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Wall Street banks, consulting firms quietly gaining in popularity amongst undergrads

The financial crisis and the regulatory nightmare that followed did some serious damage to the reputation of financial services firms, particularly in the eyes of prospective employees, who have been more prone to favor Silicon Valley in recent years. Banks and other financial firms have noticed their waning appeal and have gone on the offensive when it comes to recruiting – with some companies reportedly spending as much as $50,000 per recruit.

While anecdotal evidence will tell you that their efforts haven’t fully materialized yet – particularly when it comes to large banks – new research suggests that the next crop of business graduates may have more interest.

In the latest ranking of ideal employers for undergraduate students from employer branding consultancy Universum, Wall Street banks were some of the biggest movers when compared to 2013. In a poll including nearly 16,000 U.S. undergraduate business students, where respondents were asked to list up to five “ideal” employers, J.P. Morgan finished fifth overall, up from sixth a year ago. Bank of America Merrill Lynch was ranked 21st, up from 30th in 2013. Wells Fargo moved up four spots to 33rd while Barclays jumped seven companies to finish 46th.

The biggest movers among large banks were Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, which climbed 20 and 21 spots, respectively, although they both finished outside of the top 50. Goldman Sachs stayed put, ranking 9th overall. Morgan Stanley climbed one spot to 16th. Perhaps more important, not one bank in the top 100 lost ground in 2014.

Bank Rank Change
J.P. Morgan 5 +1
Goldman Sachs 9  –
Morgan Stanley 16 +1
BAML 21 +9
Well Fargo 33 +4
Barclays 46 +7
The World Bank Group 49 +6
Deutsche Bank 52 +20
Citigroup 64 +3
Credit Suisse 72 +21


“It’s a lagging indicator of how active firms have been on campus,” said Kevin Troy, head of research & insights, Americas, at Universum. “They are coming with a heavier presence.”

The fact that the financial crisis is now five years in the rearview mirror likely doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s difficult to speculate to exact causes, but we do think Wall Street firms have all done pretty well this year on the whole among business students,” Troy said. “In some ways it is an indication of quality of messaging and an improvement in employer brands, as well as an indication of the size of their recruiting presence.”

Indeed, banks have upped their recruiting efforts significantly. Whether they can compete for top talent alongside Silicon Valley firms still remains unclear. Yet again, Google, Walt Disney and Apple finished as the top three most ideal employers for business school students.

Professional Services

Consulting and accounting firms also made major strides. Ernst & Young (4), Deloitte (6) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (7) all finished inside the top 10.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked managing consulting firms were also deemed to be more popular this year among business students. Boston Consulting Group (28), McKinsey and Co. (29) and Bain and Co. (39) each jumped a minimum of 11 spots from 2013.

Click here for the full ranking.


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AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor

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