If you want to work in financial services after you leave university, you’re probably equipped with finance internships. After all, most successful candidates these days have completed spring internships, summer internships and attended pre-internship introductory days.
But what if you missed all that? What if you kept your head down, worked hard at your degree and only thought about jobs when your university career was over? If this is you and you want to go straight into a finance job with an investment bank or fund manager, you’re going to struggle. If you’re very lucky, however, a UK asset management firm could save the day.
For the past five years, Intermediate Capital Group (ICG), an asset management firm with €23.8bn of assets invested across private debt, credit and equity, has been offering paid 12 month placements to graduates who don’t have previous internships.
Jo Zendel, ICG’s head of human resources, says they’re interested in hiring people with work experience, but not if that experience is in finance: “The experience must not have been in an investment bank,” she says. “We get kids who’ve done all sorts of interesting jobs. – People who’ve worked in a pub or a restaurant, or who have set up a clothing line because their family’s in the rag trade. The people we hire have all demonstrated industriousness and hard work.”
Why not hire people who’ve demonstrated industriousness in finance though? Banks are notoriously biased towards hiring children from the middle and upper middle classes, and Zendel says they want to give other students a look-in. “We’re trying to give people who would otherwise struggle to get into finance an opportunity to get a first step on the career ladder.” She says the graduates who join ICG tend to be, “very bright,” but don’t have relatives who work in the City. – “No one gave them pointers along the way. They focused on getting their first class or their 2.i degree and when they started thinking about applying for a job it was already too late to get into banking.”
ICG doesn’t hire students with the intention of keeping them. – At the end of the 12 months, most leave, although there are some exceptions. The benevolent intention isn’t necessarily to feed ICG’s own talent pipeline, but to put a small cohort of talented students back in the running to apply for jobs elsewhere. During the programme, they’re taught Excel modelling, given a buddy and mentor, and are exposed to various parts of ICG’s business.
“We treat everyone according to their needs,” says Zendel. “A lot of our interns go into the client services team where they prepare the background research and the responses to requests for proposals from investors. Some also go into compliance, research or IT.”
When the programme’s over, previous ICG hires have gone to work at Credit Suisse, PWC, Bernstein and Mitsubishi UFJ. “We ask that people stay with us for six months, but after six months we’re happy to support them in applying for positions elsewhere,” says Zendel.
In some ways, ICG’s approach resembles that at Tobin & Co, the US M&A boutique which also offers graduates work experience in the expectation that they’ll move on and find jobs elsewhere. But while Tobin pays nothing at all in the way of salary, ICG’s ethos means payment is integral to the programme. “It’s critical to pay the graduates,” says Zendel. “If you don’t pay, you’re excluding kids who don’t come from affluent backgrounds. It’s not cheap to live in London and we pay enough that people can rent a room in a house or flat. It’s important that people get the experience of living in London and to not pay them would be sending the wrong message.”
ICG’s applications will open on Tuesday 29 August. Applicants can apply here. Successful candidates can expect telephone interviews and an assessment centre. Unsuccessful candidates will receive feedback on why they failed.
Naturally – and as with everything in finance – it’s not easy to get onto ICG’s programme. Every year, the firm accepts around five people; every year, 200+ apply.