Opening the door to the dealing room

Banks and other financial institutions show no signs of reducing their graduate hirings, says Roger Trapp

A year that has seen the collapse of the venerable Barings and the once-mighty SG Warburg effectively forced into seeking a marriage of convenience would not appear to be an auspicious one in which to start looking for a position in high finance.

Nevertheless, it remains a glamorous calling. The peaks and troughs in dealing rooms in particular are part of the attraction to many young people who think they fancy a life of aggressive trading by day and champagne sipping by night.

Those seeking a share of those telephone number bonuses, though, should beware. While professionals say the market for jobs in the sector is sound enough, they admit that it is seeing nothing like the activity it did at this time last year.

That is not to say, however, that all is gloom. For instance, Jeremy Tipper, manager of the banking operations division at the recruitment specialists Robert Walters, sees two main trends affecting graduate entry.

First, there is greater availability of industrial placements than before. Although primarily the means by which students on banking and finance and business studies with foreign languages courses gain work experience, this process is also being acknowledged as advantageous for employers.

Typically lasting for 12 to 15 months, such placements are proving more appealing to recruiting consultants' clients because the people on them typically go into positions that are often difficult to keep filled. This is because the roles can be fairly limited and therefore not particularly attractive to those looking to advance in their careers.

Moreover, says Mr Tipper, the length of the placements means that there is the possibility of overlaps of staff in the summer.

Second, banks and other financial institutions show no sign of reducing their graduate hirings. While recruiting at a more senior level is affected by such short-term factors as volatility in the markets, graduate recruitment is decided rather further in advance and tends to remain immune from "hiring freezes" and the like.

On the other hand, the opportunities for graduates being hired on an ad hoc rather than the more usual formal basis appear to be reduced by downturns in the market and the like - despite the fact that most of those involved in the area agree that the old-style, once-a-year milk round has been largely replaced by year-round recruiting.

But even here, recruiting specialists report that they are able to place candidates who graduated last summer, particularly if they have picked up experience either while gaining their degrees or through temporary positions since leaving university.

As in other areas, temping is proving increasingly popular among employers and individuals alike. It is joining the industrial placements offered to students on sandwich courses as a popular route into permanent positions, largely because it generally evades the restrictions on headcounts that are becoming increasingly commonplace.

The attraction for employers is that it enables them to take on people to handle sharp increases in work at a time when the overall performance of the company might be preventing wholesale hiring of staff. In addition, it gives them the chance to assess the standard of people without going through the time and expense of putting them in permanent positions.

Mr Tipper points out that many financial institutions cannot recruit permanent staff even though activity in such areas as derivatives, for example, remains buoyant. "We've put people in a lot of positions starting on a temporary nature. They have generally gained experience on industrial placements or in summer vacations," he adds.

The clearing banks and larger financial institutions have long been familiar visitors - alongside the leading accountancy firms such as Coopers & Lybrand and KPMG - at many of Britain's universities. But they are increasingly being joined by smaller organisations. For example, First National Bank of Chicago is reported to be hiring about 15 graduates a year. The requirements of these institutions are as diverse as their activities.

Investment banks - especially those from the United States - are generally highly specific about the sort of people they are looking to take on. Students from Oxbridge, as well as the likes of Durham and Bristol, with finance or economics-related degrees tend to fare best. On the other hand, National Westminster Group, which hires about 300 graduates a year, is more open minded, especially when recruiting for its UK retail operation.

Jonathan Bond, graduate recruitment manager for NatWest UK, which covers the bank's retail operations, says it is prepared to look at people who have studies at any university in seeking its annual take of 150 recruits. "We don't just rely on a small group of universities," he adds.

The reason is that - unlike, say, the accountancy firms - it is not largely concerned with students' ability to pass exams. While the accountants - and just about any type of employer these days - say less formal "interpersonal skills" are important, the banks are increasingly putting them towards the top of the list.

"We're looking for the skills to talk effectively with customers and to advance in the future," says Mr Bond.

What that amounts to are factors like leadership, the ability to communicate, decisiveness, the ability to solve problems and team-building skills. As Mr Bond admits, these are not the sorts of things that are discovered in an interview.

Instead, the bank puts the people it likes the look of through assessment centres where they have to carry out written tests and group exercises. The idea is to see how they react with other people and whether they negotiate with each other. "In essence, we're trying to get all our graduates to take on junior manager positions very quickly," Mr Bond explains.

The reward for passing is not the job for life of old. This may be a less exciting side of the finance world than bond trading or corporate deal broking, but the risks end up being somewhat similar.

"It's very difficult to map out a career now," Mr Bond says. "We're not saying you'll have a 40-year career. Instead, we're saying come to us and you'll learn a lot and have the options to do well inside or outside the bank."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific