Wayne’s Corner: How to land your first finance role

10/09/2020 Graduateships Min.

We sat down with Wayne Walker – a New Yorker who now resides in Denmark with his Family. He is the Founder and Director of GCMS and a well known face in the the Danish finance community. Prior to this he had a tremendous career in finance being one of the early people in Saxo Bank. He is also a great teacher and is very excited to help the next generation of graduates navigate the finance world. In this first post we will dig down into his views on how to land a role in finance as a student.


Wayne has written a book on this specific topic which goes into a lot more detail and can be bought here


What should you be studying if you want to pursue a finance career?


There are a bunch of degrees that will set you up well for roles within finance. Anything from Economics, Maths over to Applied finance and Applied Economics will be beneficial if you want to pursue finance related roles. 


That a degree is “Applied” means that the focus is on how to apply the theory in practice versus focusing on the theories and going deep on those. A lot of what you will be doing when working with finance is applying the theory that you learned.

If you want to be an English teacher you probably want to major in English. Similarly in finance, it's best to study something related to the field you want to work in.
Wayne Walker

It’s not automatically a deal breaker if you haven’t studied finance. I know of a lot of cases where someone studied something completely different but still managed to land top positions in the finance world. 


What’s important in those cases is that you can highlight that you have an interest in the theme and have sought to get experience in the field. 


How do I get into finance without a finance degree?


There are a lot of ways you can get experience outside of university. I would recommend joining the local student organisations that are focused around finance. At CBS that would for an example be Finance Lab which will introduce you to some of their finance partners. 


I would also recommend using Bloomberg and Coursera to take their free online courses. There is a lot of good stuff out there. Another way to get financial learning is to take courses on summer schools. That can both be in Copenhagen and abroad. 

Do I need to know everything about finance before starting in a finance role?


A lot of the big banks have trading programs where you learn the ins and out. So you don’t need to know everything from scratch. You need to show interest and enthusiasm and be able to back it up with experiences on your CV


In most finance roles the pace is very high and it’s important that you are able to learn quickly. That’s a super important skill to have as everything moves fast in this world.


What’s the most important thing to do besides the degree itself?


As I mentioned in the above then there are a number of things you can do to make yourself an attractive hire. However the most important thing, which in my view trumps everything else, is to build a strong network. Network is everything and can be the thing that gets you your first job.

Your competition is other smart people so you are not the only smart one. You need to show something else. You need to go the extra mile to show that you are super passionate.
Wayne Walker

I would recommend building your network as early as you can. It’s very important to build a network in a genuine way and not just when you need some help. You should therefore try to build it up by offering your help to other people way in advance of you potentially needing anything in return. Don’t send an invite on Linkedin and then the next day ask for a favour!


Linkedin is a crucial channel for networking and you should make sure you are using that as a tool today. It’s a great way to connect with people and build your network.


Wayne teaching his trading courses at Nanjinjg Audit University in China


How do I build a genuine network with someone?


You need to not come across as seeking to get value yourself. This is very important as a lot of people are making this mistake. I have many people that reach out to me before I know them and ask for a favour – that’s not the way networking works. You need to show over a long period of time that you can add value. 


An example of how a student could be of value to me would be to share an article that is within something that I find interesting – that could be an article on trading or so on.It shows that the other person is doing something without expecting to get something in return.


Most people are good and want to help people so just make sure you are also nice to people. 


To sum it up, what is the best way to get a full time role in Finance?


I recommend that students do the following (in no prioritised order):


  • Make sure you do extra curricular stuff outside of university
  • Make sure you have something on your CV that is unique and that makes you stand out
  • Make sure that you highlight in your cover letter how you can help them with their mission. How you are relevant
  • Many companies use ATS (Applicant Tracking System) where they scan applications for certain keywords. Make sure you optimise your CV for keywords relevant to the role (and look at the role description for keywords to use)
  • Network, network, network. I can’t emphasise how important this is – particularly for landing your first role in finance where you have limited experience


Wayne has written a book on this specific topic which goes into a lot more detail and can be bought here