Within the field of finance, you can choose to work as part of the “corporate finance staff” of an organization or a company that provides “financial services” to individuals, groups, institutions, or organizations. Some functions or industry sectors most commonly associated with finance include:
- Commercial Banking: Provides banking services to individuals, small businesses and large organizations.
- Corporate Finance: The “in-house” function that manages the money needed to run the organization, grow the organization, make acquisitions, plan for its financial future, and manage any assets on hand.
- Financial Planning: Financial planners and wealth managers help individuals plan their financial futures.
- Insurance: Helps manage risk to protect against catastrophic losses and to anticipate potential risk problems.
- Investment Banking: Assists individuals, corporations, and governments in raising capital by underwriting and/or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities.
Investment Management: Money or “asset” managers are on the “buy side” of financial services:
- Hedge Funds: A private investment fund that participates in a range of assets and a variety of investment strategies intended to protect the fund’s investors from downturns in the market while maximizing returns on market upswings.
- Mutual Funds: A professionally managed type of collective investment that pools money from many investors to buy stocks, bonds, short-term money market instruments, and/or other securities.
- Private Equity and Venture Capital: Firms that provide working capital to a target organization to nurture initial launch or expansion, new product development, or restructuring of the company’s operations, management, or ownership.
- Proprietary (“Prop”) Trading: Firms that trade their own capital (vs. earning a commission from client trades) and typically use a variety of methods including sophisticated proprietary trading platforms.
The Wall Street investment banks have large junior internship programs and hire for full-time largely from their summer internship class. These internships are competitive, as both students and employers hope that the junior internship results in a full-time job. Several investment banks including most of the large, Wall Street bulge-bracket firms host events in the spring semester to meet and educate sophomores about internship opportunities for junior summer (not the upcoming summer). Some Wall Street firms are also replacing first-round, campus interviews with pre-recorded video interviews. Interviews may start prior to the fall semester.
There can also be a small number of internships at investment banks for sophomores and sometimes first-years, but they are highly competitive and often reserved for target populations. The banks know this and do not expect students to have prior experience at an investment bank in order to be a successful candidate for junior summer. Instead, they look for high achievement and a demonstrated interest in finance and financial markets, which can be established through coursework, involvement in student organizations, participation in employer-led networking and educational events, as well as previous internship or externship experience in the broadly defined realm of financial services.
Other types of financial institutions, asset management firms, hedge funds, trading firms, private equity, and venture capital firms may also have summer internships, and many (but by no means all) use the OCS Recruiting Program to hire from Harvard. These employers can sometimes be more open to hiring sophomores and first-years, especially if the candidate has strong quantitative, coding, or technical skills, but most often have much smaller internship programs relative to the investment banks. Interested students should plan to attend the Finance & FinTech Fair typically held the first two weeks of the Fall semester, to compare and contrast several options and begin connecting with alumni and employer representatives.
There will also be many finance internship postings in Crimson Careers from employers that do not recruit on campus or participate in the OCS Recruiting Program. Some opportunities that may be more friendly toward first-years and sophomores include those in insurance, financial planning, and those at local branches of commercial banks and brokerage firms.
While many firms have increasingly focused on converting their summer interns into full-time hires, there are still positions available through the OCS Recruiting Program with some of the well-known “branded” firms as well as with smaller employers or those that specialize in a particular segment of the financial services industry, such as hedge funds or private equity. And don’t forget about working “in-house” as part of an organization’s finance team. It is particularly important that you make every effort to meet and get to know (and be known by) as many people in the field as you can. OCS organizes opportunities to meet people in the industry each fall through employer networking and information sessions, career fairs like the Finance & FinTech Fair, and other employer-led educational programs. See the OCS Recruiting Program page for more information, dates and deadlines. You can also connect with alumni and other professionals using resources such as the Alumni Directory or LinkedIn to make contacts.
The large, multinational financial institutions have offices worldwide, and some will come separately to the Boston/Cambridge area to promote their specific opportunities and target students who have the relevant work authorization and language skills. It is important to note that these opportunities can follow a different timeline than their U.S. based counterparts and may not be included in a firm's efforts to hire through the OCS Recruiting Program. For example, the Asia divisions of many investment banks will host events in Harvard Square in October and November to coincide with the annual Boston Career Forum. Interviews for internship opportunities will then often take place in New York in January. Check the Employers on Campus Calendar and employer websites for more information. Also check Crimson Careers and Interstride for opportunities with international offices in mid-size and boutique firms as well as in non-U.S. firms.
Graduate and Professional Programs
Graduate school is not required to work in finance. However, financial services firms often hire from M.B.A. programs, as well as master's of finance and master's of accounting programs.