What salary can a graduate expect in retail banking, actuarial and insurance roles?

Annual salary is one of the most important factors graduates consider when applying for jobs or schemes in financial services. Will it be enough? What perks are included? And, for the lucky few with more than one job offer, which company pays more?

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Graduates taking a series of exams can sometimes be offered a pay rise after every exam they pass.

Financial services careers encompass insurance, retail banking, actuarial work, risk and regulation. The competitive nature of their work means that businesses in these sectors are determined to attract the best and brightest graduates for their schemes. This means they sometimes don’t publish salary information in case another organisation offers something better. In addition, some retail banks and insurance companies do not release salary information until a job offer has been made. As a result, you’ll often see job adverts in which the rate of pay is simply given as ‘competitive’. That said, there is information out there about how much graduates in the financial services sector are paid.

How much does a graduate in retail banking, insurance or actuarial get paid?

According to research carried out by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) in 2021, the median starting salary for graduates in the finance and professional services business sectors is £32,850 and the mean is £35,540. However, the ISE only takes into account results from its members, which are the largest organisations that take on graduates. Not all businesses were included so figures may vary. Bear in mind, too, that those in London often earn around £2,500–£5,000 more than those in the rest of the country. If you’re not based in London, the figure may be lower but so will your cost of living.

Other research, this time conducted by the recruitment agency Hays, also provides insights into what graduate are paid, this time via data on the salaries of candidates the agency has placed in roles in different industries.

In 2021, the data showed that the median typical salaries for graduates working in general insurance were as follows:

  • £33,000 in London
  • £30,000 in south-east England
  • £29,000 in the East Midlands and West Midlands
  • £28,000 in north-east England and in Yorkshire and the Humber
  • £27,000 in north-west England

How much you’re likely to be paid also depends on your area of work. For instance, the median typical salary for a graduate working in pensions is slightly lower according to the Hays research:

  • £30,000 in London
  • £27,000 in the south and midlands
  • £25,000 in the north and Scotland

Some companies offer regular pay rises, although this is more likely to happen once you have completed your graduate scheme. Additionally, graduates taking a series of exams, for example during an actuarial scheme, can sometimes be offered a pay rise after every exam they pass.

Which employers release salary information?

Employers that publish salary details include:

  • Bank of England – a starting salary of £31,000.
  • HMRC tax professional programme – a starting salary of £33,080
  • Lloyd’s – a starting salary of £30,000 for graduates working in insurance and actuarial
  • Lloyds Banking Group – from £31,000 (plus bonus) depending on the programme
  • NatWest Group – usually a starting salary of £31,000
  • Santander – a minimum £30,000 starting salary
  • Zurich Insurance Group – a starting salary of £28,000 for change and technology management, finance, and business management, and £31,000 for the actuarial and data programmes.

What sort of perks can I expect?

There are a wide range of benefits offered by employers within the financial services, with perks such as subsidised gym membership, discounts on travel, private health insurance, a season ticket loan, life assurance and contributions into a pension scheme being the most common.

Other incentives that may be offered are:

  • starting bonuses – these are not always stated on organisations’ websites, but Lloyds Banking Group says it offers this
  • financial support for professional qualifications – Lane Clark & Peacock offers this, alongside 40 days’ study leave and an allowance for study materials; plus you’ll be assigned a study mentor
  • the option to buy more or sell some of your holiday entitlement – Santander offers this
  • discounted tickets to events such as comedy nights, golf and theatre
  • the opportunity to buy technology such as a tablet, laptop or desktop computer by paying a fixed amount direct from your salary each month
  • flexible working, such as taking a career break or job share
  • an annual bonus or performance-related bonuses
  • a proportion of rental accommodation paid
  • free lunches, snacks or drinks in the office
  • access to a company car
  • dental insurance
  • retail or childcare vouchers, or discounts with travel companies
  • preferential rates for some of the organisation’s products
  • travel insurance
  • the opportunity to work abroad.

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