I was recently invited to attend a presentation at a well-known middle market bank, where one of the managing directors gave a speech about the state of the finance industry. There were a few things mentioned which have been echoed numerous times on WSO: the industry and its compensation may never reach its peak again, technology and quants are playing a role in cutting jobs, and that things will get better, but slowly.
Essentially, he made it clear that he-- a working professional in the industry-- was not advocating trying to break in at this moment. However, me and my colleagues resisted: during questions, we kept pestering him about his thoughts on not only getting a job, but also excelling enough to reach his position or higher. Sometime later, a student asked him whether a master of finance degree would help, seeing as how it's a degree that concentrates on a high level of financial knowledge. His response shocked most of the students, though it's probably obvious to most WSOers.
"Whoever said you had to be an expert in finance to make a ton of money for your firm?"
It turns out that he himself never studied finance as a subject. He actually majored in a liberal art, then got a masters in economic theory and international relations before starting to work at a bank. Anything quantitative he would learn on the job, either through a quick google search or asking one of the quants at his office.
What he brought to the table was a unique way of thinking about trades. He specialized in foreign currencies, so his political and international knowledge proved highly beneficial in his current position. This isn't the first time I've heard of something like this.
Obviously, if you majored in finance and have a background in it, you'll be more likely to break in and find a job. But when it comes to performing at a very high level, sometimes differentiating yourself leads to a unique way of thinking that may prove to be incredibly useful. Thoughts?