Whether you've already completed your degree or are about to do so, the finance graduate schemes offered by many of the UK's leading employers can lead you to your chosen career
Here's an overview of what's available in 2019, although the exact nature of each programme and salary information is subject to change.
What finance graduate schemes are available?
Programmes are usually defined by their specialist area - for instance, banking, accountancy, insurance, investment banking or wealth management.
The structure of each scheme will vary according to the size of the organisation and how graduates fit into the company. You could be working in a dedicated finance team within a particular industry, or spend time in various departments within a bank or financial institution.
Research your options to find out what would be expected of you if you applied for a specific graduate scheme, whether you meet the entry requirements, how and when to apply, and what your career prospects will be afterwards. You can also read more about applying for graduate schemes in general.
Which companies run finance graduate schemes?
All the major banks and financial institutions, including HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Santander, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young (EY), continue to run finance-related or banking graduate schemes. These organisations often hold open days to give students an insight into what a career there might be like. Most finance graduate schemes last between one and three years.
Finance specialists are also required across different job sectors, with finance (or business-related with a finance component) graduate schemes run by many leading employers including Boots, Centrica, Network Rail, Royal Mail, Sky, Tesco and Virgin Media.
What will I do on a finance graduate scheme?
Since the financial crisis, some banks have looked at diversifying their schemes to provide a more rounded experience where graduates get to rotate across a number of different departments, as they adapt to the changing needs of the industry.
For example, Lloyds Banking Group offers a choice of eight graduate programmes, which involve rotating across several placements held nationwide or based in London/Edinburgh, with some programmes including an international element.
You can apply to work in one of the following areas:
- customer product innovation
- insurance products and financial planning solutions
- commercial banking: client solutions
- commercial banking: client relationship management
- data science
- risk management
- enterprise leadership.
Other finance-related schemes will involve substantial time spent in other locations throughout Europe or further afield. For instance, Barclays provides intensive training for various analyst roles in areas such as business banking, customer banking solutions and wealth investment, with placements based either in the UK or overseas (Frankfurt, Dubai, Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm and Zurich).
Internationally-focused banking graduate schemes are also available at HSBC. They can be chosen in a number of specialisms, including commercial banking, global banking and markets, global private banking, retail banking and wealth management.
Whatever the nature of the business, you'll find that study is often combined with working on the job, so you could be gaining a finance qualification from a professional body as you engage in work or training. Indeed, the three-year scheme at Boots leads to an ACA,ACCA or CIMA qualification.
In addition to a dedicated finance programme where you can study towards chartered status, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) also offers a number of other streams within its core functions remit. These include working in NatWest markets, private banking, RBS international, internal audit or risk.
Network Rail, Nestlé, Centrica and Sky all allow their graduates study for an accounting qualification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Some of these recruiters also offer accountancy graduate schemes with routes from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
See finance qualifications for more details on these courses.
What are the entry requirements?
Most leading graduate employers ask for a minimum of a 2:1 - although Lloyds Banking Group and Network Rail expect a 2:2 or above. In the majority of cases, the degree can be in any subject.
Recruiters will sometimes specify a certain number of UCAS points (for instance, 120 is required to work at HSBC, or 300 if your exams took place before 2017) or A-level results (Centrica currently asks for three Bs). Network Rail states that an A-level in maths is desirable rather than essential, while EY expect an A in A-Level maths, as well as a degree in maths, actuarial science, statistics, physics or other numbers-based subject.
While these schemes are typically training programmes designed for recent students to bridge the gap between study and the world of work, it's illegal for employers to discriminate according to a person's age. Therefore, there's no upper age limit on applications.
How and when should I apply?
You'll usually be expected to apply online, with some places filled well before the end of term. Applications are typically accepted from the September or October of the year before the next year's intake - however, Santander's 2019 graduate scheme doesn't open until November 2018 and Lloyds Banking Group's 2019 finance programme closes on 12 November 2018.
Applications for Tesco's finance graduate programme will be accepted until 13 January 2019 for a 2 September 2019 start date. While most programmes will start in the September, HSBC's 18-month commercial banking programme has a July start date. You can begin Sky's finance graduate scheme in either February 2019 or August 2019, but the closing date for applications is 28 October 2018.
It's important to see the individual programme you're interested in for precise application and starting dates.
To give you an idea of the application process, after filling in your personal details and experience, the second stage at EY involves multiple choice questions, case studies and an online test, which all takes around 45 minutes to complete. You'll then consider real work-based scenarios, which are used to explore various aspects of how your individual strengths might fit with the potential role. The 14 questions can be answered using multiple-choice, written and video responses.
For tips on showing yourself in the best possible light and writing a successful application, see applying for jobs.
What skills will I need?
There are many types of graduate programme, and you should check the individual scheme for exact requirements. Here are a few examples of what some employers are looking for.
For instance, Sky is searching for confident communicators, commercially-minded individuals and team players with analytical skills to work in their exciting and dynamic working environment.
Tesco is also looking for team players, and those interested in a finance career who can apply their skills to specific work problems in a fast-paced environment.
To work for EY on one of its actuarial pensions or insurance graduate schemes, you'll need to be an adaptable and analytical team player with strong communications skills. In addition to being 'numbers savvy', the company also expects you to be 'in the know', keeping up to date with technical innovations, current affairs, global trends and market activity.
Discover the attributes required for specific roles at graduate finance jobs.
How much will I be paid?
Here's what a selection of recruiters are offering to finance graduates in 2019:
- Boots - £26,000.
- Centrica - £31,000, plus a £3,000 starting bonus.
- Lloyds - £28,000 (for most programmes, apart from the two commercial banking schemes, which offer £38,000), plus a benefits package.
- Royal Bank of Scotland - £31,850 (for most programmes).
- Royal Mail Group - £27.000, plus location pay, shift allowances and annual bonus.
- Santander - £30,000.
- Tesco - £28,000 (for most programmes).
See how this compares with leading graduate employers (featuring in The Times Top 100) in other professions by viewing High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2018 report.
Will I be offered a job afterwards?
Many employers do offer permanent positions with the firm after completion of the programme, but you'll need to check the finer details of the scheme. For example, at Deloitte, the training results in a permanent job, whether this is in the same team you've been working with or a different part of the business.