Finance firms actively hiring drama students, history majors, persons with charisma

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Should you be studying a finance-oriented degree if you want to work in banking and finance?

We've been maybe guilty of perpetuating the myth that you should. Back in September, we wrote that you really ought to be studying maths, maths and economics, or business if you want to get a job in industry. We also analyzed a lot of the front office analysts hired by Goldman Sachs in London this year and came to the conclusion that Goldman's junior hires had mostly studied economics, or maths, or maybe physics. English literature students didn't seem to feature in Goldman's recruitment roster.

And yet, banks do hire liberal arts students. Just look at the chart below, taken from Goldman's recruitment website - liberal arts graduates are its second biggest cohort of employees.

Goldman Sachs and liberal artists

Nor is Goldman the only finance firm with a thing for liberal artists. This week, Deloitte announced that it had recruited 700 graduates in the UK, some of whom had studied media studies and drama. Rob Dyer, head of graduate recruitment at Deloitte UK, told us 40% of the graduates the firm hires have studied 'non-typical' degrees which aren't directly related to accounting and finance.

It's difficult to persuade non-finance graduates to apply for finance jobs, said Dyer - but when they do apply, they often make very good employees. "People from different backgrounds often have different thought processes," he said. "If they've studied history, for example, their research skills give them a huge boost. They're self-starters - they're used to going away, studying on their own, and coming back with a view. These are important skills for us."

The head of recruitment at one international investment bank, said banks' enthusiasm for hiring non-finance graduates into front office roles is a cyclical thing. "In the last 20 years of my career I've seen this fall in and out of fashion," he told us. "It all depends which products and areas are growing the most. Before the financial crisis there was a lot of interest in PhDs and advanced mathematicians and less interest in people who would take a long time to add value, but that's changing."

Banks always want to hire non-finance majors for back office processing roles, he said. However, he added that they also like to hire charismatic non-finance types for sales and other client-facing roles: "You need people who can carry a conversation."

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