Graduates and university students who are seriously considering a career in investment banking or investment management should know that employers in these areas of finance value academic results. A minimum 2.1 degree is standard to get your application seen by graduate recruiters. But it doesn’t stop there; many specify a number of UCAS points (A level grades).
High A level grades are essential if you want an investment graduate job
Unlike some other areas of finance you must possess high A level grades, as well as at least a 2.1 degree, to be considered for a graduate role in investment banking and investment management. Commerzbank, for instance, asks for at least 320 UCAS points (or equivalent), which is an ABB at A level. For Smith & Williamson’s investment management division, you’ll need at least 280–300 UCAS points (112–116 post-2017).
How recruiters can use your UCAS points
Graduate jobs in both strands of investment are hotly competed for, with scores of applications being submitted for each advertised position. Some organisations use A level results to filter applications. On many online application forms, for example, you will be asked to enter your UCAS results and your application will not be taken forward if you don’t meet the minimum requirements. Furthermore, many recruiters see good grades as a reflection of your intelligence, commitment and discipline – and if you have demonstrated these qualities through college and university, the likelihood is you’ll do so in the workplace as well.
A good degree doesn’t make up for low A level grades
Your first class degree result will not compensate for your low A level grades, unless your chosen employer takes into account mitigating circumstances. Some organisations include a section on their application form that allows for circumstances that were beyond your control and genuinely affected your ability to perform. Examples include serious illness or injury, the death or critical illness of a close family member and jury service. A part-time job or launching and running your own business on the side of your degree don’t count, despite how impressive this may be.
Retaking an A level may not work
The odd person may consider retaking an A level during or after university to top up their UCAS points in the hope of securing a graduate investment job. Although this will show your determination and commitment (two traits highly prized by investment banking and investment management employers), this route is unlikely to increase your chances of breaking into the industry. Recruiters tend to count initial results, not retakes, and with sectors as competitive as these two, recruiters don’t struggle to find candidates with excellent grades.
What you can do if you don’t have the desired A level results
All hope is not lost if you didn’t get the desired grades – you can still have a successful career in finance. Consider choosing another area of the industry. A level requirements for some roles in retail banking and insurance are lower than investment banking and investment management, while accountancy firm PwC decided in May 2015 not to count UCAS scores when recruiting for graduate talent. This wouldn’t be settling for an easy or inferior option, as all areas of finance offer an intellectual challenge, real opportunities for career progression and salaries that’ll make you smile.
Visit the UCAS website to find out how many points your A levels are awarded.
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