Financial Services Jobs Abroad
Investment Research Offers Attractive Benefits
By Steven Ayers
For those with financial skills looking for their first experience living abroad, or for those already overseas looking to switch from English teaching, journalism, or development work, investment research offers very attractive benefits. While pay scales vary widely by country, base salaries are often from 50 to 100 percent higher for financial professionals than for those in other fields popular with expatriates. Bonuses can occasionally equal or exceed annual salaries.
Types of Jobs Available
Working as a research editor is an ideal transition from English teaching or journalism into the financial field. Editors prepare research reports for final publication and dissemination to the bank’s clients, many of whom are American- or European-based investment fund managers who communicate in English. The skills needed for effective English teaching, including a mastery of correct grammar and usage and a grasp of common errors made by non-native speakers, are most important. Like journalism, research editing can be deadline-sensitive and pressure-packed at times.
Research analysts study companies whose stocks trade on the local stock market and write reports detailing their recommendations. While previous financial experience is a distinct advantage, many research analysts have been able to get their first positions without it. Applicants with local language skills and specialized expertise (such as engineering or software design) are in great demand. First-time research analysts, particularly those with no previous finance experience, are often teamed with more experienced analysts as assistants. Research analysts work very long hours (50- to 70-hour weeks are typical) and the beginning pay may seem low, but advancement and pay increases can come very quickly. Most research analysts who stay in the field find the intellectual challenge of the job fascinating.
The salesperson is the frontline interface between the bank and the investment client. Clients encompass a wide variety of investors, from pension and mutual fund companies to wealthy individuals and families. The main “product” being sold is the bank’s research, written by its various analysts. Clients buy and sell stocks with a particular bank in exchange for access to written research and in many cases to the analysts themselves. Office hours are shorter than for editors and analysts, but salespeople face greater demands in entertaining clients and travel. Language skills and a wide range of business and social contacts are definite advantages. Many large banks in American and European cities have sales desks that specialize in international stocks.
Finding the First Job
Networking is essential to finding the decision makers who can offer you a job. Meet people at the American Chamber of Commerce in your target country (see Web link below). Many alumni associations at larger universities have chapters abroad, some of whose members work in investment research and sales. While banks may hire you directly, most use the services of professional recruiters. Two of the best-known international finance recruiters are Korn/Ferry International and Michael Page International (below). Smaller local recruiters may specialize in placements in your country of interest.
Be sure to learn everything you can about investing before you begin interviewing. While working as an English teacher in Taipei, I found Peter Lynch’s book Beating the Street a useful introduction to the fundamentals of good investing.
CFA Institute; www.cfainstitute.org. The premier organization for research analysts, CFA awards the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
American Chapters of Commerce (AmCham). Go to www.uschamber.com for a country-by-country list of AmCham organizations which sponsor events for professionals.
Korn/Ferry International. Go to www.kornferry.com and click on “Offices Worldwide” for local office contacts in Latin America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific.
Michael Page International. Pulldown bar on home page, www.michaelpage.com, has national offices for 14 countries outside the U.S.
STEVEN AYERS spent two years teaching English in Taiwan before working as an investment research analyst in Hong Kong, New York, and Seattle.