U.K. and U.S. students go into banking for the money, French for the prestige

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Banking’s popularity as a career choice for graduates has taken a hit since the financial crisis, but considering the ongoing scandals, job cuts and the negative associations of over-working juniors, it remains relatively resilient. However, graduates looking to enter the sector remain attracted primarily by one thing – high pay.

A new graduate banking survey by Deloitte and Universum suggests not only a global inconsistency in the sector’s popularity, but a regional divide on what makes banking a good place to work.

The U.K. is perhaps most associated with banker bashing, yet the City of London still offers more graduate opportunities than most financial centres. This is reflected in the sector’s relative popularity in the U.K., which ranks ahead of other major financial centres like the U.S., despite the comparative stability of jobs on Wall Street, France, Japan and Germany. However, it’s the countries where the financial sector is relatively small or underdeveloped, such as South Africa and China, or stable – such as Canada – where banking’s popularity has most endured.


Perhaps more disturbingly, at least for investment banks trying to instil a passion for the industry in students applying for their positions and shed their reputation for paying big bonuses, students in the U.S., U.K. and Germany all associate banking with high pay. Meanwhile, students in France, Spain and Italy associate it with prestige, and Eastern European, Asian and Southern American students associate it with stability.

Deloitte-motivationsNonetheless, banking employers have gradually fallen in popularity, according to the survey, having dropped five places in the average rankings to 35th out of 100 employers. The reason for this is that banks are failing to meet the career aspirations of students. Banking is considered boring, lacking in career opportunities and has limited scope for professional development, says the survey. What’s more, students are most interested in a good work-life balance – something that working 90 hours a week in the investment banking division of a large institution is unlikely to provide.

What’s more, most students view banking as a stepping stone to a future career – 60% expect to stay in their first job after graduation for up to three years. They are “willing to undertake an intense few years in banking for the sake of increasing their chance of fulfilling their broader career goals later on”. This is something we’ve touched on previously: even before an offer is extended – more students on investment banking internships view the sector as one of many options, and something that could boost their CV for other career aspirations.

However, the main failing of banks is an inability to market what they can offer, suggests Deloitte. High pay is associated with the sector, along with long working hours and a hire-and-fire mentality. The reality, according to the survey findings, is that banks do offer good training schemes and career progression and they should “highlight this rather than the more ephemeral attraction of money”.

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