Front, middle and back office

posted in: Admissions, Finance sector, MFin | 3

The work experience requirement is central to the MFin. But what counts as “relevant”? There are three criteria. One, did it provide the candidate with some real finance learning opportunity, even if it was in only one specific area? Two, did it provide the candidate with a broader opportunity to show achievement, efficiency and ambition? And three, will it impress future recruiters, especially in the area that the candidate eventually wants to work.

Here, “finance” loosely includes accounting, but only where the accounting or audit experience has led to direct involvement with some aspect of finance eg valuation, investment assessment or auditing of financial institutions.

An area that can be controversial is middle and back office experience. There are many important jobs in financial institutions in so-called middle office and back office areas. Some of these are operational roles that are not very different from similar roles in non-financial corporations. Others involve dealing with front office (client facing and trading) staff but only indirectly working with the actual financial products.

It is entirely understandable that some people from middle and back office roles seek to move to a front office role. But experience shows this is often difficult. Recruiters, rightly or wrongly, do not give much credit for this sort of experience when interviewing for front office jobs. We are forced to take a similar view. Somebody from middle or back office functions will need to show that they have learned enough about financial products (as opposed to accounting, operations, IT etc) to be credible. Having achieved at least level 1 of the CFA is a good indicator that a person has the interest and ambition to move to a front office role, but doesn’t guarantee anything.

We are forced to reject candidates whose experience is from the middle and back office and who cannot show clear evidence of learning about finance in a way that would put them on the same level as people with equivalent years of experience in a front office role. There are some exceptions but we need good reasons to make them. It is in nobody’s interest to invite somebody to spend a year taking a degree which, on its own, will not help the student to achieve his or her career goals owing to a lack of appropriate work experience.

3 Responses

  1. Pan P.

    Hi Dr Simon Taylor,
    So, does MFin program prepare students for a front office role (client facing and trading) rather than a quantative-anaylsis intensive mid-/back office role?

    • taylors

      In a word, yes. See my more recent post on quants for further information.

  2. Siddharth

    Hi Dr. Simon Taylor

    How much weightage or importance is given to the CFA exams. I have cleared 2 levels of CFA exam, will that be considered as a value add while applying for M Fin course.


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