The dollars and cents of a career in Financial Services
Managing money is a universal skill that everyone needs, and if you’ve mastered that skill, you’re in demand in the job market. Not everyone getting into the field needs to become an accountant, though, since there’s more to managing money than simple math. There’s a social aspect, as you have to work with the people who need their money managed. Centennial College’s Financial Services program, managed by Tom Barker, helps give students those skills, while providing them with connections to a needed, lucrative career. Christopher Alcober was one of these students, and would use the skills and connections given to him by the program to secure a career at the Bank of Montreal.
A lucrative market
"Financial Services includes a wide range of opportunities, from banking to investment and portfolio management, commercial lending, compliance, insurance, risk management, financial analysis and financial planning," Tom says, explaining the career field. "Even when you enter a retail bank, you expect to be met by a competent financial professional who can help you with all of your financial needs. You may want a mortgage, a line of credit or a comprehensive plan with recommended investment funds comprising a strategically diversified, portfolio."
"Since the advent of ATMs, people don’t usually need to speak to anyone in a bank," Tom continues. "Unless they have a more complex need, and that’s where our graduates fit in, providing sophisticated, tailored solutions to individuals, families and businesses."
It’s a career that’s in demand, putting graduates in a good position to get hired. "Financial Services is a very robust industry," Tom says. "Everywhere you go, you see bank branches, investment dealers and insurance companies, and they all need thousands of qualified, eager employees." Christopher Alcober would become one of these people after attending Centennial’s program.
Christopher’s time in the Financial Services program would give him the talents he needed to succeed, including presentation skills, something he has to use at his current job, when he has to sit one-on-one with clients and families. "I’m able to confidently say I have a background in this, I know what I’m talking about, this’ll get you on the right path," he says.
Another important part of the program was the credentials he’d earn, since the Financial Services program lets students qualify for several important designations while in school.
"The most important thing was getting the qualifications necessary to get into my position," Christopher says. "Those were all things I couple put on my resume and say, I’m already qualified."
One of these qualifications was the Certified Financial Planner designation (CFP). "It’s a coveted designation," Tom Barker explains, "and through our courses you wind up completing about 95 per cent of the requirements for the CFP."
Another was the Canadian Securities Course, or CSC. “That’s what people need to take to become an investment advisor,”Tom says. “That’s something banks and financial institutions really want to see, that you’ve got the CSC. “
Finally, Christopher also attained the LLQP, or Life License Qualification program. "That one’s for insurance purposes, so I wouldn’t have my first position without that one," Christopher says. "You don’t realize it at the time, but that’s probably the most important one that I have, because that’s the baseline to become an advisor."
A contest and a career connection
Centennial did more for Christopher than just provide him with skills and qualifications. It also directly connected him to his first job, through a special contest the program entered. "My first opportunity within the financial service industry came with a large insurance and investment company," Christopher says. "My ability to get into there came from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning Competition (CIFPC)."
"They give you a case, they give you numbers, and they say, what can you do for me?" Christopher says of the competition. "They measure your ability to create a solid financial plan when it comes down to the numbers, and how you convey that message to them."
"I was on Tom Barker’s team when we competed there, and through there we were able to meet employers," Christopher continues. "We were able to win that competition, and some of the employers approached us." They brought him on board while he was still in school, giving him hands-on industry experience, and connecting him to his current job.
On the job
Christopher currently works at BMO as a financial services manager. "I handle investments, mutual funds and GICs," he says of his work. "I also handle everyday banking, checking accounts, savings accounts, loans and mortgages, personalized credit, making sure you get the house you want."
It’s the client interaction that Christopher likes best. "I had an older lady client," he says as an example, "who couldn’t leave the house because she was basically immobile, but needed a lot of work on her account. So I said I know you don’t live too far from here, let me come to your house, I’ll help you out." She’s still in touch with him today, thankful for the assistance he gave her. "When you’re able to do something for them, you can really change their life," he adds.
"Stay open to opportunity," he says to those who’d like his career. "For example, the competition I participated in with my colleagues, every single one of us on that winning team is in the industry. So’s the second and third place teams. I still stay friends with all of them. Make sure you’re engaged, and actively participating in all the opportunities the college presents to you."
By Anthony Geremia