Investment banking and investment
Careers advice for graduates about investment bank's and investment management firm's values

Why company values matter when you’re applying for an investment graduate job

Find out how understanding your chosen investment employer's core values will increase your chances of getting hired.
The bank or firm that you apply to will expect you to share its values and to work by them.

All investment banks and investment management firms will have core values or principles that are the basis for the way that they conduct their business. Different employers may choose to refer to their core values in different ways, but regardless of the terminology used, these values play an essential role in underpinning the company. Core values encapsulate how all employees will be expected to:

  • do their jobs;
  • build relationships with colleagues; and
  • interact with and serve clients.

J.P. Morgan, for instance, explains on its graduate website that its ‘values (which include partnership, trust and drive) are reflected in the way that we conduct our business and in the results that we consistently achieve for our clients’.

Banking and investment values and culture

An investment bank’s or investment management firm’s core values are usually five or so buzzwords – such as accountability, integrity, teamwork, innovation and adaptability – that will be explained in greater detail online or in printed careers literature. The explanations given aren’t dictionary definitions; they’re based on what the business means and what it’s trying to achieve.

These values form an integral part of a company’s culture. For instance, the value teamwork will influence the way people behave and will help to shape the culture of the working environment by, say, encouraging openness, collaboration, honesty and supportiveness.      

Values separate investment employers from their rivals

Investment banks and investment management firms are very similar to their industry equivalents when it comes to their structure and the products and services that they offer their clients. Their values make them a bit different. And that distinguishing factor is like a unique selling point – to both existing and potential clients, and existing and potential employees.

You will be expected to follow the finance firm's core values

The bank or firm that you apply to will expect you to share its values and to work by them. It is stipulated on Goldman Sachs’ website, for instance, that ‘getting to know us is essential. Our recruitment process is built upon our belief that a candidate’s understanding of the Goldman Sachs culture (which is propped up by its values) is as important as the skills and talent she or he can bring to the firm’.

Barclays says as much too. Group chief executive Antony Jenkins implemented five core values that all employees across the business have to adhere to if they want to work for the bank: respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship. Mr Jenkins said in 2013 that if employees can’t work by these values, ‘Barclays is not the place for you’.

Understanding your chosen employer’s values will improve your application

Graduate recruiters and interviewers will quiz you in the online application and at interviews about why you want a job at that particular investment bank or investment management firm over others. Some, such as Barclays, will even ask about their values specifically. They want to see and hear in your responses that there’s something specific about your chosen employer that attracts you. Convincing them of this will increase your chances of getting hired.

Understanding, relating to and demonstrating your chosen employer’s values will help you to prove that you’re genuinely interested in the company throughout the recruitment process. For example, take what Diana Ly, graduate recruiter at Nomura, says on the topic when advising about what applicants should include in their covering letter: ‘Applicants should undertake research on Nomura and highlight examples of the bank’s business strategy or culture that are of genuine interest to them.’

Find out all you can about the values that underpin the business    

There’s a lot you can do to find out about the principles at the heart of your chosen organisation, for example:

  • View video footage that has been uploaded onto its graduate or corporate website. M&G Investments, for example, has videos on its careers site in which employees speak about the firm’s culture and priorities.
  • Check out the organisation’s employer hub, which contains information about the business through an organisation profile, graduate profiles or videos.
  • Visit the business’s website and read about its values in the respective section, which will typically be ‘about us’, ‘why choose us’, ‘working at…’ or something similar.
  • Reflect on past internships, spring insights and careers events, and think about what employees/representatives said about the business’s values.
  • Find out if your chosen employer has a YouTube channel. Barclays and Goldman Sachs are among those that do. In their videos, employees talk about different aspects of the business, including their values.
  • Download the latest copy of TARGETjobs City & Finance, in which some investment banks and investment management firms have run an organisation profile.
  • Speak with people (friends, university colleagues and otherwise) who work with, or have worked with, the employer to which you have applied. They’ll have an idea of how the values work in practice.

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