The question that I hear the most from people every day is “How do I get into Finance?”. Pre 2008 pretty much anyone could get into financial services if they wanted to, be it an operations role at a custody house or in an investment bank, or even at a hedge fund. There were hundreds of recruiters making thousands of pounds filling these roles. If you had OK GCSE’s or the odd A level here and there you were fine. If you wanted to transfer from a different career to FS, as long as you had good transferable skills it was fine.
Now, even for an operations role at entry level, in order to go through an agency you need to have a 2:1 or a 1st class degree in a finance, economics of a maths based subject and at least one internship at a financial institution. You could always get a job at a dodgy land-broker phone selling to people during Eastenders but that isn’t really going to help you out long term. There is a reason why people who work in those places for longer than 3 weeks look hours from death.
But, it is not 2008 anymore (thank goodness) and the times are beginning to change again. My advice to anyone looking for a career in FS after leaving school or university is to work exceptionally hard, get A’s in everything, get firsts in all of your assignments and apply for internships everywhere you can during the holidays.
The other option is to move to Scotland or Manchester where some of the larger firms have moved their call centres and operations divisions. We do the best we can to help everyone out, but to get into Financial Services nowadays you need to have really worked hard at school and university to get a look in. Apply direct to everywhere you can and follow every application up with a phone call. Through friends and personal networks is a good way too!
People will very rarely come to a recruiter to fill a junior job nowadays. Do your research, be realistic and be as flexible as possible.