How to get a salary with lots of zeros

You don't have to be a whiz kid to make a fortune in the City, writes Roger Trapp

To the layman, derivatives may be those flashy financial instruments that brought Barings bank to its knees, but to many modern accountants they can be the route to riches.

A working knowledge of the increasingly complex products being developed by the world's banks can be a humble auditor's passport to a different world within the financial services sector. But would-be applicants for these potentially lucrative posts should be warned: they will be expected to jump through many hurdles and, while employers are prepared to pay a high price for the right candidates, they will not necessarily settle for paying those who are less than ideal lower salaries.

Martin Flatters of Hays Accountancy Personnel is just one of those in the recruitment market stressing that first-class academic backgrounds and "well-developed interpersonal skills" are almost de rigueur. In other words, just because the latest financial products are increasingly being developed by highly intelligent whiz kids known as "rocket scientists" does not mean that those involved in the operation and selling of them can fit into the boffin caricature.

As Mr Flatters says in his organisation's guide to salaries in the second half of 1995: "To maximise their career potential, staff should definitely try to gain a working knowledge of derivative products and in general learn a second or third language."

Nor does this just apply to those in the high-profile field of derivatives trading. James Rust, manager of the City team at the recruitment consultants Robert Walters Associates, says those seeking jobs with financial institutions in such areas as internal audit and product control also have to measure up to these standards. "They pay well, but they want to make sure they get their money's worth," he says.

But he also points out that being rejected by one bank should not lead to total despair. Many banks have such distinct characters that it is possible to spot the people who work for them. Consequently, "you can be right for one and totally wrong for another", he says. The same principles also apply to different roles, so that some candidates will be suited to corporate finance positions and others to, say, compliance roles, such as internal audit.

The result of this is a more active market than has been the case of late. Though Mr Rust stresses that the amount of movement is "not obscene", and Hays's research shows overall salaries rising by no more than inflation, City prospects look bright. It is seen as a fast-moving, multi-skilled and dynamic sector where accountants with relevant experience are highly regarded and "in universal demand".

So much for the incentives for the employers. For the accountants themselves, a key attraction of these posts is the bonuses available.

Accountants with a year's experience can earn a basic salary of about pounds 40,000 and expect a bonus of about 30 per cent of that as well as a car, says Mr Rust. As senior partners of big accountancy firms are only too ready to point out, those who rise to the boards of these institutions stand to gain from the additional area of stock options that can net several hundred thousand pounds at once.

Moreover, as Mr Flatters indicates, in order to retain as well as recruit the best staff, employers will have to be flexible about total packages.

Hays's research in the financial services sector indicates that a head of financial control typically earns pounds 60,000 a year, a head of internal audit pounds 50,000, while somebody with four years' post-qualifiying experience working in corporate finance can expect about pounds 58,000 - about the same as somebody of the same seniority working with derivative products.

At least part of the reason for the high demand, though, is the shortage of suitable recruits. This would be true in most circumstances, but it has been made worse by the fact that most of the large accountancy firms cut back on training contracts in response to the recession earlier this decade.

Finally, as part of the effort to motivate those who are hired, many banks stagger bonuses, announcing them at the end of the year and paying them out at the end of the following quarter. Some highly valued employees receive bonuses worth more than half their annual salaries.

Setting out promotion paths also forms a part of the attempts to motivate staff. But there is little room in the high-pressure atmosphere of the City banking arena for the formal training many recruits might have been used to at accounting firms. Instead, it is increasingly an "on-going, on-the-job process".

Perhaps for this reason the banks put a high premium on those who demonstrate "a high level of natural management, leadership and assessment skills".

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

    Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker