First Steps on How To Get Into Banking as a Graduate
So, you want a career in banking? By the time you graduate, the message is, it may already be too late: your application should be in during your penultimate year anyway as banks undertake rolling recruitment. Whilst still an undergraduate you should get an internship, often provided alongside specialised banking training courses. Even graduate recruitment now asks for evidence of knowledge in the relevant area, whether fixed income, derivatives, regulation or sector experience. So, do not listen to those who tell you not to work for no pay: if there is any way you can stay in London or a major European capital for two or three months, you will get invaluable experience at working on live transaction documents, help analyse financial models, participate in conference calls with management, and get to understand how negotiations work.
A Good Degree is Not Enough?
Second, your transcript from a good University (e.g. 2:1 minimum from the Russell Group, GMAT over 680) will not suffice: you need excellent school results too. Your degree need not itself be in mathematics or business, nor be a postgraduate finance, but if you do not have excellent numerical skills, you should probably not be thinking of banking. You should speak at least two languages, English fluently and another to a reasonable standard (e.g. senior International Baccalaureat). You will also need to show extensive extra-curriculum activities, for example leadership positions in societies and associations, participation in conferences and trading competitions.
Be prepared: online, standardised numerical, situational judgement and abstract reasoning tests are now familiar elements of the selection process. Practice them, and keep on practising until you can do these as perfectly as possible without stress. Take mock interviews with those as close as possible to Human Resources in the financial sector until you are word-perfect in answering all the usual questions about background, motivation – what you know about about banking - experience, flexibility as to department and location, strengths and weaknesses. Remember that you will need to participate in workshops as part of your application: master the art of domination-cooperation.
Hard Work and Dedication = A Career in Banking
And once you are in: do not listen to those who tell you it is not about long hours, dedication, co-operation with your colleagues and flexibility in working hours, location and department. It is. ‘Incredibly hard work’ is how most graduates describe their first years in banking, especially investment banking. The wider experience you gain in the first few years, the better. Do not stand on your dignity: accept what you are asked to do uncomplainingly and with enthusiasm, however basic it appears to be. Take a close interest in standard job measurement processes as applied within your firm. Be constantly vigilant about the whole range of business ethics as many issues will undoubtedly arise in your first few years, for example conflicts of interest, confidentiality vs. transparency regulations, discrimination, or reporting. Recognise that university marks only the end of the beginning of your education, too. For UK retail bankers, the Certified Retail Banker qualification will be mandatory; adding to your CV by pursuing the CFA® Program may be useful. But in any event, keen attention to the available learning resources within the firm, including attending additional finance courses such as professional banking training, will benefit you. And judge carefully when it is time to jump to the second job – not earlier than a year, but probably not later than five, unless you have a real promotion in immediate view.
Good luck with your career in banking!