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Investment banking and investment management opportunities for non-finance graduates

Investment and banking prospects for graduates without a finance degree

It’s possible to get into a career in investment banking or investment management with any degree subject, though this is easier with some employers than others.

You’ll need to develop good industry knowledge, keep up to date with developments and research employers thoroughly.

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. Arts and humanities graduates are valued for their broader approach towards culture and society. 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, because of the different ways of thinking that this brings to the business. The training you receive on a graduate programme will give you a solid grounding in financial subjects and bring everyone up to the same level, whatever they've studied previously.

  • Citi says: ‘We’re open to all majors and you don’t necessarily need a degree in banking or finance to be considered for a position. We value diversity and hire on potential.’
  • Morgan Stanley says: ‘Diversity makes us stronger. We recruit candidates from across all academic disciplines and encourage applications from students of all backgrounds.’
  • J.P. Morgan says: ‘We welcome students from all disciplines and backgrounds to join us – not just finance.’
  • Credit Suisse says: ‘It doesn’t matter whether or not you are a finance major. Our undergraduate and graduate employees come from a wide range of backgrounds, bringing their different experiences and viewpoints to everything we do.’

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 you to have demonstrated ‘strong analytical, methodological skills during your studies’ in a subject such as economics, maths, physics, finance or business administration.

Some employers have certain graduate programmes that require a specific degree and others that are open to all degree disciplines. For example, Barclays says: ‘There are people here from all kinds of degree disciplines. When it comes to applications, we’re more interested in who you are than what you’ve studied. That said, roles such as structuring do require a more technical degree.’

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.

It’s likely that there will be a numerical reasoning test as part of the recruitment process. This will help you to demonstrate your ability, regardless of your degree subject.

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 because interview questions will be the same for all candidates, whatever they’ve studied. You’ll need to develop good industry knowledge, keep up to date with developments and research employers thoroughly.

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