Investment banks don’t employ many arts students. This is partly because fewer are interested in going into the financial sector than more quantitative graduates, but it’s also difficult for those studying softer subjects to demonstrate the necessary technical knowledge and ever-important ‘commitment to banking’.
It’s difficult, but not impossible for liberal arts graduates to secure a front office investment banking job. Your chances are determined somewhat by which bank you apply to, however. Figures provided to us by pay benchmarking website Emolument.com suggest that there are two big recruiters of arts students among the global investment banks – HSBC and RBS.
15% of employees on Emolument’s database at HSBC studied an arts subject, while 13% of those at RBS did the same. At J.P. Morgan and Barclays, this figure is 10% and 9% respectively. At the opposite end of the scale, just 3% of Bank of America Merrill Lynch employees possess arts degrees and 4% of those at Deutsche Bank.
And while Goldman Sachs is in the middle of the pack with 6% of employees with arts degrees, nearly 70% studied finance-related subjects – more than any other investment bank. Globally, Goldman may dispute this, however – in 2013, it released a chart suggesting that the second largest proportion of employees were liberal arts graduates (behind ‘finance’).
RBS, meanwhile, has made it clear that it’s targeting students with a liberal arts background for its investment bank. In an interview with the Times last year, Tim Skeet, managing director of RBS capital markets said: “We still need the mathematicians and economists, we still need those disciplines but what we need to do is leaven it, we need an input from people who have left-field, blue-sky creative thinking, who can bring the ability to ask the tough questions. If going through this crisis we had had a few more people who could have said – look, explain that to me in plain English . . . I think we might have avoided some of the problems.”