If you're interested in becoming an IT business analyst in the banking industry - you may lack the requisite domain knowledge of the banking domain. When you step into the interview room with a potential employer - and you don't have banking experience - what do you say?
Well, in my opinion, there are many things you can do to beef up your banking domain knowledge, as I discussed here. One of the best approaches is to take up a banking technology course. From the CFA, to banking industry certificates, through to vendor software certifications - there are many to choose from.
In this article, I want to discuss the top 5 banking technology courses you can take to up skill yourself in the banking domain. I assume you have no prior experience in the banking industry technology, so these courses are good for anyone to take up, whatever their starting point.
Learn about the top 5 banking technology courses you can take
The course I'd recommend you take is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course. This is a very well respected and recognized accreditation in the banking and investment industry.
There are three levels of the course, with increasing levels of difficulty and specialization. And ok, it's not strictly a 'banking technology' course - but I think it's even better - it's a course that the 'business' people (sales, traders, portfolio managers, operations, etc.) will take up.
I see a lot of engineers and IT trained people take up the CFA to round off their knowledge with a banking credential. If you have a technical degree or diploma, the CFA will prove to banking employers that you have the knowledge of investments, portfolio management, etc.
The downside to the CFA? Well, you get to do the CFA only every half a year. The Level I, II and III exams can only be taken every December or June.
Case Study: Case Study. For me, I did not take up a CFA. The fact that it ran exams only in December and June was a problem for me. I failed the CFA Level I exam, and I did not want to wait another six months to take another attempt. That being said, the CFA is one of the best known banking accreditation you can take.
The next best thing to the CFA is something called the Claritas Investment Certification. It's run by the CFA Institute, the same body that provides the CFA exam.
You cna do 100 of hours of self-study, take an exam and at the end of that, you get a certificate of investment knowledge. I think this accreditation is great for those already in banking, and wish to round out their knowledge to cover the full gamut of banking operations, from front to back office.
Usually, folks in a bank working in operations will not know what the 'front office' (i.e. relationship managers and traders) do, and vice-versa. The Claritas Investment certification is great for that.
If you're into banking technology, a good option is to take up a banking software certification. In my opinion, there are two broad categories of banking software out there.
Usually, the larger players like Temenos and Avaloq have certification programs.
Tip: Tip. If you want to work in places like Singapore or Hong Kong, a great certification to get is a Temenos or Avaloq banking certificate. I work in Singapore as a banking consultant and I can tell you the demand for Temenos or Avaloq consultants is going through the roof, especially for private banking implementations.
One thing I could advocate is not to waste time with 'general IT' certifications like SAP or Oracle certifications. Yes, those mean a lot in the IT industry, but NOT In the banking industry. Inject the industry flavor into your credentials, don't rack up yet another IT-related accreditation.
Another good option is a Masters degree. For these, I'd suggest you take up either an MBA (with a Finance concentration), or a Masters in Financial Engineering (MFE).
MBA programs are aplenty out there, but I'd encourage you to take a good, top-notch program if you can. Places like INSEAD and Chicago Booth School of Business give very good (but expensive) MBAs which will uplift your credentials a LOT. Not necessarily in banking, but most banks I know prefer MBAs from schools like that.
If you're from engineering, a good choice for breaking into the banking domain is to take up a MFE. Schools like the National University of Singapore or Berkeley in the US run very good MFE programs which teach you about quantitative finance. I won't go into these here, but it would cover topics like structured products, calls, puts and options which help make investment products in banks and financial institutions.
An MFE also equips you with a good risk management background - so you can help banks deal with market risk, credit risk - which is a big focus of regulatory bodies around the world these days, post financial crisis.
Tip: Tip. The Singapore Management University (SMU) runs a very good course on Information Systems in Banking, go check out there website here.
Another convenient choice for banking technology courses is to take up distance learning. You can study on your own time, and get the knowledge you need.
Of course, the only thing you should be careful about in distance programs is accreditation. Make sure the school you're attending is of good standing and not some 'fly by night' operation. And you'd be surprised, some of the best schools in the world like Harvard and MIT run distance learning programs which are very suited for professionals who cannot travel.
To be honest with you, , distance learning programs are still not as well recognized by employers. If you can, go for a part-time degree or diploma - I know that banking employers still prefer more 'formal, classroom-based' certifications as opposed to 'distance, e-learning' programs.
Case Study: Here's a personal story I'd like to share with you. I hope it can help encourage you to break out of 'pure IT'.
I started as a IT developer in a large multinational IT services firm. I enjoyed technology for a while, but after two years, I realized that I enjoyed the 'industry' even more. I offered myself for projects in banking and insurance, playing the role of a business analyst. I loved to interact with clients and stakeholders, not sit behind a laptop and do code.
After seven years in IT services, and several banking and insurance Business Analyst roles done, I joined the banking industry and also took up a MFE part-time at the National University of Singapore. This helped to further cement my knowledge of the banking domain.
Finally, I left the banks to join a financial services management consultancy. I still like consulting work and my time as a BA, the banks, and also my MFE helped to boost my credentials when I talk to banking clients today.
In summary, always recognize that it's good to up skill yourself and take up a good banking technology course. I think the best thing to do is to assess yourself, see where you are and what makes sense for you.
For example, if you have a technical background, it's very natural and easy for you to take up a MFE or alternatively, a banking software vendor certification. On the other hand, if you're more of a finance or economics person, or don't have a technical degree, then maybe a good fit would be a CFA as a next step.
In any case, it really depends on the individual. Do your research and then decide what's best. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I'll help answer your questions as best I can.
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