The world's second oldest bank and its plans for the future

Berenberg's Co-Head of Capital Markets, Andrew McNally, explains to Hannah Langworth how the history of this growing bank has led to its success today - and what's on offer for graduates

Berenberg is Germany's oldest bank, and the second oldest in the world. It remains a privately owned partnership, and is a forward-thinking organisation with an international network of offices.

The long view

Given Berenberg's heritage, I ask Andrew how the bank's history affects the way in which it operates in today's difficult economic climate. You don't stay in business for 400 years unless you know how to survive through crises. The longevity of the firm and its status as a private company makes a big contribution to the independence and flexibility we have in our decision making. In particular, our managing partners and shareholders have a longer term perspective than those in bulge bracket firms, which enables us to take advantage of all market conditions. So, for example, when everyone else was panicking in 2007-8, we acted swiftly to build up our European equity business, particularly in London."

Berenberg is headquartered in Hamburg and has eight other offices across Germany, as well as offices across Europe and the US. Andrew stresses the importance of this global reach: We're incredibly international as an organisation, speaking around 26 different languages in my team alone."

Berenberg founded the London office in 2003, which has rapidly grown ever since: We now have around 70 research analysts, 25 sales people, five traders and nine private bankers. Altogether, with support staff, we now have about 150 people in the UK which, from a few people only nine years ago, is no small achievement!"

I ask Andrew to expand on the work of the London office: On the investment banking side we advise institutions and hedge funds on investing in European equities. Our private banking business provides wealth management advice to high net worth individuals." The capital markets division within the investment banking business is the driver of the London office's graduate recruitment. He explains in more detail what they do: At the core of everything is research. Our research analysts cover 22 industry sectors, including telecommunications, healthcare, and business services. They write in-depth research pieces on their sectors and on individual companies, and make investment recommendations. Our sales teams use that research to advise fund managers on which shares they should buy and sell. We also use our expertise to help companies raise capital through the financial markets, so we are an investment banking business in the fullest sense."

Andrew explains that the development of the London office is set to continue over the next few years: We'll continue to use our financial strength and private structure to keep availing ourselves of opportunities as they arise, and I expect the number of people here to grow over the next five to ten years. This is in stark contrast to a number of our competitors, who are either closing or retrenching significantly."

Terms of engagement

To drive the continued growth of the London business, Berenberg is looking for five graduates to join the bank in autumn 2012. What makes Berenberg a good place to start a career in banking? Berenberg is financially strong and very profitable across all of its businesses, which means we can give people the time and the space to develop and reach their potential." Andrew explains how Berenberg also offers graduates earlier exposure to clients than many larger institutions: Everyone at the firm - from the managing partners downwards - is focused on working with clients. For this reason, graduates don't have layers of bureaucracy or management to work through before they can make themselves productive. We expect graduates to spend some time acquiring a level of knowledge that makes them useful to clients, but here you'll get exposure to them early on in your career in a way you wouldn't at a much bigger firm."

He also outlines the career path that new recruits to the bank's London office can expect to take: All of our graduates start in one of our research teams, where they'll get an excellent grounding in financial analysis. They'll then spend time in both sales and sales trading, which gives us a chance to spot who is most suited to each area." After these rotations, which last for around twelve months in total, graduates will join one of these three areas on a permanent basis. Graduates also receive extensive training to ensure that they have the quantitative skills required to be successful.

And what is Berenberg looking for in its recruits? For Andrew it boils down to a simple maxim: We want people to be engaged and engaging" - to have an enthusiasm for what they do and to be able to convey it to others. The way to succeed in this business is to interest clients in whatever you're talking about. So we expect graduates we interview to have been fully engaged in the experiences they list on their CVs and to be able to engage us when they talk about them."

Demonstrating a keen interest in business and finance is also important: They need to be well-read and looking at the financial press, particularly the Financial Times and the Economist, every week." However, Andrew is keen to emphasise that Berenberg is interested in the attitude and potential of applicants as well as the knowledge they have when they apply: We're looking for people who think about what they see around them and can connect various aspects of life and their experiences to broader themes. If a candidate presents themselves to us as someone who questions everything and tries to draw conclusions, they're going a long way towards doing very well at interview."

Longevity, after all, is the bank's speciality - and it sounds like Berenberg is hoping its recruits can help the bank plan another 400 years of success.