Financial services are a huge industry that includes everything from banks and credit unions to insurance agencies and investment portfolio managers. The field offers a variety of career paths, from entry-level positions to advanced management roles. A degree is often necessary for moving up the career ladder, but a successful career in financial services also relies on interpersonal skills and connections.
Banks offer a wide range of services, from checking and savings accounts to mortgages and auto loans. They also serve as deposit brokers, allowing customers to purchase stock and mutual funds through them. Credit cards are another product of the financial services industry, with global payment providers such as Visa and Mastercard offering a number of card networks that enable merchants to accept credit and debit payments from consumers in exchange for a percentage of each transaction.
The financial services industry also encompasses insurance companies that sell policies like life and automobile coverage to individuals and businesses. These insurance agents and underwriters perform a vital service to society by helping people and businesses plan for the unexpected and provide reassurance that assets are protected against loss.
Financial institutions act as intermediaries between savers and borrowers, collecting funds from those with extra money to invest and then lending those funds to those who need the capital for various reasons, including starting businesses or buying homes. This process requires a great deal of regulation to prevent abuse and maintain transparency between the parties. Regulatory bodies are an important part of the financial services industry, with independent agencies designated to oversee different aspects of the business and uphold consumer protections.
In addition to the aforementioned sectors, the financial services industry also includes a variety of professional firms that help individuals and businesses manage their finances. Accounting firms help small businesses keep proper records that can be used for tax filing, while wealth management companies provide advice and assistance on investment strategy to high-net-worth individuals.
While many of these services are available to the public, other financial services are reserved for private clients or large corporations with significant capital to invest. For example, investment banking firms work to underwrite debt and equity for companies looking to merge or take over, while structured finance professionals create more intricate (and often derivative) products for high-net-worth investors.
The financial services industry is an integral part of the economy and serves a vital function by connecting those who have money to lend it to those who need to borrow, making it possible for individuals to purchase goods and services they might otherwise be unable to afford. Those who have control over their personal finances are also better able to weather setbacks and make plans for the future. As the world moves toward greater financial inclusion, it is more important than ever that people understand the importance of financial services and are empowered to use them wisely.