A lot of university students still want to be investment bankers despite the degree of banking bashing around the world. But with banks retrenching from student hiring, not many of them make it. According to High Fliers Research, there were 82 applications per investment banking job in the UK last year. So, what do you do if you’ve applied for an entry level position in an investment bank after a university course and haven’t got in?
Here are the ten best options:
1. Apply for an off-season internship
You won’t get a graduate job in an investment bank nowadays if you’re expecting to leave university and walk straight into one. As our study of this year’s graduate trainees at JPMorgan showed, most junior hires will have completed multiple internships, often at several banks, before they join. Most full time jobs at banks go to people who were previously interns – especially jobs in sales, trading, or mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Therefore, if you leave university without a graduate job lined up, your best option go for an internship and hope to get a full time offer later. Some banks, like Nomura, will accept applications for internship positions from students even after they’ve graduated from university. Most banks now offer ‘off-season’ internships which take place outside the summer months. Apply for these.
2. Apply for a Masters course
A Masters in Finance course can also offer another bite at a banking career. Not all masters in finance courses are equally effective, however. We’ve listed the top 15 Masters in Finance courses (in Europe) for breaking into banking here. You’re advised to try one of these institutions. For maximum effectiveness, you should aim to complete an internship in a bank during the summer after you leave university and before you start the masters.
3. Go into accounting
Accounting jobs can also be routes into investment banking. Banks hire accountants into finance roles like product control, in which accountants calculate the daily profits and losses of traders. You will only be able to move into a ‘front office’ finance job (eg. sales/equity research/M&A) if you train with the Big Four accountancy firms and (in the UK at least) complete an ACA qualification. Be warned, however, that moving out of accounting and into banking is harder than it used to be.
4. Go into industry and then study for an MBA
Private equity funds, industry-focused M&A teams, and equity research functions in banks will be interested in you if you have solid experience in a particular industry (eg. pharmaceuticals) topped off with a top MBA. For a list of the MBA courses banks prefer, click here.
5. Go into law
In the US, law school has long been a route into a career in corporate finance or M&A. Jeffrey Cohen, global head of retail banking at Lazard, started out as a lawyer, for example.
6. Join a commodities trading house
Commodities companies like Gazprom Marketing and Trading and BP will train graduates in commodities trading roles. Unfortunately, their graduate trainee programmes tend to be as oversubscribed as those at banks, but they’re another route into a job if commodities trading interests you.
7. Go into strategy consulting
Strategy consulting houses like Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. are also recognized hiring grounds for would-be investment bankers. Be warned, however, that banks are most likely to hire ex-strategy consultants into internal consulting roles and are most interested in hiring strategy consultants with previous financial services experience. Alternatively, if you’ve worked as a strategy consultant in a different industry area and have completed a top MBA (see point four), you might be able to make it onto an industry team in M&A.
8. Try for a job in the back office
If you wanted to work in sales or trading or M&A and didn’t get a job offer, consider lowering your expectations. Jobs in banks’ support functions (known as the back and middle office) are often easier to get. Be warned, however, that you may be working in Salt Lake City, or Birmingham instead of New York or London if you succeed.
9. Try for a job as a personal assistant
This is a long shot, but if you’re really desperate, there’s always the personal assistant route. If you start as a P.A. you’re unlikely to ever make it into a trading or M&A job, but you could move into project management or an operations position.
10. Get a job in a proprietary trading house
‘Prop shops’, which offer to train graduates in the art of trading – for a fee – are popular with students who want to be traders and don’t get into investment banks. If you’re truly desperate, these are an option. Be warned however, that while they may set a few people up for careers as traders, you’ll need something else (like a top Masters in Finance) if you want to move into an investment bank later.