In the UK, most graduate schemes at most investment banks and investment management companies are open to graduates with any degree subject. However, if you haven’t studied finance or economics you’ll need to prove your knowledge and interest in other ways – which almost always includes a relevant internship. And don’t expect the interview questions to be any easier.
Popular subjects with banking and investment recruiters
It goes without saying that maths graduates are popular with banks and investment managers – though you’ll still need to prove an interest in finance. Other numerate subjects are also desirable, such as physics and engineering. Business and management degrees are common in the industry. And languages students are increasingly sought-after, given the global nature of the business.
Technology is vitally important to finance institutions, so almost all hire graduates with computer science and related degrees into IT roles. However, a strong academic record and a degree from a top university can still get you into banking and investment even if you have not studied one of the above subjects.
Banking and investment graduate employers who encourage non-finance graduates
A number of investment banks and investment management businesses don’t just accept candidates without a finance degree – they actively encourage them to apply. A common theme is not wanting to recruit an entire intake of economics-graduate clones.
'A diverse workforce is a smarter workforce,' said Marisa Drew, CEO of Credit Suisse's impact advisory and finance department, speaking at TARGETjobs' First year Banking insights event in 2018. 'We really are looking for people from a variety of backgrounds.'
The Citi recruitment team has previously stated that graduates can ‘apply to any business area from any degree discipline’ and that the bank needs ‘a diverse range of people from different backgrounds’. Jane Clark, formerly head of campus recruitment at Barclays, agreed on the need for diversity, adding ‘We focus on educating people so they understand that they don’t necessarily need to have a financial degree background.’
Edinburgh-based investment management firm Baillie Gifford is well known for taking a long view of the financial markets, and as such is particularly keen to recruit arts and humanities graduates for their broader approach towards culture and society. Former HR manager Richard Barry commented: ‘The firm looks for graduates who can think freely and in a structured way, and who can follow up their interests with considered, well-formulated arguments. Any degree background that develops the ability to do this is an advantage.’
Fellow investment management firm M&G Investments said it 'positively encourages candidates from all backgrounds to apply, as they bring a different way of thinking to the typical economics or finance graduates'. The organisation added that it wouldn’t expect candidates to have relevant internships and those who haven't gained experience in the industry would not be at a disadvantage during the recruitment process.
Banks and investment management firms posing more challenge to non-finance graduates
At other banking and investment employers the range of jobs you can apply to will be more limited, or you may have to work even harder to prove your worth in the recruitment process. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t try.
Commerzbank specifies the degrees accepted for each of its graduate schemes: 'an economic discipline' is required for its private and business clients graduate programme, while its risk management programme requires economics, maths or physics.
Your numeracy skills
If your degree isn’t in a numerate subject, you’ll need to show finance recruiters that you are good with numbers. If you’ve done maths at A level, this will stand you in good stead. You may also have other relevant experience that proves your ability to work with numbers, such as a position as treasurer for a university society. Highlight this in applications.
'You have to have a base level of numeracy because finance is about numbers,' said Credit Suisse's Marisa, 'but some of the most valued skills are marketing and sales skills. I could have the coolest or smartest product, but if I don’t know how to connect with the client, there’s no relationship.' If you have examples of when you've demonstrated other skills such as these, make sure you emphasise them as much as your numerical ability.
Getting the finance work experience and knowledge you need
If you’re trying to get into investment banking, an internship is almost essential. These organisations recruit the majority of graduate hires via their internship schemes; for the remaining places, the most appealing candidates are those who have completed an internship at a similar employer.
In turn, getting a place on a spring insight programme at a bank can help with landing an internship. These are usually only open to students in their first year, or their second year of a four-year degree, and typically take place over the Easter vacation. However, if you’ve missed the boat, other types of finance experience can help you get an internship.
You won’t be expected to be a finance guru, but do learn the basics. ‘Questions will be exactly the same for all candidates, regardless of whether they studied economics or maths or not,’ warned Jane Clark at Barclays. Likewise, you’ll need to develop good industry knowledge, keep up to date with developments and research employers thoroughly. Sarah Harper, head of recruiting at Goldman Sachs, recommended ‘joining finance societies at university, or actively reading relevant press’.
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