10 things to do if you don't get into banking first time

Alternative routes into investment banking

Sadly, it has never been harder to get a job an investment bank. This year, banks filled most of their graduate positions with summer interns. Next year they will probably do the same, and early indications are that internship positions will be down anything from 30-50% on 2008. So what do you do if you don't get in, but still want to work in banking one day?

1. Accounting

Doing an ACA at a Big Four firm is a long-established route into the corporate finance/M&A businesses of an investment bank. If you want to go down this route you'll have to act fast however. Although PwC is recruiting 2,000 graduates in China this year, UK graduate places at accounting firms are down 3% according to research company High Fliers. At the same time, accountants have been deluged with applications and most are already full. "While the firm recruits all year around, it has filled the majority of its graduate positions earlier than in previous years due to a rise in good quality applications,' says a spokesperson for Ernst & Young.

2. Temping

As long as you're prepared to do a back office job and fetch coffee every 10 minutes, temping is another well established conduit into the less glamourous areas of investment banking. Realistically, it will probably help if you're female as you're then more likely to land a first role as a PA. Justin Hopkins at Hays City says banks will consider people who've done banking internships and failed to land a full time job for desk assistant positions (paying £11-12 pounds an hour). From there, there's a very (very) slim possibility that you might be able to move into a trading role. You won't be able to get this kind of job with no experience of banking at all, however.

  1. A Masters course

A Masters course will give you another opportunity to apply to investment banks in 2010 - hoping, of course that banks' appetite for graduates has improved by then. If you go the MSc route, make sure you go down it with a top institution (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE) and try to get some banking work experience either before or during the course. The bad news is that banks want far fewer quants than in the past, so far fewer graduates from highly quantitative courses MSc courses will be needed. If you're prepared to contemplate working in the back or middle office, look at the MSc courses offered by the ICMA Centre in Reading.

4. Strategy consulting

Think McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Boston Consulting, A.T Kearney, or financial services focused outfits like Oliver Wyman & Company. Historically, most banks have picked up former strategy consultants as associates after they've done an MBA (see below). The bad news: it's almost as hard to get into strategy consulting as it is to get into an investment bank.

5. Industry followed by an MBA

Banks hire a small proportion of experienced non-bankers as 'associates' after they've studied an MBA. Most MBAs go into corporate finance/M&A positions in banks. If you want to go this route, try and work for a blue chip corporate out of university, and then study an MBA at a top business school -Harvard/Wharton/Columbia/London Business School/INSEAD.

6. Start at a lower tier bank and trade up after doing an MBA

In the past, this has also been a well established route into big name banks. As we noted only the other day, banks such as Standard Chartered, which would historically have been considered 'third tier,' are still hiring. If you want to move into a Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley you'll probably need to start here and study an MBA at one of the schools mentioned above.

7. Volunteer

You could always spend a year boosting your CV with something worthy. Banks say they're all for it: "It broadens your CV," says the head of graduate recruitment at one top investment bank. "Graduate recruiters are going to be understanding that this is a difficult time and will look at your CV and see that you've done something worthwhile."

8. Teach English in Asia

The upside is that you'll gain exposure to Asian culture, earn a bit of money, and can always take a PGCSE if your application to investment banks is overlooked when you get back. The downside is that you may end up in a remote area of Japan and could face a life as a teacher.

9. Become an actuary

This is actually one of the best bets of the lot (and should probably, therefore, be higher up the list). Actuaries will always be in demand from pensions and life assurance companies and investment banks have used them in the past for their liability driven investment teams. The downside: you'll need 'A level maths.

10. Join the army

Strange but true - investment banks in the City have traditionally drawn quite a few people from the officer ranks. Ok, they're not quite as keen on ex-army types as they were 20 years ago, but army jobs are up 12% on last year according to High Fliers. As a graduate officer cadet/second lieutenant you'll earn £23k.

This article was provided by eFinancialCareers.co.uk. Read it in its original context here.

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