How to get a banking and investment graduate job: the basics
A career in banking and investment is all about making money. Graduate recruiters in banking and investment provide financial services to clients at the top end of the market, such as corporations, institutions and governments.
Amongst other services, clients are assisted to raise loans, invest surplus cash, take over and merge with other businesses or float shares on the stock exchange.
How can I get a graduate job with a bank or investment house?
Banking and investment employers actively search for talented graduates to take the business forward and run graduate recruitment schemes to which you can apply directly.
Many of them also offer internships or work placements – these schemes are very competitive and an offer of one of these sought-after positions will give you a real head-start to getting offered a permanent job, either with the employer where you undertake the placement or elsewhere.
What qualifications and skills do I need for a graduate job in investment banking?
Most investment banks welcome graduates from all academic disciplines. However, understandably, a prerequisite for most technology divisions are technical degrees or degrees with a significant IT component.
You will usually need to have a 2.1 or first, a relevant internship (preferably with that employer) and a genuine interest in the financial markets. You don’t need to be a mathematical genius but you will need to be comfortable working with numbers.
Being able to learn quickly is essential, as are ‘soft’ skills, such as communication, negotiation, leadership and interpersonal skills. Sit down and list all the skills you’ve picked up through your studies, extracurricular activities and work experience – once you start thinking about it you’ll discover all sorts of attributes you didn’t realise you had. Essential skills employers are looking for include:
- numeracy (however, a maths or science degree isn’t usually essential)
- analytical skills
- communication skills – verbal and written
- enthusiasm, self-motivation
- teamworking skills
- the ability to learn quickly
- genuine interest in finance
- ability to work under pressure
- attention to detail
What does the application process involve and when should I apply?
A few investment management and banking employers ask for a CV and covering letter, especially the smaller, boutique firms, but the majority of employers in the sector use online application systems.
They may also ask you to complete online tests, such as psychometric and personality tests. If your application catches an employer’s eye for the right reasons and you’ve done well enough on any required tests, you’ll probably be asked to attend an interview and assessment centre.
Application dates for some organisations are open all year round. However, you will need to watch out for closing dates that fall before the end of the year – some can be in October.
Closing dates for internships are often a bit later than those for full time jobs. So, give yourself a head-start by beginning your research early and give yourself a chance to practise filling in application forms and online aptitude tests.
What are the salaries in banking?
Entry-level jobs in the banking and investment sector are among the best paid in the UK – you could be earning up to £50,000 on starting. There may also be bonuses.
What is working life like?
Employees in the banking and investment world are well known for putting in long hours and intense work in return for the high salaries on offer. A twelve hour working day or more is not uncommon.
Many graduates in the sector seem to think their working lifestyle is good in spite of the long days - this could be a factor of the kind of personalities that are attracted to this fast-paced industry!
The specific nature of the work obviously varies according to different roles and divisions in the industry, but it is often fast paced, demanding and unpredictable. Communication with colleagues and clients is often a huge part of the job.
What are the different areas of work?
There’s a wide range of disciplines to choose from and within each there are different kinds of roles on offer.
- Specialist markets
- Investment banking
- Investment management
- Corporate banking
- Risk management
- Structured finance
- Private wealth management
How is an investment bank structured?
Investment banks consist of three main departments: front office, middle office and back office. Each department performs a unique function that helps the bank to make money, manage risk and remain operationally sound.
Front office includes investment banking, sales and trading, and research. This is where the money is made. Middle office comprises risk management, financial control, corporate treasury, corporate strategy and compliance. This division regulates the bank and its activities. Operations and technology make up the back office and, in essence, support the front office.
What are the highs and lows?
Working in banking and investment often involves very long and unpredictable hours and there can be a lot of stress involved depending upon factors beyond your control.
That aside, you'll be working in a dynamic environment with high-powered colleagues, excellent salary prospects and the opportunity to assume responsibility early on.
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