City careers: the real picture

4 March 2009

The Bank of England

The UCL Careers Service held a panel discussion entitled ‘Graduate Careers in the City – What Now?’ with senior graduate recruiters from London’s financial sector on 23 February, to dispel myths surrounding the City’s graduate recruitment market and the impact that the current economic climate is having on it.

The event was chaired by Professor Michael Worton (UCL Vice-Provost, Academic and International). In attendance were representatives of some of the biggest names in investment banking: Brian Hood, Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Graduate Recruitment at Citi; Mark Hipperson, Vice-President of Graduate Recruitment at Credit Suisse; Ketan Patel, EMEA Analyst & Associate Management at J.P.Morgan; Salonika Mitra, Vice-President of Graduate Recruitment at Nomura International; and Mark Pawson, Associate Director of Campus Recruitment at UBS.

 

The discussion

The panel discussed the following topics:

  • The areas which have been hardest hit by the credit crunch
  • Alternative options for a student keen to make a career in the sector
  • Where students should look for jobs
  • How they can maximise their chances of gaining a graduate position; and
  • The future for graduate vacancies in financial services in general.

All panellists spoke candidly about the situation, saying that the number of students recruited for their graduate schemes was lower than the previous year’s (in the case of Credit Suisse it had fallen by as much as 25%), with trading positions having taken the biggest hit. However, the panellists stressed that it is not all bad news: the number of students accepted for internship programmes has fallen by an average of only 5%.

Phil Howe, Joint Acting Head of Service of the UCL Careers Service, said: “From our perspective, both our ‘Graduating in a Recession’ blog and this panel event reflect our desire to provide students with accurate and up-to-the-minute information. The media's coverage of the recession and its effects on the graduate labour market can be sensationalised, so it's vital that we provide some context to help students make informed decisions.”

This week, UCL Provost Malcolm Grant announced an innovative set of measures to support current students who are facing the prospect of graduating into an unprecedentedly difficult employment market later in the year.

UCL is in the process of finalising the package, which will feature an additional investment in UCL’s Careers Service to ensure that graduates have access to professional careers support for at least one year following graduation. The measures will initially be offered to students graduating in the summer of 2009, with the option to continue the initiative in future years if necessary.

 

Where are the jobs?

While some divisions, such as Sales and Research, have been hit hard, there are still jobs out there. UBS and Credit Suisse, for example, have unfilled positions in their Technology divisions, and J.P.Morgan has opportunities in its Risk division.

The message from the panellists was clear: in order to remain competitive and to stand a good chance of recovering and rebuilding their businesses over the next five to ten years, firms will have to carry on recruiting and training graduates. As one of the panellists pointed out, those divisions which have felt the greatest impact (that is, the revenue-generating functions) are likely to be the areas which are going to experience the fastest recovery following an economic upturn.

 

Advice for candidates considering a career in the City

UCL Graduates 2008
  • In order to be successful in the sector, resilience is of first importance – ups and downs are very much part and parcel of a career in the City, and if you aren’t resilient this might not be the career for you.
  • Be flexible: be prepared to start your career in divisions which may not be your first choice.
  • Think of ways in which you can demonstrate your ability to be creative and results-orientated: both of these are necessary skills to have during a downturn.
  • Be an expert in what you do: try to find a unifying thread which runs through your experience, interests and qualifications.
  • Academic performance is not enough: recruiters are looking for a continuous train of thought through projects conducted outside academic studies. Think, for instance, about research you have conducted, or clubs in which you have been involved, and what you have learned from these activities.
 

Recruiters comment:

Ketan Patel, Diversity Recruiter at J.P.Morgan, said: “What candidates need to remember is that they should be thinking about careers sooner, and taking advantage of programmes targeting students in their first and penultimate years of study. Research into the company and financial markets is key, as is having a strong résumé. Make sure you have some work experience, are well-rounded (sports, volunteering, extra-curricular activities etc.) and demonstrate that you are passionate about the investment banking industry.”

Brian Hood, Head of EMEA Graduate Recruitment at Citi, said that he decided to take part in the event because it is “incredibly important for Citi, and the banking industry in general, to maintain a pipeline of high-quality entry-level talent – so dispelling myths about the current situation is important”. He added that the most important piece of advice he could offer to students keen to enter this industry was to “focus your efforts considerably on researching the companies you are interested in and making sure your application is tailored. If you are unable to find a full-time position this year, make sure you do something valuable with your time before applying again next year”.

 

UCL Context

The UCL Careers Service provides professional and impartial career management advice for the UCL community. It offers a comprehensive careers information and guidance led by nine professional Careers Advisers, each of whom has a specialist knowledge of certain academic departments. It also offers a varied events programme to UCL students, staff and graduates, and quality recruitment solutions to employers.

The ‘Graduating in a Recession’ blog was set up in February 2009, in order to share news from recruiters and media coverage which may be useful to UCL’s job hunters. Since its inception it has reported on the increase in vacancies at Teach First for Mathematics, Science and ICT and provided advice on how to tackle recession-related questions in job interviews, among other activities. It welcomes questions and contributions from staff and students. To access the blog, please click on the link at the top of the page.

The UCL Careers Service is based on the 4th floor of the University of London Building on Malet Street, and can be contacted by phone (020 7866 3600), email, or online.