Operations: graduate area of work

Graduates starting their career in operations – in the back office of an investment bank or management firm – learn that time management is key to the job.

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Most graduates will have the chance to work in several different areas of operations.

The operations division of an investment bank or investment management firm (also known as the ‘back office’) is the ‘engine room’ of a financial organisation, working to keep the vast quantities of information, money and products flowing correctly. It ensures millions of transactions are processed every day.

Operations teams don’t actively generate revenue but they are increasingly recognised as key to business profitability – playing a crucial role in managing risk and minimising losses by ensuring that business activities are carried out in an efficient, controlled and timely manner.

Starting out as a graduate in the back office

Operations roles usually focus on a particular function, for instance clearing or settling transactions, managing documentation, customer service, compliance, accounting and (in some organisations) risk management. For example, you could be responsible for working on initiatives to enhance settlement processes, or ensuring that the information in an organisation’s profit and loss (P&L) accounts is correct or that risks are being reported accurately.

Most graduates will have the chance to work in several different areas of operations. This will allow you to gain an overview of the various types of work available, eg process-driven or project management roles. As a recent graduate, your work could include initiating the introduction of a new product or improving a control on behalf of your team.

Speed is key

Although the volume of transactions has increased, technological developments have actually speeded up processes: for instance, transferring assets or making a payment used to take up to several weeks but can now take less than three days. Transactions are time-critical so the work can be pressured at times – it’s essential to be on the ball.

The skills graduates need for operation career success

  • Strong communication and negotiation skills
  • An analytical mind and the ability to solve problems
  • Flexibility and good time management skills
  • The leadership to drive through initiatives and motivate others
  • Numeracy (although a maths or finance degree isn’t necessary)
  • Attention to detail – mistakes can have a significant financial impact
  • IT literacy and the ability to learn quickly

Job descriptions related to operations

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