Different skills are needed for the different roles within the sector, however all roles require an interest in and comfort with numbers - although the level of quantitative ability varies from role to role. For example – a sales person within an investment bank will need have a real passion for the markets, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work to targets and a quantitative researcher is likely to need a PhD or advanced masters in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subject, with advanced quantitative and programming skills and enjoy developing mathematical models.
Some of the common traits of successful graduates in this sector are:
- A keen interest in and understanding of the wider concepts within the banking industry and global markets
- A high degree of analytic intelligence
- Quantitative ability
- Given the high levels of responsibility, competition and pressure, it is important for graduates to demonstrate sustained stamina, energy and competitiveness over long periods.
- The ability to cope well under pressure, whilst maintaining good working relationships with co-workers and clients at all levels is essential.
In this competitive environment, knowledge of the employer, their skill requirements and your own strengths are essential if you want to be successful in assessment processes. Background research on the various roles available within banks and how they fit together is very important. Knowledge of banking basics and investments, the ability to speak about them with interest, enthusiasm and realism further highlights your credibility. Networking and utilising contacts in the industry is useful to improve your understanding and the possible roles you could consider.
Formal Experience in the sector can be gained through Spring Weeks and Internships;
Spring Weeks & Insight Days
Most large banks organise “Spring Week” programmes, for first year students (or those in the second year of a 4 year course) to provide an insight into roles within banking. These usually take place during the Easter vacation (c. 1 week) with students required to apply online. Deadlines vary, with some as early as mid-Michaelmas term (October/November) so it’s advisable to check websites of firms you are interested in as early as possible. Spaces are limited and it's a competitive process, but with extensive research and preparation you should be able to demonstrate that you have the skills and motivation firms are looking for. Think carefully about which progammes to apply to and how the programme will benefit you. Most firms have useful information on their recruitment pages about what they are looking for in applicants. These programmes are often used as a recruitment pipeline for firms' summer internship programmes and many firms "fast-track" successful spring week attendees to their summer internship assessment processes (the summer internships usually take place the following year). Some banks also organise ‘Insight Days’ targeted at 1st (and 2nd year students studying a four year degree) - which are an alternative way to gain some professional experience in the sector.
Summer Internships can vary in length and are usually between 4-12 weeks long, taking place during the summer vacation of the penultimate year of study.
Most firms use summer internship programmes as their main recruitment method, offering full-time positions to successful summer interns. Some do open up their summer internships to finalists and recent graduates or offer “off-cycle” internships to recent graduates throughout the year. If you're already in your final year or have already graduated check the websites of the various firms you're interested in to find out if these options are available.
Firms use various assessment methods, often combining them eg: on-line tests, competency-based, technical and/or strengths-based interviews in their recruitment process, so make sure you understand what the recruitment process involves before applying.
In addition to formal internships, try to find other ways to get experience in and exposure to the sector. This can be done by creating work experience opportunities for yourself (eg: contacting smaller firms to ask if they can offer you some short work experience) and/or applying to any relevant internships via our Micro and Summer Internship programmes. Also join relevant university/college societies eg: The Finance Society, Oxford Guild, Oxford Alpha Fund etc. Get actively involved by joining the committee or taking a leadership role or managing the finances of a college/university society.
Also think about ways you can build other skills that employers are looking for eg: take an Excel course through the University's IT service. access short, free open-access training courses and short ‘virtual internships’ with the Bright Network or on the Forage platform.
Will I get paid?
Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.
If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses, but they aren’t obliged to do so.