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Are glowing academics essential for gaining a financial services graduate place?

Anything less than a 2:1 degree has generally sounded the death knell for any ambitions of securing a financial services graduate place, but are firms beginning to exhibit a little flexibility when it comes to academic prowess?

The quick answer, generally speaking, is no. Investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, Nomura, HSBC and UBS all require a 2:1 degree and at least 300 UCAS points, except in exceptional or mitigating circumstances.

“The competition for places is fierce – we received 27,000 applications so far this year – so we have to have some way of differentiating candidates according to business requirements,” says Karen Martin, group graduate resourcing manager at Royal Bank of Scotland. “We accept 2:2 degrees for retail business leadership and business services leadership programmes and look for relevant work experiences, but for the investment bank, you definitely need good academics and as well as any differentiating factors a candidate can bring.”

This doesn’t apply across the board, however. Barclays Capital tells us it doesn’t have a specific grade criteria for applicants, Citi will accept 2:2 degrees for divisions like technology and operations, and Goldman Sachs says it looks beyond just academic qualifications.

“For example, joining a club or society, being part of a sports team or playing a musical instrument to a high standard, can all demonstrate commitment, pro-activity, enthusiasm and a desire to improve and broadens one’s thinking and skill set,” said Sarah Crawford, head of graduate recruitment for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Goldman Sachs.

Still, it would be slightly delusional to believe that, in the über-competitive financial services sector, qualifications are not important. However, academic performance might not be the only assessment criteria going forward.

One example of this progressive attitude comes from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has just unveiled its ‘Inspired Talent’ scheme. This targets a wider pool of graduates, and will accept applications from those who only achieved a 2:2.

That’s not to say it’s an easy option – you’ll still have show evidence of drive, entrepreneurialism and commercial nous, as well as passing vigorous tests to prove you have the intellectual capacity to get through professional accountancy qualifications.

Sometimes study hasn’t been a priority, but graduates have shown drive in other ways – for example, through caring for a relative or, in one case, gaining a place on the Olympic swimming team, says Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment at PwC.

PwC claims to be fairly unique in its outlook and aims to challenge assumptions on academic performance. Certainly, it currently stands out among its Big Four peers – Deloitte tells us it would only accept applicants with 2:2s in “extenuating circumstances”.

Comments (15)

  1. accentuating ? think the word should extenuitating or something

  2. Ordinarily I would say yes, but I keep on hearing stories from recruiters/students about candidates that have 2.2, from medicore universities, getting places at Hedge Funds and Investment Banks, surely that can’t be true? Usually grad schemes say 2.1 and AAA min!

  3. What have banks been like in recent times, if you get an offer from a desk after having interned with that particular desk in your penultimate year, and then miss getting a 2.1?

    Is there any leniency?

  4. Think it all depends on the individual and the route in… I know people that got a 2:2 and are at JP and people at other leading investment banks who got the same. If the desk wants you, they’ll find a way of getting you…

  5. Hi anon, At the risk of giving you a vague answer to your query, I think it’s on a case by case basis. Investment banking graduate recruiters tell us that if you intern, were expected to gain a 2.1, receive an offer and then subsequently only achieve a 2.2, your case is presented to the team you’re set to join (who then decide). So, in short, if they want you there’s a chance they will overlook below par academics.

    Paul, eFinancialCareers Reply
  6. This is probably the wrong thread, but being a current one, here goes…

    I graduated from a Russell Group uni a while back – let’s just say… in the nineties. Have been in a high tech industry since. I’ve done rather well, rising up to C-level.

    I’ve grown disillusioned with the industry I’m in and the crisis provided an excellent backdrop to explore the possibility of a new career. A number of my peers have pursued MBAs – but I’m not ready to embark on one.

    How difficult would it be for someone in their thirties to enter the financial world? Is it considered “too old” to be doing, say, trading in the thirties? If one were to have obtained accounting and relevant CISI certs (regulatory and otherwise), would it make a difference in terms of getting into the finance/banking industry, without any experience?

    Or should I just go to B-School?

  7. it is indeed the wrong thread, just open a new one!

  8. Blah blah blah. You don’t need any UCAS points if you are prolific at networking. The problem with grads these days is that they lack confidence and balls.

    Through the side door Reply
  9. Agree with the above…and thats how I got into banking. My determination got me where I am. Everything else came second….

  10. I used to believe the world evoled around grades on a peice of paper. Then I actually got out in the city, started talking to bankers/traders, and realised that a large percentage of them didn’t even have degrees…. Networking is THE most important skills. You can be an Oxbridge genius but if you lack the social skills you won’t be leaving a good impression on anyone….

  11. I am kind of worried about this as well. I graduated from a top aussie uni, have a british phd, -both history- a CISI certificate, and an Indian broking internship, and missed out at the partner interviews at two of the Big 4 in 2008. I am now applying for the diplomatic service in my country, which takes up to 3 yrs, hence cannot gain work exp during that time, and cannot apply to b schools for the same reason, as most b-schools will not accept ppl sans work exp. I thought of doing a masters in finance, but don’t have UG math/sci qualifications, so am not eligible to be admitted. I am 24. Totally desperate to get in investment banking, but don’t see any way in. Any suggestions, please?

  12. A load of students at my Uni landed placements with GS, having got low 2:2s.

  13. RJ, which university?
    What was their pattern to GS?

  14. I think that if you want to work in a top bank, you need to be a top student. Why a top bank would hire a cr*p student?

  15. What happens if you do not get 300 ucas points but a 2.1 or above?

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