Offered by many of the largest employers in the sector, finance graduate schemes enable you to put your skills to good use while leading towards completion of a professional qualification
Here's an overview of what's available in 2021, although the exact nature of each graduate programme and salary information is subject to change.
What finance graduate schemes are available?
Programmes are usually defined by their area of specialism, with the exact structure determined by the needs of the company and how graduate trainees fit into this. For instance, you could be working in a dedicated finance team within a particular industry, or get to spend time in various departments within a bank or financial institution.
The most common streams include:
- Accountancy graduate schemes - the majority of these schemes involve achieving professional qualifications.
- Banking graduate schemes - depending on the nature of the services provided, you could specialise in an area of banking, with investment banking, wealth management or global markets the most popular.
- Finance graduate schemes - as well as more general business finance, you could be focusing on banking technologies such as data science or analytics.
- Insurance graduate schemes - run by insurers and brokers, these programmes may allow you to specialise in underwriting, claims or risk management.
Research your options to find out what would be expected of you if you applied for a particular graduate scheme, noting its entry requirements, how and when to apply, and your career prospects.
Which companies run finance graduate schemes?
All the major banks and financial institutions run finance-related or banking graduate schemes:
- Ernst & Young (EY)
- J.P. Morgan
- Lloyds Banking Group
- NatWest Group
These organisations often hold open days and virtual events 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 graduate employers including:
- EDF Energy
- Network Rail
- The Hut Group (THG)
- Virgin Media.
What will I do on a finance graduate scheme?
Since the financial crisis, some banks have diversified 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 six two to three-year graduate programmes, which involve rotating across several placements nationwide, with locations including Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and London.
You can apply to work in one of the following business areas:
- commercial banking
- data science
- retail customers and products
- risk management
- software engineering.
Other finance-related schemes involve substantial time spent in other locations throughout Europe or further afield. For example, Barclays provides intensive training for analyst positions in areas such as banking, cards and payments, compliance, corporate banking, operations and risk, with placements based either in the UK or overseas (Amsterdam, Dubai, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Stockholm and Tel Aviv). However, there are language requirements for these overseas roles.
Internationally-focused banking graduate schemes are also available at HSBC. You can choose from a variety of specialisms, including commercial banking, global banking and markets, operations services and technology, and wealth and personal banking.
Whatever the nature of the business, you'll find that study is often combined with working on the job, so you could gain a finance qualification from a professional body as you engage in work or training. For instance, the three-year scheme at Boots involves undertaking a Level 7 Accountancy/Taxation Professional Apprenticeship, helping you to achieve a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification.
In addition to a dedicated finance programme where you can study towards a professional accountancy qualification, the NatWest Group also offers 12 other streams within its core functions remit. These include working in data and analytics, internal audit, NatWest markets, private banking, risk and structured finance.
Leading employers including Network Rail, Centrica and Sky all allow their graduates to study for an accounting qualification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) or CIMA.
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 most cases, the degree can be in any subject.
Recruiters will sometimes specify a certain number of UCAS points or grades at GCSE/A-level - for instance, 300 UCAS points (as well as a 2:1) are required to work on one of HSBC's graduate programmes, Deloitte also asks for GCSEs in English language and maths at levels 4 and 5 respectively, while Network Rail states that an A-level in maths is desirable rather than essential.
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 and they may close a month or two later.
While most programmes for 2021 will start in the September, HSBC's one-year banking programme has a February or July start date. You can begin Sky's finance graduate scheme in August.
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, the Santander graduate programme involves the following stages:
- Online application - you'll need to spend around 10 minutes completing a simple form. You can use the information on your CV for reference.
- Online test - you'll then face a series of tests to determine the skills you'll bring to the team. These include a video-based situational judgement test, a personality test and a gamified numerical challenge.
- Video interview (pre-recorded) - once you've successfully navigated the tests you'll get the opportunity to record a video explaining why you've selected this particular scheme and the skills you'd bring to the role.
- Virtual assessment centre - finally, you'll be invited to a half-day session where you'll undertake three exercises. One of these is a group exercise to get to know the other attendees as well as a presentation, followed by a one-to-one interview.
What skills will I need?
Here are a few examples of what employers are looking for:
- At EY you'll need to be an adaptable and analytical team player with strong communications skills to succeed on one of its actuarial pensions or insurance graduate schemes. 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.
- 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.
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 2021:
- Boots - £26,000.
- EDF Energy - £27,500.
- Lloyds Banking Group - £31,000, plus benefits including a £3,000 allowance.
- NatWest Group - £31,850 for most finance-related schemes.
- Santander - £30,000 for most programmes.
- Tesco - £32,000.
- Virgin Media - £30,000 plus £2,000 welcome bonus.
See how this compares with leading graduate banking and finance employers featuring in The Times Top 100 as well as with other professions by viewing High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2020 report.
Will I be offered a job afterwards?
Many employers 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, graduate training results in a permanent job - whether this is in the same team you've been working in or a different part of the business.
As long as you pass all your exams and achieve a successful performance rating while working for Santander over the two years, you'll be offered a permanent role afterwards.