picnic-in-cityWhat makes banking graduate schemes so different from other finance recruitment programmes? Application deadlines can often be earlier and selection criteria are extensive and demanding. Salaries and benefits are the best around, so you will face fierce competition from impressive peers. Are you ready for the challenge?

Although more attention has been placed on school leavers in recent years, graduate schemes are still a huge focus for banks and generally their main source of annual recruitment. HR teams are dedicated to finding the very best graduates out there.

Banking organisations have a number of different kinds of graduate scheme, from analyst to technology roles, or from trader to sales roles. Each scheme is designed to get graduates on their desired career ladder within the competitive banking industry. Graduate schemes offer a dual focus of developing talent and initiating recruits into the corporate culture. They allow an in-depth understanding of the banking profession with structured training in place to help support candidates throughout the scheme. Some schemes will also have a rotational programme in place, allowing graduates to experience different areas within a bank before selecting their preferred area.

Having an idea of what type of banking graduate scheme you are interested in is essential before applying for a position. Graduate schemes, particularly in banking, are rigorous and require passion and determination. Coming straight out of university, you’ll have to successfully balance working full-time with your own personal commitments, and sometimes working extra hours. Additionally, schemes often last 1–3 years, so you will have to be 100% committed.

Where to find a graduate scheme

The majority of large investment banks offer a range of graduate schemes. High Fliers’ The Graduate Market in 2017 report has found that graduate vacancies within the industry are set to decrease slightly in 2017, but that on the whole these firms are still some of the biggest recruiters of graduates. For 2017, investment banks are aiming to recruit 2,005 graduates (–3.2% change from last year), cutting just 67 vacancies. The target in the wider banking and finance industry is 1,436 recruits.

Get ready!

Applications for graduate schemes tend to open in September so being prepared before you graduate is vital. Many graduates now apply to schemes as soon as they begin their final year of university. Deadlines for schemes can close as early as October, but some can stay open until December and January. You can also find schemes with rolling deadlines but beware:w this doesn’t mean you can leave your applications until the last minute. The schemes close as soon as a suitable candidate is found.


It’s clear that candidates applying to graduate schemes must hold a degree, but many banks also require a minimum UCAS score of 280 points (with an increasing number wanting a minimum of 300–320 points). In regards to what degree subject you have studied, the requirements have changed significantly in the past few years. Although most graduates entering finance roles will have degrees in mathematics, economics, business and the sciences, many banking organisations are now looking for graduates specialised in areas other than
numerical-based subjects. Subjects such as history and languages are ideal for banks who want to recruit candidates with good communication skills. As long as you have at least a 2:1, most banks will accept your application.

Competition for graduate schemes is tough and the banking industry as a whole is extremely competitive. It may be your
non-academic qualities and experience that makes you stand out from other candidates.

Work experience can help you decide what kind of role you want to apply for in the future. Completing an insight and/or internship before a graduate scheme can significantly increase your chance of landing a job. Some banks offer successful interns a graduate job straight after their internship. In fact, over a third of recruiters recently warned that graduates with no evidence of previous work experience have ‘little or no chance’ of receiving a job offer for a firm’s graduate programme*.

Soft skills are also highly sought after. Showcasing your organisation skills, teamwork, adaptability and problem-solving abilities will work in your favour. Working on a society’s committee board or doing some appropriate volunteering can be effective ways of displaying these skills.

Application process

The banking application process is extensive. There are a number of stages involved after your initial application has been accepted. Successful applicants may be required to complete phone or video interviews and are then usually invited to an assessment centre comprised of numerical, verbal and group assessments. Make sure you are 100% prepared for such assessments by completing practice tests and mock interviews with friends and family.


Graduate schemes offer many benefits to those who are talented and passionate enough to secure a place. The salary for investment banking can range from £38,000–£50,000* and is the highest average graduate starting salary available in the UK, compared to other industries. You can expect a starting salary range of £25,000–£38,000 for other banking and finance organisations. The majority of banks also have their own tailored benefits package to attract graduates. From free gym membership to performance-related bonuses, there is a huge range of amazing benefits out there.

Banking graduate schemes are highly respected and offer the highest quality of training. At the end of certain schemes candidates can walk away with a sponsored Chartered Financial Analyst qualification, which other non-graduate jobs cannot offer.

Graduates may also have the opportunity to travel. As part of Royal Bank of Canada’s graduate scheme, for example, initial training can take place in New York or Toronto. Rotational schemes can also take you to different locations. If travel is important to you, focus on firms that have a global presence with large international hubs.

If you’re looking for early responsibility, fast career progression and travel opportunities, financial graduate schemes could be the perfect option for you.

Rank Employer
1 J. P. Morgan
2 Goldman Sachs
3 Barclays
4 Morgan Stanley
5 Citi
6 Deutsche Bank
7 Bank of America Merrill Lynch
8 Blackrock
10 Credit Suisse

Source: The Graduate Market in 2017 by High Fliers

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