I thought millennials would be interested to know that large financial institutions are still hiring some of the most academically accomplished students in the country for their analyst programs. In fact, the standards for obtaining these positions have never been higher.
Banks and investment banks annually hire “analysts” right out of undergraduate school. This is the entry-level position for future executives in the industry. (Note: many leave after two or more years to attend MBA programs.) A number of these same students have worked for their new employers during the summer between their junior and senior years. Offers are usually made to the most successful students at that time.
For months, critics of the financial services industry have been saying that far fewer students have an interest in pursuing a career with financial institutions. And so, a large number of students have been willing to give up an opportunity to earn very high compensation and are seeking jobs in “more productive” areas, such as entrepreneurial companies, not-for-profits, etc. I was skeptical about this generalization, so I did some snooping around to test the hypothesis.
The results of my research are that the most prestigious banks still have their pick of the litter: there is no dearth of highly qualified students to fill the available spots at these large institutions. Moreover, the credentials of those students applying for jobs are really outstanding.
I spoke with an acquaintance in the industry, who told me that Ivy League and equivalent schools around the country are the prime targets for banking recruiters. And, I was provided some general information about the students who were offered jobs and accepted this year.
Virtually all of the new analysts that will begin to work this summer have GPAs in excess of 3.5. Many have Bachelor of Arts degrees, although schools like Wharton (undergraduate) are very popular among banks. Nevertheless, banks have begun to place a premium on students who are well rounded academically, believing they can teach financial neophytes how to do spread sheets and forecasts while on-the-job. Many of the new analysts were valedictorians in high school, or were near the top of their classes. All of them have very high SAT scores (generally above 2200), which most post on their resumes. Quite a few are fluent in a second language and spent a semester abroad. A large number of students worked in a business environment during summer vacations, but not always at the bank that hired them. All have outstanding leadership qualities and outside skills, including computers and other non-business related activities.
No doubt, banking is a difficult career that demands many sacrifices. In particular, the hours are long and tedious, so there is a limited amount of time for social activities. Do not believe critics who say the work is not interesting. This is untrue for most analysts, but it takes time before a person can hobnob with corporate titans.
Several months ago, I wrote an article for PolicyMic that detailed the operations of Morgan Stanley, a premier investment bank. MS is involved in many businesses that assist corporations, governments, not-for-profits, pension funds, etc. It facilitates world trade and is totally relevant and important. If you have any doubt about whether banks are “productive,” read the essay.
And finally, if earning high compensation is a goal, banking may be your field. But, I warn you beforehand, you must be highly qualified and be ready to leave it all on the field to be successful in this very competitive arena.