Different skills will be required for the different roles within the sector. 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. Conversely, a quantitative researcher is likely to need a PhD or advanced masters in a maths-related degree (eg: Maths, Physics, Engineering etc.), 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
- The ability to deal confidently with figures
- 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 in ensuring your success. Background research on investment banking, global markets, the various roles available within banks and how they fit together is key. 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 already 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 are generally organised over Easter (about 1 week) with students required to apply online – deadlines may vary, with some as early as mid-Michaelmas term (October/November) or early-mid Hilary term, so it’s advisable to check websites of firms you are interested in as early as possible. Spaces are limited and competition is fierce so ensure you demonstrate how the programme could benefit you, often via a covering letter and/or initial interview. On the whole, these programmes are used as a pipeline for the summer internship programme; many organisations host fast-track assessment centres after these events for summer internships the following year. In addition some banks organise ‘Insight Days’ targeted at 1st and 2nd year students throughout the year. These are also designed to provide a taster of the banking industry.
Summer Internships within Banking and Investment tend to be 8-10 weeks long and will involve some initial training and then some exposure to one or more areas of the business. Interns are assessed throughout with various projects, research or team work depending on the line of business. This summer most firms have moved to hosting fully virtual experiences, some of which will be shorter than the standard 8-10 weeks.
As most firms use summer internship programmes as the main method for sourcing full time hires, they recruit mainly penultimate year students or those who can prove they are continuing in education following the summer internship. Some banks do open up their internships to finalists and recent graduates or offer “off-cycle” internships to finalists and graduates after they have completed their degree, but this is usually dependent upon business needs. It is advisable to look into the opportunities you are eligible for at all the organisations you are considering and to make sure you are aware of their specific requirements.
Firms can utilise various assessment methods eg: competency-based, technical and/or strengths-based interviews in their recruitment process and will look for evidence that you can demonstrate competencies such as teamwork, drive, enthusiasm, determination, and communication skills.
In addition to formal Internships, at all levels of study, it is useful to build up your knowledge of the industry and develop core competencies through extra-curricular activities. For example, you could take a leadership position in a society, join a financial society such as the Oxford Guild or the Finance Society or run an event that needs to make a profit. You could also consider building your technical knowledge through running your own fantasy fund, learning Excel or joining a society such at the Oxford Alpha Fund where you will receive valuation and investment training.
Access short, free open-access training courses and short ‘virtual internships’ for example with the Bright Network or posted by leading companies in law, consulting and finance on Forage, allowing students to try sector specific programmes to develop skills and test their interest in the industry.
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.