The earlier you start preparing for your investment banking and investment career, the better you’ll understand which roles suit you best and be able to explain your motivation for applying to an employer. But how can you ensure you’re making the best possible use of your time at university and find out how you compare to other students considering investment careers? All is revealed in the results of the Graduate Survey 2019, the UK’s largest survey of students’ attitudes to job hunting. It was conducted by Trendence UK, a partner of TARGETjobs’ parent company Group GTI. 74,746 students responded to the survey and we are focusing on the students who expressed an interest in working for investment banks and investment management firms.
What students are doing to boost their chances of getting hired by investment banking and investment employers
We’ve compiled key information from the Trendence UK Graduate Survey into a series of charts showing how students interested in banking and investment employers feel about their future career and what they’re doing to increase their employability. We’ve also summarised the information into five pieces of advice to inspire your 2020 career planning. These will help you keep up with your fellow students or even get one step ahead of them – from trying work experience with different sized employers to investigating networking events outside of your campus bubble.
Five ways to stand out from other students interested in banking and investment careers
Work experience undertaken:
An internship with an investment bank or investment management firm is a must for students who want a career in these sectors. An above average number of students who expressed interest in investment employers had completed an internship of two months or more: 45% of penultimate years had (compared to 32% on average) and 63% of final years had (compared to 46% on average). However, this means 37% of final-year students and 55% of penultimate-year students who were interested in working for investment employers didn’t have an internship on their CV – get one step ahead of them by gaining this crucial experience.
Students who impress during their internship may be offered a graduate job afterwards, but this isn’t the only benefit. Internships provide you with a variety of transferable and sector-specific skills and help to show that you have a genuine interest in investment. They also enable you to experience different areas of work and the culture of different organisations to decide what suits you, meaning that when you are interviewed for full-time analyst roles you’ll find it easier to explain what motivated you to apply.
If you're in your first year, it's worth applying for spring insight days or weeks to learn more about different firms. Impress during these programmes and you might even be fast-tracked onto an internship the following year. Nearly a third (30%) of first-year students interested in working for investment employers had completed an employer insight day or week (compared to just 22% on average).
- More about internships in banking and investment
- The investment banking work experience pipeline explained
- Spring weeks in investment banking
- Four ways to prepare for your investment banking internship
Preferred ways of engaging with employers at university:
Use of social media for careers:
Stands at careers fairs and on-campus careers workshops were the top two ways that students interested in banking and investment preferred to engage with recruiters. Investment banks often visit campuses to meet students in this way, although they tend to invest the most money in going to a few ‘target universities’. However, attending a target university will by no means guarantee you a graduate analyst role in an investment bank. Equally, if your institution isn’t a target university for a bank you’re interested in working for, don’t let this hold you back from applying.
Find out which banks will be visiting your university and attend on-campus networking events if they are offered, but also look further afield – whether yours is a non-target university or you just want to get ahead of your peers and widen the range of opportunities open to you. This may mean travelling to attend events further away, especially if you don’t live near London.
Networking isn’t just about turning up. It’s about making the most of opportunities and following up afterwards – and social media can help with this. With 86% of students interested in banking and investment using LinkedIn for careers purposes, not doing so will put you at a disadvantage. The articles listed below will help you to find networking events, get the most out of them and build lasting connections with the people you meet.
- Our complete guide to networking your way into an investment job
- How to find a mentor or start your own finance network… and other alternative ways to break into the industry
- How to network at careers fairs and other events
- How to write an eye-catching LinkedIn profile
Preferred size of employer:
Just over half (51%) of our survey respondents interested in banking and investment wanted to work for a large international company/firm, while 13% wanted to work for a large UK-based company/firm and 9% wanted to work for a small/medium size enterprise. A quarter (25%) said that they would be happy with any of those options.
Only 3% of the graduates we asked didn’t know what size of organisation they wanted to work for, showing that the vast majority had thought about this question. You could be left behind if you haven’t considered it yet. It’s worth applying for insight events, internships or other work experience at a variety of different-sized firms. If you then decide you’d be equally happy with any size of organisation, that’s fine. What matters is that you explore all the options before you apply for full-time analyst roles, and don’t assume that only one sort of employer would suit you.
Larger, international investment banks and investment management firms tend to be the more popular with graduates (as shown by the highest-rated employers in this sector in the UK 300, as well as the fact that 51% would prefer to work for them). However, this means their analyst vacancies are more competitive to secure – so even if you think these would suit you best, it’s worth doing some experience with a small or UK-based firm rather than ruling it out straight away.
Find out more…
- Applying to banking employers with a small graduate intake
- Answering the ‘Why have you decided to apply to us?’ question
- Beating the competition for investment banking graduate jobs
- How to make the most of your investment banking internship – the questions you should be asking yourself
Top subjects of study (top 6 only):
The most popular subjects studied by students interested in investment banking and investment were: business and administrative studies (43%), social studies (21%), mathematical sciences (11%)and computer sciences (8%). If you’re not studying a finance or STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject, you can still have a career in investment banking or investment management, because most employers look for a minimum 2.1 degree in any subject. This is evidenced by the fact that social studies are the second most popular discipline for this sector in the Graduate Survey. The fifth and sixth most popular subjects were historical and philosophical studies (3%) and languages (3%), showing that these subjects are also welcomed. Languages graduates are particularly valued in this global industry.
A basic level of numeracy is essential but this will be tested through psychometric testing, not through how numerical your degree is. You’ll receive training on financial concepts and technical skills once you start the job; recruiters just want to see that you have the potential to learn them. Studying a finance, maths or science subject does not necessarily make you more likely to get hired; the popularity of these subjects is probably because students studying them are more likely to choose an investment career in the first place. If you research the industry in your own time and proactively seek out work experience, your degree won’t put you at a disadvantage.
Graduates need to prove their interest in the sector regardless of their degree background. For example, a history graduate who has completed internships, made contacts in the industry and developed their commercial awareness will have more chance of getting an investment job than an economics graduate who hasn’t. The key is to think about the skills you’ve gained from your degree, extracurricular activities and work experience – you’ll find out more about how to do this in the following articles.
- How to sell your non-finance degree in your application
- More about your prospects in banking and investment without a finance degree
- Why investment banks actively seek graduates from a range of degrees
- How language skills can help you get an investment banking job
5. Consider your priorities when choosing where to apply
Values and priorities:
Over a third (37%) of students who expressed an interest in banking and investment said that a high starting salary was very important to them: a higher percentage of students than for any of the other sectors and well above the average of 25%. They have high expectations too: on average their expected income was £33,015, higher than for any other sector. And our findings suggest they were right to be optimistic: the latest ISE Graduate Recruitment Survey of its members revealed that finance and professional services organisations expected to pay an average graduate starting salary of £30,125 in 2019.
However, around half (49%) of students interested in banking and investment said a good work/life balance was very important to them – and this isn’t always possible to achieve in high-paying roles, so if both are important you may need to compromise. Do you want to sacrifice time for socialising and hobbies in return for the highest paying entry-level job you can find, or would you be willing to settle for a slightly lower salary if it meant working fewer, more predictable hours? Many careers in finance (such as trading, investment management, insurance and retail banking) have a better work/life balance than investment banking but still pay a decent (albeit lower) salary.
This decision is yours to make depending on what matters most to you, but you should think about it as early as possible because it may influence the internships and graduate roles you choose to apply for. Similarly, if personal development at work is very important to you, then you're not alone: 69% of our respondents said this. Look for employers that provide opportunities for personal development and mention these when you're asked why you chose to apply there.