I Want to Work In … Banking

Retail Banking

Investment Banking


There are many different roles within banking, which are not always clear-cut. Although banking can be broadly divided into “retail banking” and “investment banking”, these functions can often be found within the same organisation – the large “High Street” banks, for example, also have corporate and investment banking operations. money

Retail Banking

covers the financial services provided by the "High Street" banks for individual personal customers and small businesses through their branch network, especially: safe custody of money, transmission of money between accounts, provision of loans, foreign exchange, etc., provision of financial advice, provision and marketing of financial services e.g. insurance, mortgages, stockbroking. Employers include UK clearing banks, building societies, foreign banks with a UK branch network and finance houses.

The work involves: responsibility for the overall management of staff, work and resources of a branch, advising customers on business and personal finance, authorising loans and overdrafts within bank's guidelines, developing contacts with the local community and businesses. You will be expected to meet targets and promote the bank’s products and services. The work therefore involves elements of human resource management and marketing as well as banking.

Qualities required include good inter-personal skills, leadership, persuasiveness, integrity, adaptability and business awareness. Some banks expect management staff to be completely mobile throughout the U.K.  although others only demand mobility within a limited geographical area.

PROFILE: Bank Manager - Retail

The financial services provided by the High Street banks for personal customers & small businesses through their branch network, especially: Safe custody of money. Transmission of money between accounts. Provision of loans, foreign exchange, etc. Provision of financial advice; provision & marketing of financial services e.g. insurance, mortgages, management of staff, work & resources of a branch. Advising customers, authorising loans & overdrafts, developing contacts with the local community. Whilst training you are quickly moved through a branch, then to a lending centre then to a business centre - to experience larger business lending. The next move might be into corporate or international lending.
EMPLOYERS: High Street banks, building societies, foreign banks with a U.K. branch network, finance houses.
RELATED JOBS: Insurance or other financial management careers.
SATISFACTIONS: Building a relationship with customers; providing a quality service & being 'thanked' for it; progression/promotion in a short space of time; solid training opportunities
NEGATIVES: Long hours; stress; pressure to learn things very quickly & performing to a high standard; having to take banking exams - involving revising after a day's work; pressure to meet branch targets. Many banks expect management staff to be mobile throughout the U.K. - although others now only demand mobility within a limited geographical area.
SKILLS: spoken communication, analysing, negotiating, cooperating, numeracy.
Personal qualities required: integrity, honesty, good character, adaptability, good inter-personal skills
ADVANCEMENT: Branch manager; other lower levels of management; head office research functions; business manager; corporate banking division; financial marketing, leasing.
DEGREE: Any degree subject acceptable, but must have a reasonable level of numeracy.
VACANCY SOURCES: Careers Service vacancy lists & national press.
TIPS: Apply early to Graduate Training Programmes. Banks' careers websites include graduate case histories, details of training programmes, etc. Try to obtain a summer placement - gives a good insight. Have determination to succeed - it really is dog eats dog in assessment centres. Develop good interpersonal, team & communication skills. Patience & adaptability are also necessary attributes.


PROFILE: Manager - Building Society

Staff development; business generation; customer relations
EMPLOYERS: mutual building societies, e.g. Kent Reliance. Many former building societies e.g. Halifax have now converted to PLCs & are now technically banks - although recruitment & career patterns remain similar.
RELATED JOBS: Banking, Insurance.
SATISFACTIONS: People contact; variety.
NEGATIVES: Constraints beyond control.
SKILLS: analysing, organising, decision making, cooperating, numeracy.
ADVANCEMENT: through management trainee scheme to branch manager
DEGREE: Any degree subject acceptable, but must have a reasonable level of numeracy
VACANCY SOURCES: National press, Careers Service Vacancy Database.
TIPS: Contact Societies Idirect

Investment Banking

Top Reasons for Applying to Investment Banking
Excellent starting salaries
Prestige of the jobs 38%
Interested in content of work 35%
Work is intellectually demanding 35%
Good long-term career prospects 26%
Chance to work overseas 22%
Able to use your degree subject 20%
Quality of training and development 18%
Availability of jobs
Jobs are located where you want to work
Source: The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2010 AGR/The Times

covers the provision of specialised financial services and advice to industrial, commercial and government clients.
It involves corporate finance - mergers, acquisitions, Stock Exchange quotations for new issues, arranging loan facilities for governments and corporations, financing large international projects, large-scale foreign exchange dealings, negotiating acceptance credits, loans, export guarantee credits and investment management.
Employers include not only large international banks but also the large UK clearing banks, which may have separate graduate recruitment schemes for retail and investment banking. There are also a number of medium-sized (“mid-cap”) and small (“boutique” ) investment banks
Qualities required include: a very good academic record (2.1 min in any degree subject, plus good grades at A-level or equivalent) excellent interpersonal skills, good written and verbal communication skills and numeracy, resilience and confidence and business interest.
There are relatively few vacancies and fierce competition for places – you need to start planning early! A number of employers run insight programmes and mini-internships for first year students: deadlines for these are usually in January but may be even earlier. Longer summer internships will be advertised in the first term of your second/penultimate year and most banks use these as their main source of graduate recruits. You can obviously still apply for graduate schemes (deadlines will be in the first term of your final year) if you haven’t done an internship at that bank but your chances will be greatly improved if you do have such experience – especially in the current financial situation (July 2012)
Satisfactions: Challenging and stimulating work. Completion of a successful transaction, particularly when market is difficult. Well-paid.
Negatives: Long and unpredictable hours – typically between 70 – 100 hours a week. Very demanding & aggressive environment.
Tips: Competition is fierce for graduate training programmes – consider getting a professional qualification, such as accountancy or law, and then using this to move into investment banking.

PROFILE: Investment Analyst

Researches financial information about companies and gives this information to fund managers to help them manage investment portfolios. This will involve analysing information, meeting with company representatives to question them about the finances of the company, checking for political, economic and business developments that may influence the financial markets, and producing reports.
EMPLOYERS: investment management companies, investment banks and stockbrokers.
SATISFACTIONS: high salary, undertaking in-depth research.
NEGATIVES: long working hours, pressure, deadline orientated.
SKILLS: analysis, numeracy, communication, determination.
DEGREE: any subject, but mathematics, economics, finance-related useful. MBA helpful.


PROFILE: Stockbroker

looks after institutional, corporate or private clients’ investment portfolios. Buys and sells shares on the stock exchange to give the maximum return. May also deal in securities, money and financial products. Works in a team with investment analysts. Researches information about equities. Advises clients. Much of the trading takes place by phone and increasingly via the web.
EMPLOYERS: Investment banks, stockbroking and investment management companies.
SATISFACTIONS: very well paid. Lots of excitement.
NEGATIVES: highly pressurised and stressful.
SKILLS: analysis, speed of thought, attention to detail, ability to stay calm under pressure, commitment.
DEGREE: any degree subject but economics, business or law useful.
TIPS: Research the financial markets carefully. Get a small portfolio of shares. Apply to investment banks early in final year. Send out speculative CVs to stockbroking firms.


PROFILE: Financial Analyst

Carrying out primary research on financial institutions (banks & insurance companies) in several countries; managing research projects from conception to delivery; reading financial press, visiting city business library & other online sources; designing spreadsheet based models; liaising with clients.
EMPLOYERS: banks, insurance companies, fund managers, consultants.
RELATED JOBS: Fund manager
SATISFACTIONS: In depth knowledge of the financial world, & the world at large; meeting other people; remuneration.
NEGATIVES: Hard work; very steep learning curve.
SKILLS: spoken communication, analysing, investigating, cooperating, numeracy.
ADVANCEMENT: From analyst to manager, usually.
DEGREE: Any good degree is acceptable, although prior knowledge in maths and/or economics & accounting is a plus!
POSTGRADUATE STUDY: MBA - often taken part-time or on secondment.
VACANCY SOURCES: Financial Times, & directly from the employer via speculative applications
TIPS: Start researching the job & the employers early: apply early in final year. Be smart, but not arrogant. Be able to express yourself clearly & concisely.


Chart of Careers in Finance

Further information on banking

We really want people who want to work for our bank to know a lot more about us rather than just applying for all of the banks.

I think it’s the additional skills, really having that hunger, to be motivated to work, especially in global banking. It is very long hours and it is very hard work; so they really must want to put as much effort in as possible and be able to see the picture.

Multinational bank

See our practice banking interview/example banking interview questions


In Heaven:

The cooks are French,
the policemen English,
the mechanics German,
the lovers Italian,
and the bankers are Swiss.

In Hell:

The cooks are English,
the policemen German,
the mechanics French,
the lovers Swiss,
and the bankers are Italian.

Recruitment Agencies

Further Information

Last fully updated 2012