Anne-Marie Martin: Skilled and ambitious graduates will always be in demand

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The Independent Online

Over the last few years the market for graduates has been sluggish but there are welcome signs that the class of 2005 will find it easier. The thaw started over the summer when leading firms of accountants, confident that they had met their recruitment quotas for 2004, found their firms asking for significant numbers of hires over and above these quotas. Pause to feel sorry for the hapless graduate recruiter who, thinking their recruitment was done and dusted for the academic year, found themselves scrabbling for applicants when all the graduates had swanned off to Bali for the summer. As the new academic year starts, the City remains bullish. A good fair weather indicator is bonus payments, and these are expected to be 5 to 20 per cent higher this year.

Of course there are variations within the sector and even within specific branches of the sector. JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have increased graduate intake by 25 to 50 per cent. Morgan Stanley, for example, is looking to take 180 graduates this year whereas The Royal Bank of Canada will be seeking 10 to 12 and Fortis Bank six to 10. All will be looking for similar skills and similar degree class.

Despite no real signs of economic growth in the US - and therefore somewhat to my surprise - the management consultants have also started to make a cautious return to the market - both those concerned primarily with IT and technical consultancy and those exclusively devoted to strategy. Accenture, in particular, is making its presence felt expecting to recruit 400 to 500 graduates this year, mainly in strategy and analyst training.

The City is paying more attention to applicants from non-financial disciplines. The feeling is that the endless stream of highly skilled and academically able students from the same finance-based talent pool will not bring the diversity of skills they are seeking. Students from law and humanities are therefore encouraged to apply.

There is a slight anxiety that this good news is somewhat artificial, fuelled by electioneering in the US, but economic indicators in the UK do appear relatively benign with firm confidence underlying the markets. Who knows if this confidence might even spread into the insurance and pensions industry? Of course this recovery could be completely derailed by unforeseen happenings - political upheaval or a terrorist attack.

In the meantime, students just entering their final year and keen to join the financial high-flying set should not be lulled into a false sense of security by this apparent boom time, but should contemplate the fact that Deutsche Bank received 120,000 applications last year for 800 global positions. An internship is still strongly recommended in your penultimate year. First-year internships are still relatively rare but worth keeping an eye out for.

Recruiters in this sector have always demanded extremely high standards and expect applicants to have excellent academic histories, demonstrable skills, especially the soft skills involved in making effective relationships with colleagues and clients, and to display a genuine understanding of the industry. Only applicants who satisfy the selectors that they score in all these areas will receive a ticket to "Graduate Select Finance, Consultancy and IT" organised by The Careers Group, University of London, taking place at the Business Design Centre on 25 October. Those who are lucky enough to attend the event will have access to the top employers in this area including Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse First Boston, KPMG and McKinsey&Company; so if you think you've got what it takes, apply today at If you are among the lucky 1,000 best applicants to receive a ticket, do make sure that you prepare well before you come. Research the industry and employers you're interested in and hone up your self-marketing skills because these employers aren't keen on time-wasters.

Anne-Marie Martin is Director of the Careers Group, University of London

Graduate Select Finance is at The Business Design Centre in Islington on 25 October 2004. Entrance is free but is by ticket only. Apply at