Group exercises at investment banking assessment centres
Group exercises, aka case studies or group discussions, are a common element of investment banking assessment days. While generic ‘teambuilding’ tasks are sometimes included, most exercises relate to the division in question. Don’t assume that you will be set the same scenarios as friends applying to different divisions at the same bank.
Help yourself predict your group exercises by re-reading your research into what, fundamentally, the job in question involves, eg identifying the best investment opportunities or marketing new products.
Jane Clark, head of campus recruitment at Barclays, explains: ‘We’ve tried to make the assessment centres an on-the-job simulation. They are closely aligned to specific divisions. For example, in HR we’d be looking to test for internal consulting skills. In investment banking, we give a real-life case study for people to work on.’
Typical group exercises at investment banks
Typical group exercises that have been run at investment banking assessment centres in previous years include the following.
- Trading game/simulation. Has been used, for example, at ICAP and Barclays. At Barclays, candidates worked in teams and had 15 cards to trade with other teams.
- Investment exercise. Has been used previously at Citi. Involves discussing various options for investing a given amount of money and reaching a group decision.
- Launching a new financial product. For example, candidates at UBS have been asked to develop a marketing strategy for a new product with a given budget.
- Group exercises unrelated to banking. For example, for its research and quantitative analytics graduate schemes, Barclays has asked candidates to build a run for a ping-pong ball that will maximise the time it takes to travel from one end of a table to the other.
Structure of group exercises
A group size of six to eight people is typical. Discussion time may be extremely limited – an analyst at Morgan Stanley reports having had only 10 or 15 minutes to reach a consensus in a group exercise – or a little more lenient – candidates at UBS mention having had 20–35 minutes for group discussions.
A common element is to have a spanner thrown in the works part way through by the recruitment team. For example at UBS, this has been known to take the form of an ‘urgent email’ highlighting a problem such as a regulatory concern or a similar competitor product.
What banking recruiters look for at assessment centres
Precise requirements vary from role to role. However, banking recruiters typically use assessment centre group exercises to identify graduates who can work under pressure, adapt quickly to deal with new information and work collaboratively with colleagues.
Malcolm Horton, managing director at Nomura, comments: ‘The assessment centres are to see how you assess information under pressure. Some people are brilliant if you give them eight hours – there are some that are brilliant if you give them eight minutes, and both are valuable to the organisation.’
Meanwhile the ICAP recruitment team tells TARGETjobs Finance: ‘Throughout the process we are looking for outgoing personalities with exceptional interpersonal and networking skills.’
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