It may not be universally loved, but there is no doubt that the City holds a remarkable hold over today's graduates. Getting on for a third of the top 50 "ideal companies" cited by graduates in a recent survey were either in the financial services industry or closely related to it through being advisers, consultants or suppliers of information systems.

Obviously, good pay counts. It ranked second on their list of preferred characteristics of an employer cited by respondents to the study by the Swedish communications specialists Universum. But there are other related factors.

For example, students like to see opportunities for advancement, the chance to work abroad and the prospect of working in teams rather than in strictly hierarchical organisations. And many City institutions and associated organisations can satisfy such desires. Hence, the presence in the list of the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Price Waterhouse, Arthur Andersen, McKinsey & Co and Reuters.

The annual survey also suggests that deciding on preferences can be complicated. For instance, 58 per cent are interested in companies offering international travel. Yet students consider the necessity of international relocation the most negative characteristic of working for a multinational company.

In addition, though some companies, such as first-placed BA, can apparently rise above sectors, others are greatly affected by the image of their peers and rivals. "An industry's image can strongly affect a company's image," says Universum's Murtaza Rajabali. "Companies belonging to an unattractive industry can make themselves more attractive by focusing on other characteristics, such as their corporate culture, working environment, work tasks and other unique company characteristics."

As a result, while engineering, management consulting and media/information rank as the most popular sectors for graduates, the table of top 10 companies identified by Mr Rajabali and his colleagues is not configured that way. Among consultancies Andersen Consulting and Price Waterhouse, engineering- leaning BP, BT and Sony and software maker Microsoft are such organisations as Marks & Spencer and Procter & Gamble.

Less confusingly, the study also sheds some light on why City traders are frequently spotted dining or drinking en-masse in London's wine bars. According to the Universum report, working with people they also enjoy socialising with is the most important characteristic that graduates would like to see in their first employersn