| LONDON/NEW YORK
LONDON/NEW YORK Dec 21 With pay levels and
reputation under attack, investment banks are changing tack to
lure graduates, dumping brash presentations with get-rich-quick
appeal in favour of earnest pitches about responsibility,
diversity and building a career.
"Previously there would have been a mass-marketing approach,
and we would have found it very easy and been very attractive to
students," said Chris Jackson, head of graduate recruitment at
Royal Bank of Scotland.
"The important thing we are trying to get across is that
this is a career now. This is not a kind of short-term option
that may have been perceived in the past."
With Britain's central bank saying recently that it hoped
bankers' pay would eventually fall to a level closer to that of
doctors or lawyers, recruiters from the big investment banks are
having to reshape their message.
"Students know compensation is down at the banks, and they
know the lifestyle, and it's rigorous," said Sunshine Singer,
senior associate director of career management at the University
of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
"The trade-off is not worth it as much as it used to be if
they are going to be working that much and not be compensated
for it. This is a different generation."
A few years ago, the emphasis was on the money.
As a young Oxford undergraduate, Joseph O'Keeffe was
schmoozed with caviar, wine and the promise of the good life.
"The initial recruiting phase is very much like selling you
a lifestyle, and it's like you want to be this person who shops
at Selfridges and wears Armani suits and Hermes ties," he said.
"Just like everything in high British society, it's all very
understated and implied, but it's like blatantly obvious."
Sick of working up to 100 hours a week and being yelled and
cursed at by senior colleagues, the 23-year old quit this year.
"You are the bottom of the pile," he said.
UNLEASH YOUR POTENTIAL
Since the financial crisis, investment banks have lost some
of their shine for the cream of the college crop.
At Harvard Business School, only 7 percent of the Class of
2012 went into investment banking, down from 10 percent in 2010.
At the Wharton School of Business, the number has fallen from 25
percent to 16.6 percent.
Part of it is a squeeze on places; Goldman Sachs shut its
flagship two-year analyst training programme earlier this year.
But graduates themselves are being drawn to other sectors such
as technology and private equity.
"Partly it's that investment banks themselves are not as
aggressively seeking MBAs as they were back in the good old
days," said Ray Soifer, a former banking analyst and Harvard
Business School alumnus, who tracks where graduates take jobs.
"But investment banking in many respects just doesn't look
as attractive as a career."
That said, it remains the most lucrative graduate job in
Britain, with average starter salaries of 45,000 pounds, and
applications for investment banking posts this year still
managed a slight rise - 0.8 percent, according to High Fliers
Research, an organisation that tracks graduate recruitment.
But with graduate unemployment rising to nearly one in five,
and compared with other financial services jobs, standing still
represents a relative decline.
Retail banking jobs, with average starter salaries of around
30,000 pounds, climbed by nearly a third, and accountancy
applications rose 16 percent, according to High Fliers.
"For investment banking, we've seen more interest this year
from European countries, and the number of UK applicants has
gone down slightly," said Dee Clarke, recruitment manager at
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML).
"I think it might be more due to the fact that investment
banking as an actual business has perhaps not had as much
activity and has not been in the press in terms of volumes of
When it comes to scandal, however, investment banking has
been grabbing the headlines, as in the trial of former UBS
trader Kweku Adoboli, who was jailed for seven years for
fraudulently running up losses of $2.3 billion.
In the summer of 2002, Adoboli did a 10-week summer
internship at UBS that went so well the bank offered him a job
and made him an ambassador on the Nottingham campus.
Back then, investment banking carried a lot of bragging
rights in college bars.
Four years into a crisis partly fuelled by high finance's
ill-advised property gambles, and the language has changed.
"Ermm, reckless, maybe? No, risky. Risk-taker," are the
impressions that Russell Jones, an 18-year old history undergrad
at Cambridge University, has of investment bankers.
Jones was one of hundreds of students attending a career day
at the university.
Along with blue-chip UK companies including L'Oréal
, BP and Centrica, big banking brands
such as Citi, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and
Morgan Stanley laid out their stalls with jars of sweets,
free leather card-holders, smiling representatives and inspiring
But Citi's 'Unleash your potential here' and Morgan
Stanley's 'You have talents' left Jones unmoved. He is more
interested in opportunities in the public sector, which saw a 12
percent increase in applications this year, despite paying half
as much as graduates starting in investment banking, according
to High Fliers.
BANKS ARE NECESSARY
In its presentations, Royal Bank of Scotland, which was
saved from collapse by a 45 billion pound state bailout i n 2008,
talks about what it is doing to turn itself around.
There is also a big drive to attract female graduates in the
aftermath of the financial crisis. Women are seen as more
risk-averse and better team players.
"We've had a particular focus over the last couple of years
on gender diversity because of some of the challenges that
banking has faced," said RBS's Jackson.
Lucy Wark, a student of politics and international studies
at Cambridge University, can see the merits of banking.
"If you'd talked to me a year ago, I'd have had a lot less
of a nuanced view. I would say it is high paid, I would say it
is high stress ... but at the same time, I think banking is
important and necessary in an economic system," said the 20-year
O'Keeffe, meanwhile, has no plans to return to investment
banking. His heart is set on medical school.
Currently working as a healthcare assistant, he jokes about
leaving the heating off to save money.
"I worked in finance and I realised at the end of the day,
if you don't ... get out of bed in the morning to do something
that you enjoy, what's the point of life?" he said.