more information:
Watch Salary Negotiation (with Eph Alumni!)
Ignite your Career (negotiation tips from author and Eph parent)
Advocate For You: Smart Salary Negotiation for Women (alumni panel)
Check out this Salary Negotiation and Self Advocacy alumni presentation.
Review all offers carefully and follow up with questions to ensure that you can make a well-informed decision.
Once you accept an offer, gracefully notify other organizations to withdraw applications or decline offers.
Please notify the ‘68 Center for Career Development upon your acceptance and celebrate your outcome!