Where Can A Career In Banking Take You?
The Banking and Financial Services (FS) sector in the UK is one of the most critical components of the UK’s economy, contributing 12% of the country’s total economic output in 2017. In spite of the 2008 crash, banking has continued to be one of the UK’s key sources of tax revenue (£66 billion) and also attracts the most foreign investment into the country (£100 billion). While most UK banks or FS firms’ head offices are based in London, over two thirds of their employees are based outside of London.
Banks and FS firms provide a range of different products and services which can be broadly split into the following categories:
Retail/High-Street Banking, which provides loans and bank accounts to consumers – if you have a bank account, you are a retail banking customer!
Investment Banking, which predominantly deals in stocks, shares and bonds.
Wealth/Asset Management & Hedge Funds, which manages investment accounts for clients (both for businesses and wealthy individuals).
Mergers & Acquisitions, which provides the finance and expertise to enable companies to buy other companies – typically M&A bankers will work either on the buy-side or sell-side of a transaction, advising their clients as to the right way to structure a deal to buy/sell part or the whole of a business.
Private Equity, this is investment with non-publicly listed funds, or investment into private businesses, or even the buying and ‘de-listing’ of public companies (PLCs).
Careers in banking and FS can therefore be rather varied, although in nearly all cases you will be involved in working with significant sums of money, either on behalf of the institution itself, or its clients.
While banks have worked to reduce the pressure and reform their organisations’ sales cultures since 2008, it remains the case that clients can be demanding, and the deadlines for project schedules are tight, which can mean that you will be working long hours and under pressure.
The banking and financial services sectors are experiencing constant innovation, including developing new sorts of financial products for their clients, as well as changing the way in which organisations deliver services to customers through new technologies. There has recently been a huge boom in the world of digital banking, with companies such as Monzo and Starling challenging traditional high-street banks through a completely online service and no physical branches.
Alongside innovation, the regulations surrounding the banking industry are constantly being altered, so you will need to make sure that you are aware of (and implementing) any changes required of you and the services you offer.
Skills & interests required
All roles in banking and FS will require you to be both highly numerate and financially literate. These skills will help you interpret financial and market data to understand trends within businesses or markets and allow you to identify and assess investment or acquisition opportunities. Nearly all ‘front office’ roles will require you to deal directly with clients and senior stakeholders, so employers will also look for you to be confident, enthusiastic and responsible.- Business Strategy
- Financial Planning
- Financial Reporting
- Financial Risk
Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in Banking
Graduate entrants into the Investment Banking and Financial Services world will typically join as analysts or associates, mostly in London, during which time you would work in larger teams of analysts/associates to help more senior analysts identify and assess opportunities. Often alongside the on-the-job training, you will receive structured training in relevant disciplines (e.g. in financial analysis – the multi-stage Chartered Financial Analyst qualification) – you will be required to pass at least the initial stage of the CFA to practice as an investment manager.
Once you have completed your initial training, there are a wealth of different paths available to you within Investment Banking:
- Developing your career as an investment analyst to reach a lead analyst position.
- Moving into Investment Management, assuming responsibility for an investment area or fund type
- Becoming a subject-matter expert specialising in one sector/type of market
- Moving to an ‘in-house’ investment management position within a client-side organisation (e.g. a pension fund).
- Transferring to Investor Relations – managing relationships with investor clients.
Graduate careers in Retail Banking – typically you may have joined either as a bank teller, or on a structured management graduate scheme. Usually you will be located within a specific branch of the bank or in regional offices. You will get experience across a range of retail banking services (e.g. mortgages, credit cards). Once you have passed your training programme, after 2-3 years, there will usually be opportunities in branch and regional management positions.
Tips for getting into the field
Banking and Financial Services can be one of the most competitive sectors for graduate careers, due to the high earning potential and prestige of many of the employers in the sector, therefore it is important that you do your research when applying for roles. You will want to consider which banking services interest you most, as well as which organisations offer environments which might suit you best. Many firms have extensive information available on their company’s websites – read as much of it as you can!
Arrange a meeting with your university’s Careers department to discuss your interest in Banking and Financial Services.
Applications windows for Banking and Financial Services graduate schemes occur quite early in the academic year – often they are closed by the end of December of your final year. Make sure to check the opening and closing dates a long time ahead of submitting your applications to make sure that you don’t miss out!
Many banks and FS firms offer summer internship programmes (usually in the summer between year 2 and 3 of a university degree). Often these internships will lead directly to permanent jobs once you complete your degree, so you should definitely explore these – however, securing a place on an internship can be as challenging as securing a permanent banking position.
Make sure that you display your research into the organisation, its clients and services when you complete your application forms and at interviews.
Graduate starting salaries in Investment Banking can be much higher than average graduate salaries – you may start between £20,000 and £50,000, with significant bonuses available (between 10 and 100% of your starting salary). Your starting salary might be lower at a smaller firm based outside of London. After about five years your salary will often be between £65,000 and £100,000, with substantial bonuses available, too.
In Retail/High-Street Banking, starting salaries for graduates can be £18,000 to £25,000, with some potential joining bonuses. Once you have passed the training scheme, as a branch manager you might earn between £21,000 and £40,000. Salaries will increase further if you then move into a head office management role.
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
While Banking and FS graduate schemes are not usually restricted to graduates with degrees in related fields (e.g. Finance, Economics, Banking, Business, Statistics, Maths), in practice those subjects will give you an advantage in the recruitment process. Typically graduates will require at least a 2:2, and for Investment Banking roles a 2:1, for their applications to be considered.