You want to work in banking, but you don't have 320 UCAS points and a first class degree. Will that be a barrier to your career? In theory, no. In reality, probably.
In the UK education system, banks like Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank specify that students need a minimum number of UCAS points for their applications to be eligible - 320 UCAS points and a 2.1 degree are the standard grade boundary. However, other banks, like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are less prescriptive and simply require that students provide information of their qualifications when they apply.
In front office investment banking jobs, most people have impeccable grades:
The fact that big U.S. investment banks seem ambivalent when it comes to qualifications shouldn't lull you into a false sense of security. We looked at a selection of the qualifications achieved by bankers working in 'front office' (meaning client-facing and revenue-generating) banking jobs and they were generally amazing.
Here's a random real-life (Goldman Sachs-heavy) sample of what you're up against:
- Sales analyst, JPMorgan. A Levels in: Mathematics (A), Further Mathematics (A), Economics (A), Physics (A), Chinese (A). AS: General Studies (A). UCAS points: 660.
- Equities relationship manager, Goldman Sachs: A Levels in: Mathematics (A), Further Mathematics (A), Chemistry (A), Business Studies (A). UCAS points: 480.
- Fixed income analyst, Goldman Sachs Asset Management: Mathematics (A), Further Mathematics (A), Physics (A), Biology (A), Chemistry AS (A). UCAS points: 540.
In infrastructure investment banking jobs, the grades are lower - in theory:
In theory, you don't need such good grades to get an infrastructure (support) job in an investment bank. Deutsche Bank, for example, merely requires that applicants have 280 UCAS points at A Level (equivalent to BCC) if they want to apply to its Birmingham office. It will also accept Birmingham applicants with a 2.2 degree - providing they have some interesting extracurricular activities to boast about.
It does seem to be the case that some infrastructure professionals aren't as hot academically as front office bankers. But we found plenty of infrastructure professionals with incredible grades too. For example:
- Trade support, JPMorgan. A Levels in: Biology (A), Chemistry (B), Maths (C), AS Psychology (B). UCAS points: 350.
- Operations analyst, Goldman Sachs. A Levels in: Business Studies (A), Classical Civilisations (B), Maths (E), Physics (E). UCAS points: 300.
- Internal audit analyst, Goldman Sachs: A Levels in: Economics (A*), Accounting (A*), Law (A*), Maths (A). UCAS points: 560.
- Settlements analyst, Goldman Sachs: A Levels in: Maths (A), Further Maths (A), French (B). UCAS points: 340
- Finance associate, Goldman Sachs. A Levels in: Maths (A), Further Maths (A), Chemistry (A), Music (A). UCAS points: 480
Of course, there may be some bias in our sample. Firstly, they're heavily skewed towards Goldman Sachs, which is likely to attract some of the most highly qualified applicants. Secondly, although the sample is random, it only comprises people who actually state their A level results on their CVs - there are plenty of people who don't, and their grades are likely to be lower.
Nonetheless, recruiters say grades that aren't impeccable can be a hindrance to a finance career - particularly if you want to switch from, say, a junior accounting into a junior banking after gaining an ACA qualification. "People come to me with three Bs at A level and a degree from Durham University and I have to explain that I can't help them," says Andy Pringle, director at recruitment firm Circle Square in London, which places accountants into junior analyst roles in banks.