by Girl Banker

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As an eager banker-wannabe whenever I heard the term "back-office" I imagined a category of overworked and underpaid workers toiling away in a windowless room at the back of a building! Personally, I find the term a little derogatory.

In banking, the terms: back, middle and front office refer to how closely connected you are to the money train.
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Front office
Front office workers make the money. Their actions lead directly to more or less money being added to the bottom line of the bank. Front office workers will earn the highest bonuses because they essentially make the money and as such expect a higher cut. 

In theory, the more money you earn for the bank, the higher your expected bonus is. In a recession, bonus expectations will be lower overall but front office workers will still expect more than those further down the chain.

Front office does not have to be client-facing e.g. traders usually do not see clients but if you are client-facing you will need to look smart and dress well for meetings. If you hate suits, this is not the best job for you!

Front office includes: 
  • Salespeople in the capital markets
  • Traders in the capital markets
  • Corporate finance bankers 
Although analysts and associates in corporate finance don't have a budget to meet, they would also be categorised as front office because the modelling and presentation work they do leads to the loss or gain of a deal.

Middle office
Middle office workers are an integral part of making money. They directly support a deal but their actions have to be instigated by a front-office worker. A middle office worker cannot as a result of their own actions increase bank profits.

Middle office includes: 
  • Legal (they make sure legal documents with external parties are optimally structured)
  • Compliance (make sure you're on the right side of complaince law e.g. following chinese wall requirements)
  • Research (if it's provided to clients free of charge is a middle office function)

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Back office
Back office includes any process-orientated roles. An efficient back office is vital because if clients don't get statements and confirmations on time they will hate your bank and could, on that basis, exclude your bank from deals. 

How can back office impact front office deals?
Imagine you work on a company's small corporate finance team; you have ten bank relationships to manage. One bank consistently sends statements late. The statements frequently have errors and you have to call many times to get issues sorted - if it can be helped you're going to avoid doing business with that bank, aren't you?

Back office includes: 
  • Confirmation teams (they confirm transactions with clients, send out regular statements e.g. regarding the current value of a booked deal)
  • Presentations teams (they make presentations look pretty or consistent with the bank's style)
  • Print & Production teams (they print off client presentations)

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So there you have it. When you're applying for jobs it can be a little challenging to decipher whether a role is front-office or not. This is especially true if you're applying off-cycle to a bank that has both a retail bank and an investment bank. 

Use the above guidelines to help you decide how close you are to the money train. You want to get as close as possible.

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Comments

Hanuma Reddy
27/02/2013 06:10

Nice Expalnation..now i am clear about it..


Thanks...

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Girl Banker®
06/03/2013 11:05

Thanks!

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dalu
16/03/2013 18:42

All the way from nigeria..I love the clear explaination. Good job

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Girl Banker®
27/03/2013 13:08

Thanks ! :)

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ddb
09/06/2013 03:15

Where does Finance/Accounting fit in?

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Girl Banker
09/06/2013 07:38

Middle office

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Girl Banker®
16/07/2013 09:10

p.s. some people will call finance and accounting back office because they don't contribute to deals in any way; however, that is not strictly correct.

Back office really refers to completely process-orientated jobs which accounting/finance are not.

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NewToBanking
25/06/2013 17:53

My apologies...It is a fairly good article.. But I have to say (to DDB's question date Jun-09-2013... "Where does Finance/Accounting fit in?").. The answer is not Middle Office.. Its Back Office... Back office - "Administration and support personnel in a financial services company. They carry out functions like settlements, clearances, record maintenance, regulatory compliance, and "ACCOUNTING".-- Investopedia.

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16/07/2013 14:27

Hi Heather, please where does IB risk/Credit Risk fit in? Front or Back office??

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Girl Banker®
17/07/2013 10:03

100% middle office.

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michael
13/09/2013 07:46

Great job with the explanation! thanks(:

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SV
22/09/2013 23:39

If you are targetting a Front office posiiton, never ever a take a back or middle office position, hoping that one day that will take you into front office positions. That never happens. Once you have taken middle/back office role, industry immediately brand you as tier 2 person and that will back fire in your search towards front office role. Positions for Fron office always filled directly.

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Anish
15/10/2013 16:12

I just read the article, can you tell me were does the process of executing the payment,receipts and transfer lies aswell as initiating the FX (not the actual movement).
Thank you

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sachin
18/10/2013 23:53

HI,
I have 2+ years of experience in AP, AR and Reconciliation in to Aviation Industry. Eager to join IB, where I will fit.

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Paul
23/03/2014 08:32

Hey! I read on weekpedia that equity and research constitute part of FO roles.what can you say about it because these can't generate revenue.

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