This is a highly competitive sector and firms receive applications from students across the globe. So you will need good research and preparation to secure the right job.
You don’t need to have studied a finance related degree, but it’s important to have a keen interest in and understanding of the wider concepts within the banking industry and global markets. Follow the business news by reading publications like the Economist and the Financial Times. Investopedia also has a dictionary of finance terms which can help you become more familiar with the language used in the sector. You also need a high degree of analytical intelligence and the ability to build and maintain good working relationships in what can be a competitive and pressurised environment.
Getting work experience is very important for a full-time graduate role in this sector (and often a requirement). It’s important to note that most banks use their internships as a major pipeline for their graduate programmes, and many larger banks only recruit for a small number of full-time roles in Michaelmas. We would recommend looking for 1-week work experience “Spring Week” in your first year (or second year if you are on a 4 year course) and summer internships (approximately 8-12 weeks) in your penultimate year, to gain as much experience and exposure as possible. If you don’t get an internship in your penultimate year, all is not lost, as a number of the large banks offer “off-cycle” internships for those who have just graduated. Smaller organisations often also have graduate programmes open to finalists and recent graduates or offer full-time entry-level positions outside of a formal graduate ‘programme’.
It’s very important to have a good understanding of application deadlines as they are usually earlier than other sectors, and interviews often take place before the deadline has passed.
Most recruitment by large organisations takes place between July and November, otherwise known as the ‘Milkround’. The vast majority of banking and investment graduate application periods close in late October/early November, if not earlier. On the whole, investment banks recruit on a rolling basis, hiring graduates as they come through the application process. As such, it is essential that you apply as early as possible, ensuring your preparation is completed well in advance. Please do not wait for the deadline!
Most interview/assessment dates take place between September and February with a few vacancies throughout Hilary and Trinity Terms as well as during the summer. However, smaller firms tend to recruit on a more fluid basis and it is not uncommon for them to receive speculative applications throughout the year.
As far as we can see, firms in this industry sector are planning on recruiting in a similar way for the 2021 season, albeit many events are likely to be virtual.
Application and Assessment
The application and selection process will differ depending on the type and size of firm you are applying to. Always ensure that you know and understand what this will be prior to application, as some assessment processes begin immediately after you have submitted your application.
Below is a general guide, but the process will vary from firm to firm:
Online Application or CV & Cover letter– If an application form is required it is likely to comprise both motivational and competency questions. See the information on our website about Application Forms, CVs and Cover Letter for tips.
Online Tests– You will usually have to sit a numerical test for financial roles, and possibly a verbal and/or abstract reasoning test. Increasingly organisations are using games-based scenario assessments at this stage in place of psychometric tests. Look at individual firms’ websites for practice tests and our Psychometric Tests web-page for tips and free access codes.
1st Round Interviews – these can be with HR staff or members of the department/team to which you have applied, by telephone, in person, or pre-recorded/video interviews – see our pages on Interviews. Depending on the firm they may be competency-based, technical, or a combination of both.
2nd Round Interviews or assessment centre – for some roles this will be the last stage. See our Assessment Centre webpage for advice.
3rd Round Interviews – these are common if the position to which you are applying is for a specific desk or division. In this case the last round of interviews is likely to be with the direct manager of the position applied for. Some firms (especially smaller boutiques) will organise “super days” in which candidates will meet multiple people in the office for a series of short interviews. This is to ensure that, in addition to technical ability, there is an overall “fit” with the culture of the firm.
Firms in the banking and Investment industry have been quick to adjust recruitment processes to make them accessible without travel, so be prepared for your assessment centres and interviews to be virtual.