JPMorgan is paying its US graduate trainees a stipend to do voluntary work if they defer the start date at the firm.
Other banks, such as Credit Suisse First Boston, have offered trainees who want to delay their arrival a small salary over the period they would have been working.
But JPMorgan has gone a step further by offering to supplement that salary if its trainees choose to work for one of a few selected not-for-profit organisations the firm supports. The bank is thought to have approached students at two universities about the scheme and received an enthusiastic response.
Investment banks and other professional services firms are hoping to reduce their costs by shrinking the number of recruits they take on against a backdrop of widespread redundancies in the industry.
Some of those starting this year will have been hired up to 12 months ago, when the investment banking business was stronger and banks were still expanding rapidly.
Big management consultancy firms, such as Accenture, and accountants, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, have encouraged graduate trainees to defer their arrival, but this is thought to be the first time a firm has offered future employees an incentive to do voluntary work.