Your questions to the head of graduate resourcing at Barclays Wealth, and her answers

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Sarah Cockburn

Sarah Cockburn, head of graduate resourcing at Barclays Wealth, has agreed to respond to some of your questions on graduate jobs and internships.

We’ve started the process by asking Sarah a few questions below. Please post your questions in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Sarah will be answering three a day between the 14th and 16th of May inclusive. Only answered questions will be published!

1. In recent years, we understand that Barclays has recruited significant numbers of graduate trainees into wealth and investment management. Why do you have such a large graduate programme compared to your competitors?

Barclays has invested and continues to invest heavily in its wealth management division in recent years, allocating £350m as part of Project Gamma.  We recognise that if we are to achieve our ambition of becoming one of the premier global wealth and investment managers, that our people will be a critical element to gaining competitive advantage.  By recruiting graduates and training them to become private bankers, we are not only growing our own talent but supporting our ambitious business growth plans.

2. Why should someone want to become a trainee at the wealth and investment management division at Barclays?

Wealth and investment management is an industry which is growing and evolving rapidly.  Not only is the face of wealth changing; in terms of demographics, geography and industry, but it is a challenging environment to work in.  Private wealth management is about relationships.  We need graduates who are not only interested in finance and technically capable, but those who are hugely capable with the relationship aspects of the role.   To become the trusted advisor of a wealthy individual is not always easy.  We provide all graduates with the skills to be successful, including sponsorship through the prestigious CFA qualification and international, product and wider wealth rotations, but we place equal importance on relationships, communication and sales/entrepreneurial skills

3. What kind of career path can you offer? What would one of your trainees be doing on the programme compared to what they do when they come off it?

All of our graduates undergo a six week initial training programme in London to orientate them into the wealth and investment management industry and Barclays.  They then spend their first six months assigned to a private banker, understanding the fundamentals of wealth management.  Subsequently we tailor three rotations across our business, one in product, one international and one in our wider businesses to ensure that our graduates are able to show a broad understanding and knowledge of our business.  Alongside this we sponsor graduates through the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification.  When graduates leave our programme after two and a half years, they become a Junior Private Banker and typically will work alongside an experienced private banker in a master/apprentice model.

4. What's the most important characteristic you look for in graduate hires?

We look for an interest in finance and specifically wealth management, numerical and analytical skills but also - and of equal importance - communication, relationship management and sales/entrepreneurial skills to enable our graduates, ultimately, run their own book of clients.

5. What's your favourite interview question?

I will often ask students to explain their thesis, dissertation or a final year project.  It can be an insightful way of assessing whether an individual is able to explain complexity and technical detail in a way that anyone can understand.  This is a vital skill in any sector, not least private wealth management.

6. Which particular skills will you be looking for in graduate hires during 2012?

In addition to the skills I have already mentioned, we are looking increasingly for graduates who understand the business development and sales side of private banking.  As the profile of wealth management as a career option increases, we are getting more and more students seeing the appeal of running their own book and working to a target.  If you understand that relationship skills and the ability to position yourself as an expert are the fundamentals of your success, I am not sure what career can be more appealing.

Your questions to Sarah, and Sarah's responses:

How do graduates with non-traditional qualifications gain access to the graduate programmes? The application process itself asks for undergraduate and post graduate degrees and results and does not account for students with professional qualifications who go on to take pos graduate courses. Are they at a disadvantage here?

SARAH: Graduate programmes are often only one way of entering an organisation. There are often numerous other entry points which may be more appropriate to your background and skills including apprenticeships, direct entry roles and within wealth and investment management at Barclays we have a career switcher programme called Embark for those with a proven record in other industries, for more information please visit

For working in London in particular, how important is it to have a foreign language skill?

SARAH: In global businesses where we are often dealing with global clients language skills are becoming increasingly important, in our International Private Bank we have a need for graduates who speak languages, as, put simply: our clients expect it. However, this can often depend on the role and from a wealth management perspective, Barclays has a strong position in the UK market where we do not require graduates to have language skills.

Is it possible to start in an entry level role in Barclays Wealth and then move into the graduate scheme after internally or would you have to complete the whole assessment as usual? Also how easy is it to move into other areas of Barclays internally after (e.g. Barcap) if an individual wanted a career change?

SARAH: All applicants to our graduate programme undergo the same assessment regardless of background. It is also important to acknowledge that the skills we look for in a private banker are not necessarily  the same as those we would look for in an investment or retail banker. As a result our application assessments for these programmes are different as are the graduate programmes, training and qualifications. Time spent in advance of applying to a graduate programme, researching the job role and really trying to understand whether it is a role that will play to your strengths is invaluable.

A lot of applicants for these roles will come from good universities and have obtained 2.1s and good grades in secondary education, along with some experience and extra-curricular activities, often showing strengths and leadership skills. What can candidates do to really stand out from the crowd to show they really are motivated to work at the company and in that role when put against these applicants, who otherwise have equally good applications?

SARAH: The application stage of the process is usually the most challenging for some and it is a skill to articulate your candidacy on paper. My advice on completing a strong application is to spend more time researching before you apply than on any other stage of the process- this will stand you in good stead for the later stages of the process also. Your research should focus on two areas; firstly yourself and secondly the role you are applying for.  We are looking for candidates who are self aware, who know their own strengths, weaknesses and can articulate why this role is suitable for them - in essence what is your unique selling point? Secondly show focus on the role and Barclays; why us? The reasons will be different for everyone but the key is in the detail. We can decipher the level of research you have done into the role from your answers and that in itself can provide an indication for your motivation to work for us.

I have heard that Barclays tend to recruit from within their summer analyst classes, so what programm would you recommend to someone graduating in Summer 2012? Would it be more beneficial to apply for a Summer 2013 summer analyst role or a 2013 full-time graduate role?

SARAH: The summer programme at the wealth and investment management division of Barclays is only for students in their penultimate year of study. Whilst we recruit a proportion of our graduate intake from the internship more than half of our graduate roles go to direct applicants.  My advice to you therefore would be to apply for the Fulltime Graduate programme in 2013 which we will open applications for on 1 September 2012. Good luck with your application!

How much technical detail is expected in the online application form competency questions?

SARAH: The questions that we ask focus in on the skills required to be a private banker and these are both technical and competency based.

The competencies we seek are relationship building, communication and teamworking skills-transferable  skills that you can demonstrate from both academic and non academic involvement. Similarly, those that are most successful on our graduate programme tend to be those most focused on a career in Private Banking. The research you have conducted into what the role entails and evidence that an applicant understands the difference of that role from say, investment banking, demonstrates your commitment to this particular career path at Barclays. This combined with demonstrable knowledge of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst qualification) that all of our graduates undertake and interest in the financial markets show us that you are someone who could excel on our graduate programme.

Would you accept applications to the grad scheme from people that have completed a graduate scheme elsewhere first? I currently work in audit and I am studying for the ACA but I would like a career change into Private Banking.

SARAH: Our graduate programme is designed to train individuals into becoming the next generation of Private Bankers and diversity of backgrounds amongst our employees helps us to maintain a strong proposition to our clients. In short, we would accept an application from you but, as with all candidates you would need to articulate a clear commitment to this career path. I would also advise you to look at the CFA, all of our graduates must undertake this qualification and if you have already completed the ACA this will be something that you may want to consider.

Whilst Wealth Management graduate schemes claim to take student from all disciplines, how important is experience in the financial sector?

SARAH: Our clients are all individuals with diverse backgrounds and so our work force needs to echo that.  We do not therefore ask for either experience or academic background in finance. Our 2012 intake comprises of students who have studied biology, history, psychology and the majority had no experience of working in finance prior to joining Barclays.

I would like to work in the UK, but don't have a visa. Would this prevent me applying to be a trainee?

SARAH: Not at all. We select candidates on merit and will support your application to gain the relevant working visa should we make you an offer of employment. We would ask that you clearly state your visa requirements on your initial application form.