Checks before cheques: Why the finance industry conducts background checks

If you’re hoping to work in banking or finance, be prepared for a thorough background check. It’s standard for the industry. After all, who doesn’t want honest, competent people looking after their money?

Why is the finance sector so thorough in its employment screening?

When you’re managing consumers’ assets, you have access to a lot of money. That means you’ve got a big responsibility to hire qualified, trustworthy people. Otherwise you might end up with someone like Rajina Rita Subramaniam, an accountant, who stole $45 million from her employer to buy fountain pens, champagne and Michael Jackson memorabilia.

In fact, the most common perpetrators of fraud are business insiders just like Subramaniam.

There’s a lot at stake for the financial services industry with the average fraud value per person a whopping $1.4 million.

There’s also a legal obligation for the industry to double-check employees’ credentials. Since financial services reforms in 2002, companies must ensure their services are provided honestly and fairly by trained and competent staff. In other words, if things go wrong, the fault might lie with the company.

As a result, if you’re looking for work in the finance sector, you should expect your potential employer to do a broad and thorough credential check.

What kinds of things will prospective employers check?

Financial background checks help employers ensure staff are well qualified and without legal or financial problems. Things they’re likely to check include:

Recruiters are also likely to perform Qualification Checks, Professional Membership Checks to verify your industry association memberships, Employment History Checks and Employment Reference Checks.

For the official information, take a look at ASIC and Standards Australia’s Reference Checking in the Financial Services Industry Handbook.

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How competitive is the banking industry?

The financial services sector makes up just four per cent of Australian jobs, although the sector is growing. To get your foot in the door, you’ll probably need to be qualified with a degree in an area such as business, commerce, finance, economics, accounting or actuarial studies.

There are a rich number of career types you can enjoy in the sector, and plenty of opportunities for overseas work. The better the organisation you work for, the bigger the opportunities for career development. But it can be hard for new graduates to get that first position. One of the best things you can do is land an internship to get some valuable experience.

Above all, make sure you ­– and your paperwork – are in order before you start applying for jobs. Then you’ll feel confident when it’s time for the inevitable background check.

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