Alternative routes in: ratings agencies

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So you've been blanked by the banks? Try ratings agencies instead.

What are they?

Ratings agencies - which score debt products according to how likely investors are to get paid as promised - may not be as glamorous or as lucrative employers as investment banks. But they offer better work-life balance and are less likely to make redundancies in hard times.

"Over the last 20 years we've seen growth year on year of 20%," says Adam Seward, head of recruitment at ratings agency Fitch. "Although this credit squeeze may have some effect, it hasn't stopped our long-term recruitment goals."

What do they offer graduates?

Unfortunately (and rather like in investment banks), getting a job in a ratings agency is no walkover. Of the three main players in the market, Standard & Poor's (S&P), Moodys, and Fitch, only Fitch offers a formal graduate training scheme (applications close 31 January 2008).

Fitch expects to hire about 15 graduates next year - and last year received 500 applications for a similar number of posts.

S&P hires fresh graduates straight into the business on a needs basis. Look on the website, where you can also post your CV speculatively, says HR director Elizabeth Heskith.

Moodys, which usually takes some graduates on an ad hoc basis, won't be hiring any in 2008, according to recruitment manager Yasmin Ullah.

Internships with the big three ratings agencies are also less formalised than with investment banks. Fitch works with selected universities and tends to pick its interns from those. In the UK, its main academic partner is the ICMA Centre at Reading University.

What if you're rejected?

If you don't have any joy with the big three there are always smaller outfits to consider.

Canadian Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS) opened in London a couple of years ago. A spokesperson for DBRS in Toronto says the company is starting to formalize graduate hiring in North America, but European graduates or interns can contact the London office on a speculative basis.

Other smaller players include AM Best, which specializes in insurance.

What are the long-term career prospects?

Once you've spent some time in a ratings agency, it should be easier to move into an investment bank.

The path from ratings agencies to fixed income areas in banks, especially structured finance, is well worn, says Adam Buck, MD at recruitment firm Selby Jennings.

Hedge funds also hire from ratings agencies for credit analysis or credit trading roles, he says.

During a downturn, however, banks and hedge funds will have less appetite for ratings agency personnel. But by staying where you are you'll be less likely to be made redundant: "You'll always have a job with a ratings agency," says Buck.

Moodys.com

Standard & Poor's

Fitch Ratings

A.M. Best Company

DBRS

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