Transitory trainees

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How long should you hang on in a first banking job?

Not long, according to banks' graduate recruiters. According to one (who spoke anonymously), the best time to quit is two years' into a training programme. "At this point you'll be at your most marketable," she says. "You'll also be on the cusp of seeing some of the biggest hikes in pay and salary, and you can leverage this if you move."

Figures from recruitment firm EM Finance suggest total comp rises from an average of 80k for second-year analysts to 102k for third-year analysts and 138k for first-year associates.

In the first two years, our source says over 25% of all banking trainees quit. This figure accelerates as the third year approaches. Her figures are in line with those from a study by Royal Bank of Scotland, which found that over 40% of graduates expect to quit over the same period.

Some banks are giving trainees a nudge out the door. Morgan Stanley requires analysts to re-interview for associate positions; those who don't apply (or don't get through), don't move up.

Indications are that trainees stick around longest in boutique firms - at Greenhill, for example, 80% of graduates are retained after two years.

Is it wise to leave too soon? If you're at a second-tier firm, Logan Naidu, a consultant at recruitment firm Cornell Partnership, says it's a case of the sooner the better: "There's no point in going from one second-tier firm to another. There is in going from the second-tier to the first."

The worst time to quit is at the peak of the market: "You'll be caught by the 'last in, first out' rule," Naidu warns.

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