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Comparing investment banks’ training programs – which is best for you?

Investment banks training programs

Differentiating between banks' training programs

If you’re preparing your CV in application for a graduate program at an investment bank, you’ve probably been wondering which bank to apply to. Maybe you’ve been looking at the information on our student site? Maybe you’ve been looking at banks’ own graduate careers sites?

If you’re still none the wiser, here’s our quick comparative guide to what you’ll actually do on the bank training programs of Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, J.P. Morgan, HSBC, and SocGen in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Do you want a ‘rotational’ training program in sales and trading? 

If you want to work in sales and trading, do you know which kind of financial product (equities, high grade corporate debt, risky corporate debt, government bonds, equity derivatives, etc.) you want to trade?

If you do (know), maybe you should express your preference early in the recruitment process and apply to a bank that will place you directly onto a particular trading desk? Try Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Barclays. Each bank assigns its sales and trading analysts directly to desks and doesn’t rotate them afterwards (although Treasury Services at J.P. Morgan has a rotational program).

If you don’t know which product you want to work with, you might want to try a ‘rotational’ program in which you get to work with all kinds of financial products before settling on a particular desk at the end. Citigroup offers rotational programs; so does Deutsche Bank. Citi tells us that its markets graduates, ‘complete 4 short rotations across desks before being placed with a specific team.’ Deutsche tells us that its markets graduates have a ‘series of working rotations that provide experience across various markets desks.’ HSBC says its markets hires participate in a ‘two-year rotational programme with three four-month rotations in the first year in either sales or trading.’

While rotational programs offer the advantage of exposure to all kinds of different financial products, they can be very competitive. Analysts will typically compete heavily for places on the most interesting and exciting desks which offer the best career development potential.

Do you want ‘broad training’ across the investment banking division?

Rotations are less common in investment banking divisions (IBD). Investment banking divisions include jobs in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and capital markets. If you work in IBD, you’ll usually be assigned a particular job and will stay in it.

Nonetheless, some banks do offer broad training across IBD. The most notable of these is HSBC, which offers a two year bank training program in which trainees spend the first year focusing on either client coverage (managing relationships) or client advisory (transacting deals). During their second year, they spend six months experiencing the other area of the two. “This is done with the view to build their broader banking knowledge and to understand both the investment banking and relationship management sides of the business,” says HSBC.

At Citigroup, graduates who want to join the investment bank in M&A aren’t allocated a particular team from the outset. Instead, they go through classroom training with the graduates who want to go into capital markets and the graduates who want to go into corporate banking. Only at the end of the training process are they assigned to a particular team.

At Deutsche Bank, investment banking analysts apply to the broad IBD division but are assigned particular jobs before the training program starts. Along with all the bank’s other trainees they then participate in a new ‘three day cross-divisional global orientation’ to introduce them to the bank’s culture, values and expectations.

How long do you want to spend in the classroom?

If you measure the effectiveness of a bank’s training program by the amount of time you spend in a classroom, you might want to head to J.P. Morgan. Analyst trainees at the U.S. investment bank in EMEA receive two weeks of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) training, followed by seven weeks of classroom training in New York. This compares to six weeks of classroom training at Citi, Barclays and HSBC and five weeks at Deutsche Bank.

Do you want ‘teaching assistants’? 

In IBD, Deutsche Bank has introduced ‘teaching assistants’ to work with its trainers. These assistants are current analysts and associates who work with the trainers in the classroom to give real life examples of the kind of work you’ll be doing. They also help with homework…

Most banks offer mentoring support. At Barclays, for example, there’s a mentoring program which offers ‘individual coaching’. At SocGen, there’s a ‘mentoring portal allowing junior colleagues to access senior colleagues to mentor them.’

Do you want a short term contract? 

It used to be the case that banks hired analysts onto short term contracts lasting two or three years. This has changed in recent years, but some banks still offer short term contracts – especially in the U.S.

At SocGen, analyst are hired onto permanent contracts. This is also the case at HSBC and J.P. Morgan and Citi in EMEA. At Barclays, analysts in the U.S. used to be hired onto two year fixed term contracts, but this has changed and everyone is now hired onto a permanent contract. At Deutsche, analysts in EMEA are hired for good, but analysts who come into IBD in the U.S. only get a three year fixed term contract when they join…

Do you want a very generalist program (not necessarily in a front office investment banking role)?

Finally, do you want to join a broad training program that will give you exposure to all kinds of different jobs in an investment bank – but not to the sexy front office jobs in sales, trading, and M&A? If so, try J.P. Morgan’s ‘Corporate Analyst Development Program (CADP). This consists of ‘several 9-month rotations across a range of businesses in corporate functions.’ Those corporate functions include operations, human resources, audit, risk reporting, and chief investment office treasury.

(Photo credit: Sean Rowe)

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