By joining a finance graduate scheme, you'll follow an intensive work-based training programme, with many organisations offering support as you study towards a professional qualification
Here's an overview of what's available in 2020, although the exact nature of each graduate scheme and salary information is subject to change.
What finance graduate schemes are available?
These 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 what your career prospects will be afterwards.
Which companies run finance graduate schemes?
All the major banks and financial institutions continue to run finance-related or banking graduate schemes:
- Ernst & Young (EY)
- J.P. Morgan
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
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 graduate employers including:
- EDF Energy
- Network Rail
- Royal Mail
- 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 eight graduate programmes, which involve rotating across several placements nationwide or based in one location such as London or Edinburgh, with some programmes including an international element.
You can apply to work in one of the following business areas:
- client relationship management
- client solutions
- data science
- enterprise leadership
- insurance products and financial planning solutions
- retail customers and products
- risk management.
Other finance-related schemes involve substantial time spent in other locations throughout Europe or further afield. For instance, Barclays provides intensive training for analyst positions in areas such as banking, corporate banking, customer banking solutions, operations and treasury, 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. They can be chosen in a number of specialisms, including commercial banking, global banking and markets, global private banking, and 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 gain a finance qualification from a professional body as you engage in work or training. For instance, 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 a professional accountancy qualification, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) also offers 11 other streams within its core functions remit. These include working in NatWest markets, data and analytics, private banking, RBS international, internal audit or risk.
Leading employers including Network Rail, Nestlé, Centrica and Sky all allow their graduates study for an accounting qualification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (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 A-level - for instance, 300 UCAS points are required to work on one of HSBC's global programmes, Centrica currently asks for three Bs at A-level, and 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.
However, Santander's 2020 graduate scheme doesn't open until mid-November 2019 and Lloyds Banking Group's 2020 finance programme closes on 11 November 2019. At Barclays, applications for a number of its analyst roles are accepted until the very end of December, although they may close early due to high demand.
While most programmes for 2020 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 or August 2020, but the closing date for applications to both intakes is 3 November 2019.
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 registration and choosing which programme to apply for at EY, the second stage involves entering your personal details and experience. If you make it through the screening, you'll face case studies, multiple-choice questions and a numerical reasoning test - although you'll be able to practice beforehand. 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 and this takes around 45 minutes.
For tips on showing yourself in the best possible light and writing a successful application, see applying for jobs.
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 2020:
- Boots - £26,000 on most programmes
- Centrica - £31,000, plus a £3,000 starting bonus
- Lloyds - £31,000, plus a benefits package which includes a one-off £3,000 allowance
- RBS - £30,700 and access to a flexible benefits package
- Royal Mail Group - £27,000, plus location pay and an annual bonus
- Santander - £30,000 for most programmes
- Tesco - £32,000.
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 2019 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.
Find out more
- Learn about how graduate schemes work.
- See what else is on offer in the accountancy, banking and finance sector.