You may be applying to more banks than you care to remember, but if you want to be successful in your application to any one of them, you'll need to speak convincingly about why you're desperate to work for that particular place above all others.
How can you create a credible impression of conviction?
They may not know it, but what each bank wants to hear is why they are amazing. More precisely, each business area wants to know why they, in particular, are amazing within that amazing bank.
So, how can you find out a few facts to substantiate your belief in the supremacy of your potential employers?
1) Annual and quarterly reports
There is a slim chance that you may not be aware of this, but every quarter banks are obliged to produce a roundup of how well they're doing - a quarterly report. These are to be found on their websites, under the 'investor relations,' or 'about us' sections.
Quarterly reports often come in several varieties. There will usually be a press release with some helpful blurb (Eg. 'We had an excellent quarter in equities trading'), plus a separate financial summary with revenue and income (profit) figures for different regions and business areas. The latter will help you determine whether, for example, the equities sales and trading business which you're been applying to has been doing well. The former may also include some helpful strategic pointers ('Eg. We plan to grow our equities business next year.').
You should regurgitate this in interviews. Point out how the equities business has done well, how it's a strategic priority. If you can specify that the equities business has done well compared to competitors, you'll seem even keener.
2) Conference calls
Accompanying each annual and quarterly report, is a conference call or webcast. These are often also useful sources of strategic information - particularly the questions from analysts at the end. You can either put some time aside to listen to the whole thing (which may be stultifying), or you can try and find a transcript on the web.
The website Seeking Alpha has a transcripts library transcripts library where you'll be able to find free scripts for US banks' conference calls. If anyone knows of a similar facility in Europe, let us know!
3) League tables
It will please a bank immensely if you're able to say that you want to work for them because they ranked second in a league table for European ECM activity last quarter, up from fifth in the three months previously.
Unearthing this information isn't difficult. Thomson Reuters, an information provider, offers it for free on its website; you simply have to sign in.
If you're applying to work in sales or trading it may be harder to unearth information about the relative strength of your chosen employer. One place to glean such things is their own website (banks are prone to boating). If you can't find anything there, try looking back through their press releases.
Alternatively, look at our own 'Sectors explained' section (in the Student Centre). Most of our sector articles contain a league table ranking of organisations in the area concerned.
4) Deal lists
If you're applying to M&A, it will help if you have some awareness of the headline deals that your target has been active in recently. You can find some of these on the 'financial advisory' section of Thomson Reuters' legal tables, or on the league tables provided for free by companies like mergermarket (eg. click here).
There is, naturally, a possibility (particularly if you're desperate), that the bank you're applying to isn't a leader in its area, and has been losing money. In this case, full frontal flattery is unwise.
However, if you're aware that the bank has been hiring people in the area you're applying to, you can point to its growth potential, its commitment to the business, or the fact that you'd dearly love to work under an experienced person like X.
Hires will often be announced in the press release area of banks' websites. They're also listed on sites like Financial News, which (we think) offers a free trial subscription.