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The 20 most desirable jobs in the financial sector in 2016

If you're venturing out into the financial services job market now, it helps to know what competition you're up against. With investment banks cutting heads, hedge funds floundering and asset managers dealing with ongoing AUM outflows, one sector stands out as being the most desirable globally currently - private equity.

The push to get into private equity is universal across the major financial centres currently, particularly among junior investment bankers seeking that elusive buy-side switch. The UK is the exception, where investment banks' traders are competing for the few roles available in the current market. Even here, however, private equity is a popular choice.

We've broken out the jobs that had the most applications on eFinancialCareers during the first quarter of 2016, based on an average 30-day application rate over that period. Below are the most popular individual jobs, combined with the sectors that are achieving the most applications, by major markets - for us, this means the UK, U.S, Hong Kong and Singapore. The most notable trend globally? The buy-side is far more desirable than the sell-side currently.

The most desirable finance jobs in the UK:

1. A private equity analyst role for an investment bank in London

Private equity is notoriously tough to break into - you have a 10% chance of making it to interview, even with impeccable academics and investment banking experience. It’s therefore not surprising that an entry-level role for the direct investment arm of a large investment bank was the most popular UK job in the first quarter. The recruiter wanted M&A or leveraged finance experience, outstanding academics and an ability to liaise with ‘senior management’. Study for the CFA was also encouraged.

2. Trading desk assistant for a quant hedge fund in London

This may be a case of getting a first step into a hedge fund for an eventual move across to a trading role proper, rather than an overwhelming desire to become a trading assistant, but the barriers to entry for this role were still high. This was a role to support quant traders, so candidates needed to understand agency algorithms and be able to code in Python. SQL was also a plus.

3. An investment analyst, private capital, for an independent family office in London

Working in an alternatives role in a family office has become a thing. With investors in hedge funds and private equity firms jumpier than ever, some large funds – think Bluecrest Capital and Point72 Asset Management – have retreated to managing their own money. This role was a private capital role – essentially private equity investments using the family office capital – and involved managing existing investments and preparing materials for potential new ones.

4. Trainee front office junior broker, equity derivatives, London

Junior roles were generally competitive, but this role working for a small emerging markets inter-dealer broker in London was particularly popular in the first quarter. The role involved everything from supporting front office staff to helping with administrative tasks when the office becomes ‘boiler room’ busy. The lack of academic qualifications required, together with the fact that the role didn’t ask for any prior experience and provided full training, helps explain its appeal.

5. Equity research analyst, fund management, London

Equity researchers on the sell-side continue to be targeted by job cuts, even as the ‘unbundling’ of costs via MiFID II has the potential to create more opportunities. The buy-side has been the obvious refuge for the past two years for many and this continues. The role was for a research generalist with three to five years’ experience for a small, ‘entrepreneurial’ fund manager in the City.

The most desirable finance jobs in the U.S:

1. Investment analyst, leveraged finance, Boston

Focused on direct investment, the role is essentially a junior private equity job, with a bias towards the middle market. It offers on-the-job training and the opportunity to work in a small team across a diverse portfolio of companies. It therefore requests impeccable academics, would like the candidate to be studying for the CFA and asks for 1-2 years’ leveraged finance experience. In the current climate, this was always likely to be a competitive role to go for.

2. Trading assistant, fixed income, Los Angeles

This is essentially a back office role supporting a team of portfolio managers and traders across a fixed income portfolio within an asset manager in Los Angeles. Dealing with trade execution issues and trade resolutions, it asked for 1-3 years experience in trading and foreign language skills in Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese. But the role was focused on credit – a business areas that’s been decimated on the sell-side in recent years – so this helps explain the competition.

3. Junior private equity professional focused on infrastructure, New York

Again, entry level private equity jobs have proven incredibly popular and competitive, this time working for a large bulge-bracket investment bank’s direct investment arm in New York. The role was focused on infrastructure investments and required visiting the current investments and seeking out new ones. Impeccable modelling expertise was required, along with two years’ experience in either infrastructure or investment banking.

4. Market risk analyst, New York

This is a role in a large investment bank in New York and involves setting up market risk and regulatory reporting frameworks across investment banking, corporate banking, broker-dealing and derivatives trading. Risk, of course, has long been a hot area subject to a talent shortage, but this is a relatively junior job – 1-2 years’ experience was required – along with knowledge of equities, bonds and derivative products.

5. Hedge fund trading assistant, New York

Operations jobs on the buy-side hold a certain appeal, particularly as they generally pay more than investment banks, and large sell-side institutions are shifting these roles out to lower cost destinations. A trading assistant job at a hedge fund in New York was therefore a desirable job. It was a mid-level role, asking for four years’ experience and an understanding of credit derivatives.

The most desirable finance jobs in Hong Kong:

1. Equity research analyst, emerging markets

This is a research role on the buy-side, focused on emerging markets equities at a large U.S asset management firm. The role requests an MBA and a CFA and at least five years’ experience combined with a bottom up approach to investment research. As we’ve mentioned, research roles are few and far between currently, and a move across to the buy-side is an attractive option.

2. Investment associate, asset management

Here we have a role that is typical in Hong Kong – one that requests a combination of local knowledge and international experience. This asset manager wants someone to research local investment opportunities across macro themes in South East Asia, but also wants 2-3 years of experience, preferably working in the U.S.

3. Private equity associate, infrastructure

Private equity jobs are popular in Hong Kong too, particularly at the junior level. A role focused on infrastructure investments across power, renewables and roads and airports, it requires a broad array of sector expertise combined with at least three years’ experience in either investment banking, accounting or consulting. Clearly, junior bankers are queuing up to get in.

4. Risk analyst, focused on hedge funds

A risk job at hedge fund of funds, the role involves screening and interviewing hedge fund managers, managing databases and producing risk/return reports for the portfolio management team. Hedge funds in Hong Kong have held up comparatively well compared to their global peers, but competition for places is still intense.

5. Private equity analyst, TMT

Another entry-level private equity role that has proven popular. This time, the focus is on consumer, technology and mobile industries, and also requires in-depth knowledge of the Philippines, Vietnam or Indonesia, alongside the usual two years’ investment banking experience.

The most desirable finance jobs in Singapore:

1. Financial analyst, family office

Another indication that roles in family offices are a popular option, this junior level corporate finance job, focused on financial modelling and industry research across the luxury, real estate and hotels sector, was the most popular in Singapore during the first quarter. The most notable skills required were 1-2 years' experience in corporate finance, ideally with a focus on debt or equity capital markets.

2. Trading assistant, commodities

Commodities jobs in investment banks are shrinking faster than any other part of the business, so commodity trading houses are a viable alternative to many traders currently. The same can be said for trading assistants, it seems, with this particular position – involving shadowing a senior trader, presumably with one eye on a move to a front office role – proving particularly popular in Singapore.

3. Investment analyst, private equity

Here it is - the inevitable junior private equity job in our ranking. This is an analyst position in a large buy-out firm working across South East Asia and requiring 2-4 years experience in either investment banking or management consulting. Singaporean private equity firms are setting the bar higher for their juniors, it seems.

4. Corporate finance analyst in the transportation sector

A junior investment banking role working within a large investment management firm, focused on the transportation sector. This asks for the relatively unusual combination of corporate finance experience, transportation industry expertise and prior deal experience in offshore oil and gas or shipping.

5. Private equity analyst focused on real estate

This is a big private equity firm with a relatively flat management structure. A junior role that requires 1-2 years’ experience in investment banking, this analyst job also reports directly into the managing director. A thorough understanding of the real estate industry was also a prerequisite.

Photo: Digital Vision/Thinkstock

AUTHORPaul Clarke

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