Getting into Banking and Investment

Want to get in to Investment or Banking? In this blog our Careers Consultant, Jessica Henderson, offers her advice on how to get in to this highly competitive sector.


What is it?

Banking and investment represents a large and complex sector with many different roles and functions.  To quote:
“Banking and investment is all about making money work as hard as possible: it’s invested, borrowed and loaned in a whole host of different ways”
Targetjobs, City & Finance 2013, Edition 18 (copies available in the Careers Centre) 

 What are the jobs?

This is a complex sector with a range of different roles and ‘sub-sectors’ within it, not helped by the fact that different organisations may use slightly different terminology to refer to the same career area.  Because of this, it is particularly important that you fully research the sector and identify your specific area of interest within it.  Briefly (and crudely) you can sub-divide the sector as follows;

  • Retail banking – or high-street banks. These provide banking and financial services to members of the public and (small) businesses
  • Private banking and wealth management – Provision of high-quality, tailored banking and financial services to high net-worth individuals
  • Investment Banking – Financial advisory work to large organisations and institutions which can include corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, treasury services, as well as dealing directly in financial markets themselves
  • Operational & Administrative roles – Often referred to as the ‘back-office’ functions, these include the support roles which ensure the whole organisation operates effectively, for example, human resources, information technology (becoming increasingly important), legal, compliance, and management roles. 

Getting in – This is a highly competitive sector, with investment banking being perhaps the most competitive of all.

1)    Start early

Closing dates are particularly early in this sector, so make sure you apply in plenty of time.  Most graduate scheme application windows close between mid-October and the end of November. Placement applications typically close later, as do applications for some roles (for example Operations are often a bit later). Research and find this out early to ensure you don’t miss out.

2)    Know the sector

Recruiters will expect you to have a good understanding of the sector and your interest within it. Stay up to date; as a minimum you should be regularly reading the Financial Times and financial pages in other publications, as well as staying up to date with the companies in which you’re interested – platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be great ways of doing this.

3)    Network

Seek out opportunities to speak to, and develop relationships with, people working in the sector, for example, networking events (professional bodies are a good place to look for these). Also check out the Leeds Network and LinkedIn Alumni tool to identify Leeds graduates working in the sector.

4)    Gain relevant experience

Relevant experience is becoming pretty much essential to get into banking. Many of the larger institutions offering graduate schemes will recruit primarily from their interns. Larger banks and financial institutions are increasingly offering experience and insight opportunities specifically for first-year students. As well as applying for advertised opportunities, approach firms speculatively as well. Whilst the larger banks may be the most obvious, it is well worth getting to know the sector and contacting the smaller or boutique firms about potential opportunities.

5)    Highlight achievements

Recruiters in this sector are interested in high-achieving individuals and will be looking for a strong academic record coupled with well developed extra-curricular activities. Anything which demonstrates your interest in the financial sector, responsibility, leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, stamina, resilience and decision making ability will be particularly beneficial.

6)    Applications & CVs

For formal placement and experience and graduate opportunities, most of the larger firms will have an online application process. A lot of these firms may ask for a CV in addition to the completed application form.  Smaller firms are likely to just ask for a CV.  If you are approaching firms speculatively you will also need a CV.  Note that a one-page CV is often preferred in this sector, so the ability to highlight what you have to offer and your relevant ‘selling points’ in a succinct way is especially important.

Further Resources:

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