Banks draft in generalist interns to help manage the workload
Rotation programmes for interns and graduate employees have become popular again in Australian banks since the global financial crisis, with the four major domestic retail institutions offering exposure to operations across the business, and many of the investment banks rotating staff after scaling back employee numbers in order to manage mandates without staffing up.
Many Australian banks are gearing up for their 2014 intake of interns and graduate employees, and all of the Big Four - ANZ, NAB, Westpac and CBA - mention graduate rotation programmes on their corporate websites
ANZ offers the most information about its two year Generalist Banker programme, which is aimed, the bank says, at "(developing) our future stock of Country CEOs...we do this by offering a unique, structured approach to developing leaders who have a breadth of perspective and expertise across a range of banking disciplines, cultures and geographies."
NAB's 18-month rotation gives participants exposure to three aspects of the bank, but each graduate must identify upfront their chose area of specialisation before commencing.
CBA and Westpac also mention rotations on their websites.
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Many of the investment banks that operate in Australia have had rotations in line with their similar programmes in other markets. Goldman Sachs Australia says it has been doing it for a long time, a spokesman confirmed, while Deutsche Bank has also had a structured programme in place.
Bank of America is also believed to have rotated professionals between divisions.
Victoria Biggs, a partner at recruiters Platinum Pacific Partners in Sydney, says that rotation programmes go in and out of fashion in Australia, being a much smaller market than elsewhere, like the UK for instance, where the sheer size of teams in banks makes it easier to allocate people to silos and specialisations rather than managing rotations.
But she says that since the global financial crisis, it has become more common to see junior analysts allocated to a different team every new teams each year.
"When markets are strong, the normal reaction is to limit movement and have staff focus on a particular industry. This make the employee more experienced, and the company gets more benefit out of him or her."
But, says Biggs, who has been recruiting in the Australian market since 2001, when markets are less busy - as has been the case since 2008 - there is a benefit to the banks to rotating junior staff. "It allows banks to develop their employees' cross-sectoral experience, and this gives them the flexibility to manage their staffing requirements more efficiently to accommodate changes in the market. But prior to 2006/7 it was not encouraged at all."
Australia's largest homegrown investment bank, Macquarie, has historically not followed the example of its foreign rivals, and would generally not easily move people internally. But in the last two years, the bank has been encouraging employees to move around, and in some instances, even sit on two different teams at the same time.
Macquarie did not respond to calls for comment.
Biggs says that junior/graduate bankers typically have the general skills and expertise that allow them to slot into any sector. "As you become more senior, you need to have a stronger understanding of your sector, so as staff progress through their associate years, they need to choose a specialisation."
In Australia, industries that require a high degree of specialisation include mining and resources, real estate, utilities, infrastructure, and financial institutions (FIG). Other sectors, such as consumer, media, telecommunications and general industrial, are more suitable for rotations, requiring general rather than specialist skills.
While Australia's financial sector has endured four years of muted success since the GFC, Biggs believes that if conditions improve this year and activity picks up, the trend of rotating employees may reverse in banks that have been running a very tight ship in terms of staff numbers.