Graduate recruitment - an employers' market in 2002?

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In some years banks hire more vigorously than others. When their profits are plummeting and financial markets are in bad health, would-be trainees may find their graduation badly timed.

The current economic downturn is unlikely to affect the intake for September 2001. The banks have committed themselves to the hires already and are reluctant to change their minds.

This is as much from fear of a public relations disaster as anything else: firing people before they've started does not make for a good press - neither does it endear future graduates to that employer.

&quotWe would never renege on offers that have already been made,&quot says one recruiter.

This is not to say that offer withdrawals don't happen and it may be telling that none of the banks spoken to for this article were willing to go &quoton the record&quot guaranteeing that all offers would be upheld.

There are precedents, albeit not in the investment banking sector: in 1999 Marks & Spencer withdrew some of its offers of training scheme places, because of commercial problems.

It is the intake in September 2002 that could bear the brunt of any reductions in hiring, though many banks are unwilling or unable to quantify how many graduates are likely to join at that time. The picture should become clearer towards the end of 2001.

Derek Walker, a spokesman for at Merrill Lynch, says: &quotWe have no current plans to reduce class sizes in 2002.&quot

Many banks boosted their graduate recruitment substantially in 2000 and have kept it at this level for 2001.

If things do not look up, some privately concede that the number joining in 2002 is likely to be lower: &quotIt's gone from being a graduates' to an employers' market,&quot admits Nadia Capy at Deutsche Bank.

But however bad things get, recruitment of graduates is unlikely to suffer the kind of total hiring freeze imposed in other areas.

Mike Tiley, head of the careers service at the London School of Economics, says: &quotGraduate recruiting is not always susceptible to fluctuations in economic conditions. Many banks see graduate recruitment as a long-term affair and are loathe to lose their presence in the graduate market.&quot

So, instead of a bar on recruitment, there may be retrenchment. Some banks will favour key campuses.

&quotWe would make fewer presentations instead of going to 10 schools we may go to only Oxford and Cambridge, plus a few others,&quot says the head of recruitment at a European bank.

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