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Old 23.08.2010, 05:22
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The working language in the banking sector

I just have a small question in my job application. I am doing a finance master in HSG. When I view the job ad from the school's career website, I find out the banks (UBS,CS....) often mention German and English as a requirement.

But do they really mean you need to have very fluent German to be eligible for the job? Because I know some companies will give you interview though they require German in their job ad. I just want to know if I bother to apply jobs in banking, if they strictly require very good German.

If someone have experience of applying for banking jobs, please give me an insight. Thanks!
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Old 23.08.2010, 07:59
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

I do have some experience applying for banking jobs, have worked in banking for 10 years or so.

The big Swiss banks (namely CS and UBS) have departments and positions where German is not really needed. But it really helps to have at least some basic level of German - else you're missing the water cooler talk.

The smaller banks (Kantonalbanken etc) absolutely require German.
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Old 23.08.2010, 09:00
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

I work for one of the big banks here. It all depends on the department and to an extent the manager and team. For example at the moment I work in a team of two with my boss who is American and the rest of my department are in London and New York. My boss also speaks fluent Swiss German, so there is no need for me to speak German. I do speak German though and that helped me get the job and is also useful to understand and take part in the banter. There is a team that does similar work to mine, but for a different part of the bank, where the team is Swiss and not so comfortable in English. To work their you would need to speak German and preferably Swiss German.

HSG (university of St. Gallen - yes they are well known in the German speaking world, but don't assume they have any reputation outside of it - I study there so am well placed to make that comment ) has very strong links to the banks here, to the extent that some Swiss blame the St. Gallen system/way of thinking/alumni for the banking crisis. So ask your careers advisor. I would say in general that if you are looking at roles which have contact with the Swiss public or departments that do, you will need German. Anywhere else and it will strengthen your application. At the end of the day you want to work here and gain the benefits of that. Imo you should have the courtesy to learn the local lingo. In fact I know that on some masters courses at HSG they make you take German lessons for that very reason.
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Old 23.08.2010, 10:21
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Unless you want to be a customer advisor, than whatever a job add says, the reality is: English is a must, German is a nice to have. There are always but always folks who do not speak German. It is fast impossible to find someone who does not speak English.
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Old 23.08.2010, 10:49
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Unless you want to be a customer advisor, than whatever a job add says, the reality is: English is a must, German is a nice to have. There are always but always folks who do not speak German. It is fast impossible to find someone who does not speak English.
False. I have worked with clients whose English is so minimal as to be ineffective as a working language. However, it is rarer at the headquarters of the larger companies.
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Old 23.08.2010, 10:50
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Unless you want to be a customer advisor, than whatever a job add says, the reality is: English is a must, German is a nice to have. There are always but always folks who do not speak German. It is fast impossible to find someone who does not speak English.
LOL - is that a Freudian slip?
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Old 23.08.2010, 11:33
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Thanks for all your information. I AM learning German now. I hope I can have one hour learning German everyday. But after the basic level of German, it is tough to get the conversational level.

So actually, I want to know what level of German is considered "fluent" by the banks. If that means speaking like a native Swiss, I think it is impossible to achieve in one or two years.

Then HSG is not known by people outside the German-area....Then it's better to look for jobs here....Then German....I feel I am struggling in a circle. And I am from China. Does my Chinese help, ex some banks have clients in Aisa?
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Old 23.08.2010, 11:47
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Thanks for all your information. I AM learning German now. I hope I can have one hour learning German everyday. But after the basic level of German, it is tough to get the conversational level.

So actually, I want to know what level of German is considered "fluent" by the banks. If that means speaking like a native Swiss, I think it is impossible to achieve in one or two years.
I'd say A1 or A2 level is a good start.

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Then HSG is not known by people outside the German-area....Then it's better to look for jobs here....Then German....I feel I am struggling in a circle.
Not sure how the various int'l programs recruit students from around the world if the HSG is not known outside DACHLI. And how the rankings would pick up HSG is also a mystery. Maybe that assumption is wrong?

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And I am from China. Does my Chinese help, ex some banks have clients in Aisa?
Yes, I would venture a guess that most of the larger private banks in Switzerland have APAC desks.
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Old 23.08.2010, 19:44
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Not sure how the various int'l programs recruit students from around the world if the HSG is not known outside DACHLI. And how the rankings would pick up HSG is also a mystery. Maybe that assumption is wrong?
Academic fairs etc.
Just because a uni scores well on academic rankings, doesn't mean it will be well known by employers. Banks (and no doubt firms in other sectors) have lists of a small number of target universities that they prefer to recruit from at undergraduate and graduate level. This means that they will spend time and resources actively recruiting graduates from these schools in preference to others - go to one of these schools and you are already several steps ahead of a competitor from a school not on the list. I know which schools are on the list for my bank in the UK, US and Switzerland. In the States there are no non-US schools. In the UK at graduate school level the list is mainly US Ivy League schools with London Business School and INSEAD making up the numbers. At undergrad level it's Oxbridge plus 5-8 others. Note that at graduate level Oxbridge isn't on the list. HSG doesn't get a look in. In Switzerland it's clearly different and HSG is targetted strongly at undergraduate and graduate level.
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Yes, I would venture a guess that most of the larger private banks in Switzerland have APAC desks.
Agreed definitely and China will only become more important as a market as it becomes more prosperous as a nation. Working on a China desk with just English and Mandarin/Cantonese is doable I would say, but you are more than likely going to need a banking or maybe consulting background already (or an impressive network of HNWI that you could bring as clients!).
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Old 24.08.2010, 08:06
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Agreed definitely and China will only become more important as a market as it becomes more prosperous as a nation. Working on a China desk with just English and Mandarin/Cantonese is doable I would say, but you are more than likely going to need a banking or maybe consulting background already (or an impressive network of HNWI that you could bring as clients!).
Thanks for your information. I do have two years experience in Private Equity firm in Bejing. And I have some qualification, CFA Level 2 passed. I think my experience in PE is not so useful, because as I see the IBD/PE part of the banking requires high soft skill (you need to talk to the local clients very often), and my German is very limited. As for the private banking part, I just rarely see any job ad for Asian desk from the banks job portal. So eyebeebe, do you know where to find those information?

And I am going to start my study in St.Gallen in Sep. I think there will to be some career fair in the coming months. If I have some opportunities to talk with the representatives from the banks, is there anything I need to pay attention to? I mean like how to start the conversation, how to send the CV...

Maybe too many questions. I think you were studying in HSG and then going to the bank. You might be the right person to ask. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks a lot!
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Old 24.08.2010, 08:55
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Universally true, not only for finance jobs: Job ads are a wish-list written by the employer. If you would fulfill 100% of it, you are more than likely not interested in the job as you could usually get a better one... you are very high qualified with a master from the HSG and your ongoing CFA.

Unless you are looking at 100% customer facing front desk jobs where you will need to be able to talk German/Russian/Arabic or whatever else your customers speak, you will be fine: At your level, you are hired for your skills beyond languages. Just ignore the requirement for fluent German, write "basic German" into your CV and nobody cares.

I am honestly surprised that somebody needs to tell you this, it is obvious and since you have work experience, you should know it... and if you look for contacts in Swiss banking specifically in the APAC desks, I guess that there might be websites that would help more... like the "Mandarin version of EF".
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Old 24.08.2010, 10:51
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Universally true, not only for finance jobs: Job ads are a wish-list written by the employer. If you would fulfill 100% of it, you are more than likely not interested in the job as you could usually get a better one... you are very high qualified with a master from the HSG and your ongoing CFA.

Unless you are looking at 100% customer facing front desk jobs where you will need to be able to talk German/Russian/Arabic or whatever else your customers speak, you will be fine: At your level, you are hired for your skills beyond languages. Just ignore the requirement for fluent German, write "basic German" into your CV and nobody cares.

I am honestly surprised that somebody needs to tell you this, it is obvious and since you have work experience, you should know it... and if you look for contacts in Swiss banking specifically in the APAC desks, I guess that there might be websites that would help more... like the "Mandarin version of EF".
Yes, I know many requirements in the job ad are just written there and most candidates can not fit 100% with job ad. But I am just afraid that German is a clear cut. If you don't have, they just do not look at your other qualification.Sorry, I have not been Switzerland, maybe I am worried too much. Everything will be more clear when I arrive.

There are few Chinese in Switzerland, even fewer in finance sector. I can not find such useful forum like EF.
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Old 24.08.2010, 11:08
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Sorry, I have not been Switzerland, maybe I am worried too much. Everything will be more clear when I arrive.
Er, you are not here yet? So the "St.Gallen" in location is actually what you are planning to do?

You know: First make your Masters at the HSG and then worry about your job afterwards. Talk to you in two years. Maybe your German is better by then, maybe you made some contacts for jobs by then, maybe you want to go back to China as you do not like it here...
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Old 24.08.2010, 11:13
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Which Master program are you doing @ HSG?
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Old 24.08.2010, 11:50
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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Which Master program are you doing @ HSG?
MBF- Master of Banking and Finance. So I will look for finance jobs.
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Old 25.08.2010, 09:55
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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LOL - is that a Freudian slip?
No, it's mix between English and German.
German fast = English almost, nearly
when
English fast = German schnell

V.
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Old 25.08.2010, 10:08
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Hi there

I am not sure where you are based at the moment but if you are in Switzerland, I can help you with your German. I give Swiss German and German conversation lessons for 50CHF per hour. I am based in Zürich and Basel.

Take care,
Nora.
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Old 11.12.2010, 19:30
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Hi,

I am happy that I found you on the forum. I also plan to start MBF at st. gallen... I am from India... Please tell me how good is the course... and is it wise to start in spring that is feb 2011... will be of great help if i can hear from you
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Old 11.12.2010, 19:40
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

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I just have a small question in my job application. I am doing a finance master in HSG. When I view the job ad from the school's career website, I find out the banks (UBS,CS....) often mention German and English as a requirement.

But do they really mean you need to have very fluent German to be eligible for the job? Because I know some companies will give you interview though they require German in their job ad. I just want to know if I bother to apply jobs in banking, if they strictly require very good German.

If someone have experience of applying for banking jobs, please give me an insight. Thanks!
It is an advantage.

Think how far an job applicant would get in the US or UK if he spoke no English.
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Old 11.12.2010, 20:03
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Re: The working language in the banking sector

Everything is possible. Depends on the personality and local working culture rather than professional necessities. In some places, German or even Swiss German is prefered because that is the usus (cultural habit) taken there. Other places, English is prefered for all kinds of reasons.
Just send your application and give the level of German you can rich by the time you start the job, which can be somehow higher than your present level. Every body overestimate language level anyway, so don't be too cheap with yourself within the boundaries of the concept "credibility".
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