A successful career in the investment sector is a virtual guarantee of a well-heeled life. Here’s how to get started.
Google ‘investment careers singapore’ and what you’ll see are career pages and listings for some of the biggest employers in the market: Temasek Holdings, GIC (yes, our national sovereign wealth fund), EDBI (the investment arm of the Economic Development Board), Goldman Sachs… You get the idea.
Clearly, careers in the investment sector are highly lucrative, and may even come with a badge of honour simply for being associated with some of the most prestigious firms in the world.
Needless to say, barriers to entry are high in this industry, requiring a sterling educational track record. (A glowing internship - or three - at the likes of Google or Facebook wouldn’t hurt either.)
But apart from the traditional roles, there are also new and emerging positions providing a parallel path that may prove to be just as successful.
Here’s a starter guide to landing a career in the investment sector.
5 gainful (and 1 up-and-coming) investment careers in Singapore
|Job title||Educational and professional background required||Average annual salary*|
|Investment Analyst||Finance, research||Entry level: S$50k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$95k
|Economist||Economics, finance, research, mathematics||Entry level: S$55k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$80k
|Portfolio Manager||Economics, finance, CFA||Entry level: S$87k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$107k
|Investment Banker||MBA||Entry level: S$133k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$170k
|Commodities Trader||Finance, economics, sector-specific knowledge, FINRA certification||Entry level: S$82k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$110k
|Cryptocurrency Content Specialist (Strategist/Manager/Writer)||Copywriting, research, journalism, social media||Entry level: S$38k|
After 5 to 9 years: S$54k
Investment Analyst - Median salary: S$61,000 per year
As an investment analyst, your main duty would be to analyse, review - and potentially approve - various investment products. You may also be called upon to make recommendations to your colleagues holding portfolio management or other advisory roles within the company.
Your work will also likely involve conducting research on funds and writing commentary or analysis, delivering presentations on investment topics, and supporting asset management programs.
Investment analysts typically work for major financial institutions, such as venture capital firms, fund managers and brokerages. To succeed, you’ll need a strong background in finance, accounting or a related field, coupled with a strong sense of attention to detail, while being extremely diligent and precise.
Investment analysts can progress by taking on professional certifications, including certified investment management analyst (CIMA), chartered financial analyst (CFA), or chartered alternative investment analyst (CAIA).
Economist - Median salary: S$66,000 per year
An economist advises the organisation they are working for - whether in a government department, a publicly-traded company, or a privately-held firm - on various aspects of economics, primarily on the factors that would impact or influence the interests of the organisation.
As such, economists may specialise into various areas, ranging from localised disciplines such as a nation’s tax rates and health statistics, to broader macroeconomics like energy facts, technology and innovation trends and international trade.
Economists study past trends and present data, interpreting them for corporations, governments and businesses. They often use computer models to collect and organise data.
Therefore, to be successful, strong analytical and research skills are required, as is the ability to communicate complex information in a simple manner. Strong writing and mathematical skills are also considered essential in this role.
A bachelor’s degree in finance, economics or mathematics is a common requirement to enter this profession.
Portfolio Manager - Median salary: S$130,000 per year
A portfolio manager’s role is to, well, manage investment portfolios. This means you’ll be directly responsible for investing money, and ensuring the investment meets the stated investment objectives.
These objectives may vary according to the client’s needs: building wealth, supplying dividends, keeping up with inflation, managing taxes, etc. This therefore means that as a portfolio manager, you’ll need to be knowledgeable in various investment products and securities in order to create an appropriate investment portfolio, or to make adjustments as needed.
Portfolio managers may work with individuals and businesses as a client-based advisor, or they may handle a financial product, such as an index or mutual fund. They are often part of a larger investment advisory firm, and are guided by findings supplied by the research department or units.
To be successful in this role, you’ll need strong strategic and planning skills, along with a strong grounding in business or finance. It is also not uncommon to see portfolio managers arming themselves with a Certified Financial Advisor (CFA) qualification to beef up their knowledge of investment products.
Portfolio managers are typically promoted from within, drawn from the ranks of high-performing investment analysts and junior managers.
Investment Banker - Median salary: S$155,000 per year
Investment bankers have among the heaviest responsibilities within the investment sector - they advise companies, governments and organisations on how to raise the capital they seek.
Investment bankers usually have free reign to access all financial data (including sensitive information) to assist them in their work. This is a very involved and highly complex process, requiring the ability to accurately study and understand the goals and needs of the client.
Investment bankers must then formulate and plan a strategy to achieve the investment objectives of the client. Once the strategy is approved, the investment banker is responsible for executing the plan, which may include finding the right partners and convincing them to participate.
As you can well imagine, this role is highly demanding, requiring not only extremely in-depth knowledge, but also a blend of high-level skills.
These include being sharply analytical down to the smallest detail of financial data, having strong statistical analysis skills, as well as a firm grasp on risk and reward management. Investment bankers must also be adept at salesmanship, as the ability to convince others to follow your plan is just as crucial.
Besides the requisite grounding in finance, economics and research, no less than a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) - along with a robust network - is required to even be considered for this role.
Commodities Trader - Median salary: S$120,000 per year
Commodities traders are perhaps the most well-known position in the investment sector - they are the stereotypical traders who spend their days frantically gesturing and running around the stock exchange floor. But that’s just part of their responsibilities.
Commodities traders are responsible for helping their clients derive optimal transaction prices on commodities (such as securities, stocks and bonds, grains, metals, currency, etc.), and execute them accordingly.
They have to work with clients to evaluate and analyse the market to form financial advice for clients. After the client accepts and decides to act on the advice, the trader then has to get to work executing the necessary transactions.
As prices on the stock exchange can be quite volatile, this is traditionally a highly stressful and demanding role. However, there is some leeway in that you may choose to work for a bank or brokerage firm, or strike it out on your own as an independent trader.
At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics or a related field is required for this role. However, to be truly successful, it is highly likely that you’ll need to also pursue specialist knowledge in specific fields, so as to be able to provide more in-depth and accurate advice to your clients.
Cryptocurrency Content Specialist - Median Salary: S$50,000 per year
So far, all the investment careers we have covered are traditional roles that require (at least) a background in finance. However, those aren’t your only options.
The rise of cryptocurrency is fuelling a demand for good quality content and coverage on the various news, coins, projects and developments that are currently going on all around the world.
As a result, content specialist roles are being offered, mainly by crypto blogs and websites, but also by various cryptocurrency developers and teams who need help in communicating with their target audience and keeping them engaged with relevant, informative and high quality content.
There are a few choices for you here. If you like to research and write, you can try being a content writer for a crypto news site, essentially working as a journalist reporting on the cryptocurrency sector.
Another option is a content manager for a crypto exchange or service provider, creating and publishing everything from how-tos and guides, to company updates, product announcements, and even crypto trends and breaking news.
If social media and community management are your fortes, you can try taking on a Social Media Manager Manager/Strategist role for a promising crypto project. Your role would entail creating content for the project’s social media channels, and may include hosting interviews and podcasts with core members of the team.
For cryptocurrency content roles, a background in journalism, copywriting, editorial, social media or content creation roles will be essential. You may also be required to have an understanding of SEO and digital marketing.
While the current median salary of content specialists roles is still pretty modest, we predict this will change as cryptocurrency starts to see mass adoption in the coming years.
Also, if you get in early on a winning project, and receive cryptocurrency tokens as part of your package, you could find yourself sitting on a nice bonus when the market pumps in the future.
Tips to make the transition to an investment career
Work with a career coach
If you’re serious about landing a job in the investment sector, but don’t quite have the right background or qualifications, seek out a career coach.
He or she will be able to help you articulate the skills and experience you are lacking, and advise you on how to go about plugging these gaps. You will be guided to form a plan on how to (eventually) land the job you want.
Your career coach may also point you to relevant resources, such as books, blogs or networking opportunities.
Apply for an internship
Investment careers may pay well, but they are also highly demanding and complex. While the six-figure salaries are certainly tempting, how do you know if that’s the right role for you?
A good way to find out is to look out for internship openings. Joining an investment firm as an intern will give you a good look at what such careers actually involve, while testing if you have the capacity and talent to succeed.
An internship is also a great way to build your professional network and keep you at the forefront of recruiters’ minds when hiring season rolls around. You may even be linked up with another role at a different employer, which could be just as satisfying and rewarding.
Take on assignments as a side hustle
Investment firms and cryptocurrency projects may not have a full-time position open, but they may be looking to farm out certain support roles.
For example, investment firms regularly put out reports containing their findings and insights. This is to establish their expertise and advertise their services. If you have a background in editorial or online publishing, offer to help polish up their reports as a freelance project.
Show them how to improve readability by simplifying the language and tweaking the layout and format. Once they see the value you bring, they might just hand off this task to you (so they can focus on the rest of their work).
You can try taking up these assignments to build a closer relationship, learn more about the industry and - if you like what you find out - apply to transition to a full-time role.
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