Financial sector recruitment trends

Jan 21, 2017 | Attraction & marketing, Diversity, Sector & policy

In this week’s blog ISE Research Analyst, Samuel Gordon, uncovers the latest research trends in the financial sector.

Banking and financial services is one of the key sectors covered by the ISE Annual Survey. Understanding the dynamics of this sector is vital for employers wishing to benchmark as well as for schools, colleges and institutions looking for ways to work with financial employers. Here are some of the recruitment trends which set them apart.

 Market overview

ISE employers in banking and financial services (excluding investment banks) typically pay the highest median starting salaries after law firms. The median for graduates this year was £35,000, compared to £28,000 for all employers. Interns are paid well too, with median salaries the equivalent of £24,000 a year compared to £18,000 across all employers.

These firms are more global in their recruitment activities. EU nationals typically make up 33% of their graduate hires – far above the average of 8% – and 70% of banking employers accept applications from outside the European Economic Area. Roles in this sector attract an average of 90 applications per vacancy compared to the industry-wide average of 75.

Many banks invest in internship programmes too and bring these candidates back as graduate hires. Over half of interns (52%) typically come back as graduate hires, compared to 42% of interns at other firms. This investment in interns is one feature of the sector that sets it apart.


Collectively, student recruiters have identified improving diversity as their number one challenge in 2018. According to research we carried out in 2016, gender diversity, ethnic diversity and social mobility are the top three diversity priorities. 

These priorities are the same for banking and financial services firms, but they have big challenges with their gender balance. 

On average, just 39% of their graduates are female, compared to the 54% share of female students. A concerted effort will be needed by these firms for the diversity of their hires to match the diversity of the student talent pool.

A more positive picture can be painted in terms of the ethnic diversity of their graduates. 26% of their graduate hires, on average, are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. This is higher than the 20% of UK university students who identify as BAME.

Banking and financial services firms are actively trying to change their diversity too. The majority (87%) took specific actions to improve graduate diversity in 2017 with 53% running outreach events for final-year students, making this the most common approach. Two key differences to other sectors were a higher use of financial support to help their candidates attend selection events, and a higher use of name-blind or university-blind recruitment.

Attraction & selection

ISE banking and financial services firms invest a lot to recruit great hires. They spend the second-highest amount per hire at £5,492 and 84% run bespoke events on campus as part of their marketing to students, compared to 54% of other firms. When choosing which universities they want to visit, 84% of these employers factor in the performance of previous graduate recruits.

Their approaches to selection are similar to employers from other sectors. They are equally likely to use strengths-based assessment and use video interviews – 42% and 53% of banking or financial services organisations have adopted these respectively. One key difference is a high use of phone interviews: 81% of banking and financial services employers use these, compared to just 50% of other firms.

Assessment centres exercises vary from those in other sectors. Use of case studies is far more common, while use of group role-plays is far less common – 67% and 22% of banking and financial services employers use these activities respectively, compared to 46% and 47% of other employers. These differences could reflect the specific nature of financial services work.

Understanding the dynamics of this sector is key for stakeholders when looking for ways to recruit great talent.

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Tags: Finance


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