Major Insights: Finance - An Interview with Amy Sun and Lucy Zhao
By Clarence Harré
From corporate to public and personal finance: where could your finance major take you?
Choosing your major is hard, but it doesn't have to be.
Finance is a really versatile degree covering almost everything related to the management of money. Sure, a finance graduates typical role involves investment decisions, valuing assets and acquiring funds: realistically you could end up anywhere!
UNSW Business Society alumni and former executives explore the connection between the classroom and the real world, and share their tips for you to get into a finance-field after(or even BEFORE) graduating.
Former Investment Banking intern Lucy Zhao at Macquarie Group reflects on the disconnect between degree and job.
"I would say[universities] don't do as much as they could be in terms of preparing students for the workforce... [universities provide] no feedback on final exams, multiple choice questions come from a standardised test bank," she says.
In lieu of practical exercises provided by the uni, Lucy recommends students turn towards extracurricular activities.
"Companies look towards your extracurriculars because it shows you go above expectations (just studying) and that you are a well rounded individual. The most useful skill I developed was time management - being able to understand my commitments before making them, prioritising tasks when things get busy and as a result, being able to do everything to a high standard." says Lucy.
Meanwhile Business Analyst Amy Sun from Westpac Institutional Bank in Financial Markets Technology explores the experience of being female in a male dominated industry.
"I would say 80% of the time I'm the only female in the room. When I first started it was absolutely very daunting, especially being the youngest and most inexperienced person on the whole floor," she says.
"While this definitely psyched me out in the beginning, it's also taught me to back myself more and believe in my abilities... I have a great manager and the women I'm surrounded by are all immensely supportive," Amy says.
While Amy is still a current UNSW student, she works four days a week... and she loves it!
"I'm able to see how my university learning can be applied first hand at work, and I am able to utilise my experiences at work to aid my understanding of concepts I learn in class," she says.
Reflecting on her extracurriculars, Amy acknowledges the soft skills she developed (time, relationship and event management) and emphasises how they pushed her outside her comfort zone. This is best encapsulated in her statement "my BSOC experience taught me to be... fearless".
Advice for First Years
After speaking with both Lucy and Amy (absolutely amazing people!) the general consensus is:
- 100% STUDY HARD - it’s much harder to raise your wam with low marks weighing you down than it is to keep to a high standard.
- JOIN SOCIETIES - the people you meet now can become your closest friends for the rest of your degree. Amy met some of her closest friends during her subcom experience.
- EXTRACURRICULARS - employers look at what you do outside of what you have to do. Participating in case comps, hackathons and various programs will show that you are a well-rounded individual.
The three traditional pathways for finance majors are:
• Personal Finance - help individuals manage their own wealth. You work with them to develop financial goals and direct their saving/investment habits towards achieving them.
• Public Finance - help government bodies fulfill their social responsibilities. You manage the money associated with their day-to-day operations and work towards the equitable distribution of income for its citizens.
• Corporate Finance - help companies increase firm value by understanding their capital structure and work with them to achieve their financing goals. This could be anything from finding initial investors, to underwriting their IPO to merging with or acquiring another company.
For more information, checkout the UNSW Business Society Careers Guide.