Start preparing for your investment banking career ASAP

Want to be investment banker? Actions you need to take from day one of your degree
There are steps you should take before you even start your degree to increase your chances of getting an investment banking job when you graduate.

If you’re interested in an investment banking career you have to ensure you stand out. One of the big things recruiters look for is experience gained within the industry. Although you usually can’t do an internship at an investment bank until the end of your penultimate year of university, the journey you’ll take to break into the industry needs to begin in the first year of your degree – and sometimes earlier.

It’s important that at the beginning of your degree – if not before – you are familiar with the different stages at which you can gain experience in and an understanding of the industry. Investment banks try to engage with future employees at specific stages of their academic life: final year of school or college, year one of university and year two of university. It’s often the case that investment banks hire people who have gone through some or all of these stages.

Investment banking insight days for A level students

Some investment banks run day-long programmes to give A level students (and those studying for equivalent qualifications, such as Highers) who are interested in the industry a chance to find out about life at an investment bank before they begin university. These open days, which are often called insight days, are targeted at those in their final year of study and usually include presentations, a skills building session and networking. Insight days are normally held in the summer, and students have to complete an online application form and upload a CV to apply.

Why go to an insight day?

  • You might be considering an investment banking career but not be absolutely certain about what it will involve. The insight day will be a good opportunity for you to find out if the industry is right for you.
  • You’ll strengthen your chances of securing a ‘spring week’ (see below) when you’re in your first year of university if you go to an insight day. Investment banking recruiters want your claims about commitment to and interest in the industry to be backed up by evidence.

Find out more

  • Visit the employer database on TARGETcareers for a list of the investment banks that run programmes for A level students.
  • Visit the careers section of different investment banks’ websites to find out what pre-university opportunities are available.

Spring weeks or insight programmes for first years

Most investment banks run programmes (for one or two weeks) and open days to give students in their first year of university an opportunity to find out about the industry, the way specific banks are run and the jobs that are available to graduates. The longer programmes, which are usually called spring weeks or spring insights, typically comprise presentations, seminars, work shadowing, coaching and work experience. These programmes are held in the spring and opening dates and deadlines for applications are usually in the winter.

Why do a spring insight programme?

  • Spring insight programmes are a great way to find out about an investment bank and increase your understanding of the different career paths within the industry.
  • Investment banks often use these schemes as a feeder for their internship programmes, so attending one or more will put you in a good position when applying for an internship.

Find out more

  • Visit the careers sections of your chosen investment banks’ websites to find out if they run spring programmes and how and when you should apply. Many investment banks have websites dedicated to the recruitment of students. The employer hubs on TARGETjobs also provide this information.

Internships for second years

All investment banks offer eight- to 12-week internships to university students at the end of their second year (or for students on a four-year course at the end of their third year) to give them the chance to gain hands-on experience. You’ll stand a better chance of getting an internship if you’ve done a spring week beforehand, as you will have acquired first-hand knowledge of the organisation and advice on the recruitment process. Internships are an important part of the recruitment process because 50% to 70% of graduate hires in investment banking have worked for that organisation as an intern. In some cases the figure is even higher: 90% or above.

Why do an internship programme?

  • An internship will encourage you to think about the specific areas of investment banking that interest you. This will make your applications for graduate positions more focused and show recruiters that you have thought long and hard about your options.
  • Immersing yourself – via an internship – in an organisation is the best way to judge if its culture suits you (and you suit it).
  • You will significantly reduce your chances of securing a job with an investment bank upon graduation if you don’t do an internship. The top three requirements of investment banking recruiters are required grades, work experience and extracurricular activities.

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