What does finance in retail involve?
There are two core areas of finance within the retail sector where graduates can find a niche:
The central finance function deals with reporting financial information to internal management and external regulatory bodies.
The commercial finance side is concerned with analysing the figures reported by the central finance teams to measure performance and make strategic recommendations. If you work in commercial finance in retail you may be analysing the results of particular product promotions or looking at the performance of an individual store.
Within large retailers there are individual finance teams supporting all the different areas within the business, from merchandising to digital teams.
Whichever team or area of retail finance you work in, you will normally be based in the office, rather than on the shop floor. However, you will regularly meet with people from other parts of the business. A standard working day is from 9.00 am until 5.30 pm, although you’ll sometimes need to be prepared to work longer hours, such as at financial year ends when regulatory and/or budgetary requirements must be met.
What degree background and qualifications do I need for a graduate job in retail finance?
Although many graduates who go into finance have business, finance or maths-related degrees, it is possible to enter the field with any degree background. However, employers will usually stress that candidates must have qualities such as being comfortable with numbers, an analytical mindset, and strong commercial awareness.
What skills do I need for a graduate job in retail finance?
- A logical and analytical mindset
- A natural flair for working with data
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to present complex financial information in a simple and accessible way
- The ability to challenge the decisions of others diplomatically
- Future leadership skills
- Excellent organisation and time management skills to cope with studying for professional qualifications while working full time
- The ability to cope under pressure
Graduate finance schemes and gaining a professional qualification
Graduate finance schemes with many retailers give you the chance to work towards a professional qualification over three years, usually with CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). This will normally involve taking exams each year, for which retailers will often allow study leave.
During graduate finance programmes in retail, you will usually work within different areas of the business, which will give you the necessary experience to help you gain the qualification you are working towards. This is the case for Arcadia’s graduate finance analyst programme in which graduates work on rotation moving between different roles, for example in property or buying. Similarly, during TK Maxx’s finance European graduate programme, graduates will spend time working in the company’s main financial divisions: financial control; commercial finance and business planning and analysis; and financial accounting. You may also be given projects and assignments to do as part of your training, which will build your experience and knowledge and often involve taking on real responsibility within the business.
Why choose a career in retail finance?
Working for a retailer is a particularly interesting kind of finance because you are always dealing with tangible things, whether that’s sales, customers or strategies. On the flipside, this means that your decisions can have a big impact on the success of the business, so you must be able to make reasoned decisions under pressure. It is a career that would suit individuals who enjoy solving problems, are naturally analytical and are good at communicating their thoughts and ideas with others.