How to get into banking when there are 100+ students chasing each job

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If you're a student thinking of going into banking, the Financial Times has got some truly scary statistics to share with you. They say that getting a first job in financial services is a difficult business; the success rate is often less than 1%..

Deutsche Bank, for example, tells the FT it has 619 graduate jobs, for which it received 110,000 applications in 2018. Citi says it has 575 jobs, for which it received 60,671 applications. Morgan Stanley has 1,000 internships, and received 100,000 applications this year.

In other words, the number of students chasing each banking job ranges from 100 (Morgan Stanley) to 177 (Deutsche Bank), with variations in between.

We've been here before. Goldman Sachs told the FT it received 223,849 applications for its analyst and summer analyst positions two years ago. However, getting into banking seems to be becoming harder by the year. As students graduate with ever larger amounts of debt, the supposedly high pay on offer in banking (and banks do genuinely pay more than other industries in starting salaries) is an increasing draw. The applies as much to banks like Deutsche, which are restructuring, as to the rest: graduate applications to Deutsche Bank increased 20% in 2018 vs. 2017.

Does this mean you should give up trying to get into banking and opt for something easier like a job with a Big Four accounting or consulting firm (where there are "just" 18 graduate applications per graduate role) instead? Not at all. It does mean that you'll need to be smart about how you apply.

Some areas of finance are easier to get into than others: front office jobs typically attract the most applications (and pay the most as your banking career progresses),. If you apply for a back or middle office job (in compliance or operations, for example), you have more chance of getting accepted. Similarly, it's typically far, far easier to get into technology job in a bank  - J.P. Morgan said last year that it only had 10 applications per graduate role for its technology graduate program.

This doesn't mean, however, you should compromise your dream of working in M&A or sales and trading simply because you have more chance of becoming a business analyst. John Craven, a former director of structured products and cross-asset solutions at Merrill Lynch and SocGen, now runs UpReach, a charity that helps students from non-privileged backgrounds* get top jobs.  Craven says his students are encouraged to apply for banking jobs they're interested in, rather than banking jobs that are easily accessible - and they're successful: of 90 students on UpReach's banking program, 46 have already received offers.

"You have to be very well prepared to get a graduate offer from a bank," says Craven. "You need to do a lot of research into the area you want to go into, and you need a genuine interest in the industry." You also need to be highly familiar with banks' recruitment process - it's no good deciding you want to work in banking at the end of your second year, you need to be in the game from your first year at university. Craven says the students he coaches attend first year insight days and spring weeks before applying for the second year summer internships that lead to full time jobs.  They also participate in skills workshops, mock interviews and online tests. "If you know the application game, you have a much higher chance of success," Craven says. Don't be deceived by the raw numbers.

*Students helped by UpReach have a family income of less than £42k, have mostly been schooled at state schools and achieved a minimum of 3Bs or equivalent at A level. 

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