London - When Barclays executive Sam Dean went to a career fair earlier this year, he asked to speak with a group of students who were not studying finance.
The British bank is on a drive to appeal to students with a broader range of degrees who are interested in more than earning a quick buck but have been deterred by the industry's poor image.
The shift is aimed at helping address a problem in investment banking - that junior employees often come in aiming to earn a lot of money in exchange for working all hours, before leaving after a few years for private equity and hedge funds where the pay is even better.
This summer 40 percent of interns at Barclays investment bank are studying non-financial degrees - usually it's around 10 percent.
“There is no doubt that the banking industry has made some mistakes in recent years in the way that it has run its graduate recruitment processes,” said Dean, who is Barclays' Co-Head of Banking for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Barclays has redesigned its training to give students a taste of what it feels like to step into the shoes of a client and brainstorm the strategic rationale of dealmaking, hoping to broaden the industry's appeal by showing that it isn't just about long hours spent crunching numbers.
“Nobody wants to work all night on a 100 page book (sales pitch) and then see it thrown into recycling - and there is no reason for that to ever happen,” said Dean.
Whilst most investment banking internships are aimed at second year university students, some banks are targeting recruits at an even earlier age.
Morgan Stanley has a school outreach initiative and a three day insight programme targeting 16- to 18-year-old female students from diverse backgrounds called “Step in Step Up”.
Goldman Sachs in January launched an apprenticeship programme in London, in partnership with Queen Mary University, that allows successful candidates to complete a salaried apprenticeship within the bank's technology division, whilst completing their degree.
“I think categorically yes the culture has changed. The first plank is recruitment. Getting that right is key.” said Rupert Jones, a managing director at Morgan Stanley.
Most investment banks have brought in new measures to improve junior employees' work-life balance.
Three years ago Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt died having worked for three days without sleep. While Erhardt's death from a seizure was not found to be linked to his working hours the surrounding publicity prompted action.
Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and BAML are now extolling the 'protected weekend' or the 'Saturday Rule', aimed at giving juniors more time away from the office, while UBS recently brought in a new benefit allowing staff to book in two hours of 'personal time' a week.
Quality of life
Work-life balance, not pay, is the top career goal for banking oriented students even if they don't expect to achieve it, according to a global talent survey by Deloitte.
“Students nowadays place work-life balance high up in their aspirations. It's not just about a one-way conversation,” said Margaret Doyle, head of financial services insight at Deloitte.
Banking is still relatively well-paid compared to other industries. An intern with a client facing role can expect to earn about 40 000 pounds ($57 000) at an investment bank, data provided by salary benchmarking site Emolument shows, based on 196 investment banking interns working in London.
In comparison, the starting salary in the UK for a newly qualified teacher is about 28 000 pounds and for a foundation year trainee doctor it is 36 000 pounds, websites of the Department of Education and National Health Service show.
Nevertheless, banking's status as the most sought-after career path for high-flying graduates has slipped. In 2015, the consumer goods sector became the most popular among business school students, eclipsing banking for the first time, according to the Deloitte survey, which also forecast that by 2022, software and computer services would also move ahead.
Interns at Silicon Valley firms Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter are paid an annualised rate of $120 000, $108 000 and $100 800 respectively, which also includes benefits such as housing, according to data compiled by former University of California Berkeley student Rodney Folz.
In 2008, almost 20 percent of business school students chose banking as their top career destination. By 2015, that figure was around 15 percent.
Even so, Wall Street banks remain employers of choice for new business school graduates in the United States, despite competition for recruits from Silicon Valley, hedge funds and private equity firms, according to a study released on June 21.
Goldman Sachs, for example, attracted more than a quarter of a million applications from students and graduates for jobs this summer, a rise of more than 40 percent since 2012.
The task now is to retain them.Reuters