With the seemingly endless torrent of bad news coming out of the financial sector recently, the challenge to the public relations firms that service the industry has never been greater.
The good news is that a lot of them are still keen to hear from graduates with an understanding of the financial sector and (of course) superb communication skills. However, the numbers they take on are very (very) small, the competition for places very (very) stiff.
Here's a selection of top financial PR firms and their plans for graduate hiring this year:
Who? Abchurch is ranked seventh in terms of the number of stockmarket clients it has on its books, according to the latest financial PR rankings from data provider Hemscott. But it also works in various other industries including life sciences, technology and media.
Hiring plans? Has a formal graduate trainee scheme specific to its financial PR division, but was not contactable to provide intake numbers. Recruits throughout the year.
Who? Brunswick is the third largest firm in terms of the number of stockmarket clients it has on its books, according to Hemscott. One of its clients is the Japanese bank Mizuho International, but it also represents Barclays and has worked with HBOS on its Lloyds TSB merger. However, it says two-thirds of its clients are small or unlisted companies.
Hiring plans? The firm has a summer internship programme, which you'll need to apply to by April, but candidates can apply for the formal graduate traineeship throughout the year. The number taken on depends entirely on "the calibre of candidates coming in", says Joanna Moss, HR manager at the firm.
Who? Again referencing the Hemscott rankings, Buchanan is second in terms of the number of stockmarket clients, but claims to handle more initial public offerings than any other agency in London. Figures from mergermarket place it at eighth in terms of the volume of UK M&A it advised on in 2008. Clients include the London Stock Exchange and European Finance House.
There's no formal graduate trainee scheme, though it does regularly take in work experience candidates for those wanting a taste of the industry. The majority of graduate hires tend to come from referrals from clients, journalists and other contacts, says Lisa Baderoon, partner at the firm.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Who? CDR regularly ranks among the top financial services PR firms and has clients from the investment banking, private equity and financial law sectors. However, it also works in the public sector and advises corporations on their public image.
Hiring plans? Takes on three graduates a year for its corporate division in the UK but does not recruit graduates for its financial arm, which tends to require more senior staff members to deal with the firms. "That's not to say we won't take on graduates for this division in the future," says Gareth Ling, head of HR at the firm.
Who? FD tops the league tables in terms of both the number of stockmarket clients it has and the volume of UK M&A it advised on in 2008. Covers various sectors as well as financial services including industrials, leisure, technology and real estate.
Hiring plans? Eight graduates are recruited each year for a formalised trainee scheme, which runs for nine months and rotates candidates across three different business areas. Plans for September's intake will be finalised in May.
Who? Finsbury is ranked third in the league table of PR advisers to UK M&A in 2008, compiled by mergermarket, having relinquished the top spot it gained in 2007. Its high-profile financial clients include Lloyds TSB, Standard Chartered, Aviva and Bradford & Bingley. It also advises on political and regulatory issues.
Hiring plans? The firm takes on one or two graduates each year on an informal basis and says it remains committed to doing the same this year. New recruits will be rotated around all areas of the business.
Who? Narrowly misses the top ten in PR Week's compilation of the top 150 PR firms, Fishburn Hedges works across many sectors, including consumer, education, food and drink, and, of course, financial services. Includes Barclays, Liverpool Victoria and Scottish Widows among its clients.
Hiring plans? Formalised graduate trainee programme which takes in four candidates twice a year. The deadline for the April intake has passed, but it's accepting applications for the September programme until 16 March. Also takes in students on a two-month summer internship.
Who? Won the prize for best City campaign at last year's PR Week awards and features among the top ten in various financial PR league tables. Among its financial services clients are Allianz Global Investors, Citibank and UBS Global Asset Management.
Hiring plans? No formal graduate recruitment scheme, but takes on students as and when the business requires them.
Who? Focuses on financial and professional services, hedge funds and private equity within the financial sphere and ranks fifth in terms of the volumes of UK M&A it advised on last year, according to figures from mergermarket.
Hiring plans? There's a formalised, one-year, graduate traineeship in place, which accepts applications throughout the year. However, the firm would not reveal specific hiring plans for 2009.