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Financial services employment provides promising outlook

If statistics align themselves with workplace realities, college graduates should find ample opportunities for employment — and the building of a career path — in the financial services industry in the next few years.

“The financial services sector should play a key role in creating jobs in the U.S. economy over the coming decade,” said American Bankers Association (ABA) senior economist Keith Leggett, following the release of an ABA and ABA Banking Journal study on employment trends earlier this year. “With investments in expanding bank branch networks — along with Internet banking, 24-hour call centers and consolidation — banks will need to attract and retain qualified employees to meet their customers’ financial needs.”

The economist’s remarks are reinforced in statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which predict that employment in the financial services sector will grow by 12.3%, adding almost one million additional jobs between 2002 and 2012.

Strong growth expected

According to its analysis, the BLS expects strong job growth for the following financial services positions: financial analysts; personal financial advisors; securities/financial services sales; computer software engineers and analysts; and marketing/sales managers.

Employment opportunities in the banking industry are shifting, as banks of all sizes offer a broader range of financial services. While many of the projected jobs increases stem from banks’ ability to sell more financial products, industry experts also say that the employment trend is also fueled by banks’ increased efforts to reach more people, whether through increased locations, expanded hours or by seeking out previously unbanked groups.

Figures provided by the ABA show that over the past decade, banks added 7,941 offices despite the growth of Internet banking, 24/7 call centers and the significant trend of consolidation within the industry. As banks continue to diversify and create niche markets, there is an increased need for people to service those products, according to an ABA spokesman.

From a community bank perspective, the ABA and ABA Banking Journal study found that compliance, trust and information technology officers will be the three most difficult positions to fill in the coming years. Rounding out the top five are business lenders and sales/business development managers. Additionally, insurance and investment sales employees will become a priority as more banks offer the services.

“Banks are offering more products and spending more on reaching out to their customers,” said Brenda Marlin, associate director of the ABA Marketing Network. “They will need creative and talented employees to compete in the current marketplace.”

At many banks, management development and management trainee programs have opened the door for career opportunities for more recent college graduates.

At Tupelo-based BancorpSouth, 12 individuals have been hired for the company’s management trainee system, according to W.O. Jones, BancorpSouth senior vice president and director of human resources. Jones said that the company seeks individuals with strong communication skills in addition to technical skills and fluency in computers.

On a broader scale, areas such as insurance, mortgage loans and branch banking continue to be opportunistic employment areas among others, he said.

Much of the same sentiment is underscored by Becky Vaughn-Furlow, Trustmark’s senior vice president and director of human resources. Furlow said that Trustmark has continued its management development associate program because it has yielded results. She said that the company recruits for graduates with undergraduate business degrees or MBAs with a minimum 3.0 GPA. She also stressed the importance of communication skills.

On a broader scale, she said that candidates with an outstanding math or accounting background who also have superior analytical skills are very attractive to the company.

In conclusion, the ABA had several suggestions for students seeking financial services employment.

First, they suggested that candidates make a point of meeting local bankers who are active members of their communities and can provide insight on the local market. Second, they suggested that candidates think about potential career paths. Since many banks promote from within, getting in on the ground floor can provide the entrée into a broader career opportunity.

Finally, once in the door, the employee should take advantage of all training and continuing education opportunities that the bank provides.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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