Getting into banking with a PhD

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Which banks hire PhDs?

The reality is that most of them do, but they don't all have dedicated PhD hiring programmes.

Among the banks we scrutinized, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan hire PhDs into designated programmes with specialist training. UBS and Dresdner hire them as part of their general graduate programmes, and Deutsche Bank hires PhDs on an ad hoc basis into its global markets division.

Which roles are PhDs hired into?

Most banks hire PhDs into markets or research roles that require quantitative skills, particularly quant research. "PhDs can either join research directly, or as generalists in the global markets division," says Joanne Muraya, senior recruiter at Deutsche Bank.

It's also worth bearing in mind that banks will typically accept PhDs into other, non-quantitative roles, but in this case will bring them in as analysts - at the same level as first-degree holders.

How many are hired?

If you're having a problem landing a PhD role in a bank that may be because they're aren't many to go around.

Of the banks we spoke to that gave numbers, JPMorgan hires the most, with 15 people joining each year. Most others hire only a handful: Dresdner hires one or two, Deutsche Bank hires two to three, and BNP Paribas hires up to five.

Right schools, right subjects

How can PhD students stand out from the crowd? The answer is by studying the right subjects at the right schools.

At Deutsche Bank, Muraya says PhD applicants need to be studying one of a number of preferred subjects - maths, natural sciences, economics or finance.

Esther Oxenbury, head of graduate recruitment at JPMorgan, says PhD applicants need to have studied a quant-related discipline - maths, physics, econometrics or statistics, for example.

As with all things, banks also focus on PhDs from a few favoured schools. "In the UK, Imperial is by far the best," says the head of graduate recruitment at one European bank. "Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics are also good."

French schools are also highly prized, particularly Université Paris VI, École Polytechnique, École Normale, École Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration Économique (ENSAE) and Université Paris Dauphine, from which students are often admitted to PhD-level roles after studying only a DEA or advanced MSc.

Application deadlines

Deadlines for PhD applications have officially passed at both UBS and BNP Paribas, although the latter still has vacancies posted on its careers site. JPMorgan hires PhDs on a rolling basis. Deutsche's full-time PhD programme is already full, but the bank is still welcoming applications from PhDs interested in internships, with a deadline of 15 January.

Merrill Lynch's full-time applications deadline is 31 January for PhDs. Goldman has a rolling deadline for PhD positions in its strategies group. Its PhD internship deadline officially closed on 28 December, but it says it's still receiving applications.

The deadline for full-time applicants to the Credit Suisse quant programme is 8 March, and the deadline for summer internship quant applications at the Swiss bank is 14 April.

Pay

Most banks hire PhDs into associate pay brackets (i.e. on a par with MBAs). Successful applicants can expect to earn a salary in the region of 55k to 60k, plus a bonus of around 50-100%.

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