Banking internships & work experience: expert career advice and an insight into the banking industry

Find the hottest internships, placements and insight jobs with the biggest banks in the UK here

If you're interested in working in this exciting and globally-leading financial industry, we've got all the info you need and the jobs to get your successful career started.

An overview of the banking industry

Often the banking sector is spoken about very broadly, without much detail about the various types of bank that exist and the different purposes that banks have.

If you're thinking about working in the banking sector, then you need to know what different banks do and who the major players are. So, first things first. Below you'll find information about each different banking area.

Commercial banking: the chances are that you'll be familiar with these banks already, as these institutions are involved in what could be called 'day-to-day' banking aimed at businesses. This means they accept deposits, offer loans, supply mortgages and plenty more besides.

Broadly speaking, how they work is by accepting deposits, which gives them capital to invest elsewhere and offer loans to businesses who need to borrow money. When companies repay loans, they make money from the interest, which also helps them pay interest on depositors’ money. More and more of these banking institutions are moving their operations online, in order to make access easier for customers and reduce their overhead costs.

“The most generous salaries in 2015 are those on offer from investment banks (median of £45,000)” High Flyers (2015)

Investment banking: these huge institutions focus on deals of national and international importance. This could involve acting as middlemen between companies offering securities and the public, offering advice on corporate mergers and acquisitions and selling and trading securities.

Investment banking groups typically help companies buy other companies or float themselves on the stock market, or they make deals in the market of their own accord, which involves buying assets from one client and selling them to another in return for a profit.

Retail banking: retail banks are quite similar to commercial banks in that they offer day-to-day services, this time to individual customers rather than businesses. This means they offer financial products like mortgages, current accounts, high-interest bank accounts and credit cards. These are typically the banks that you'll see on the high street, so you'll likely be fairly familiar with them already.

Top Placements, Internships & Insights in Banking

Who are the big name banks?

A lot of the major banks are made up of divisions and departments that specialise in different areas, like those outlined above. This allows their brand to be known on the high street by customers who want to use them as a retail bank, while also having other 'back-end' divisions that might not be as well known publically, but deal with corporate clients and deals. Some of the UK's biggest banks include the following:

  • Barclays: an international banking organisation that's involved in retail and investment banking, with its headquarters in Canary Wharf, London
  • HSBC: a multinational banking company that has commercial, investment, retail and private banking arms. Headquartered in Canary Wharf, London
  • Lloyds Banking Group: a British banking group that has retail and commercial banking operations, among others. Lloyds' headquarters are on Gresham Street, London
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group: the RBS group offers personal, private and business banking services, among others. This banking group is headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Benefits of banking placements, internships and insight schemes – fast track to a graduate scheme?

The banking industry loves work experience. Companies in this sector offer hundreds of placement, internship and insight scheme jobs for students each year. But what are the real benefits of these programmes?

  • A student job in the industry gives you the chance to see first-hand what it's like to work in a sector that monitors countless financial transactions and the movement of billions of pounds every day
  • Banks are huge institutions, so there's room for you to move around, experience working in different departments, take on different responsibilities and work in an environment where there's room to grow
  • Many of these banking programmes are designed for undergraduates who need to undertake work experience during their university degree – therefore they offer training and exposure to real-world business tasks
  • You'll get the chance to work with banking professionals and learn from them, seeing first-hand what skills are needed to thrive in this industry
  • Many banks' placements and internships are designed to sound out talented students like you who may well be able to progress to become part of the company's graduate scheme
  • You'll get invaluable feedback from senior team members and managers and advice on how to develop your own skills and perform well in the future.

There are loads of great reasons above why banking placements, internships and insight schemes are beneficial for your development.

“70% of our interns are usually offered a permanent job on the graduate programme with no extra assessments” Lloyds Banking Group Talent (2015)

Banking internships

A banking internship is basically a period of time that you'll spend with a bank or financial company, working on real projects and being treated as any other employee would be, not just a student. You should be interested in banking internships because they serve as an intensive introduction to the industry, in which time you'll learn a lot about a truly global and influential sector.

Bank work experience is also open to undergraduates from any degree background, so you don't just have to be studying a finance or accountancy course in order to benefit from it. However, to get the most out of undergraduate banking work experience, it does help if you are comfortable working with numbers and can demonstrate an interest in working in financial services as a graduate.

Banking internships UK vary in terms of how long they last for, depending on the company and the time of year. For example, if a company runs banking summer internships for students, these tend to be shorter schemes that last from eight to ten weeks. Longer banking internships can last for up to four to six months, therefore offering more of an in-depth overview of the company and the sector to students.

As many major UK banking groups have offices and branches nationwide, there are opportunities up and down the country for undergraduates to get involved in banking internships 2015 & 2016. To find out where these student jobs are available, check out our packed jobs pages during peak season (between September – February) for nationwide job opportunities in internships banking and finance.

You can also see where previous years' undergraduates have worked by checking out our review pages, which contain tens of thousands of reviews. Investment banking internships for undergraduates are offered by the following companies:

  • Morgan Stanley
  • M&G Investments
  • Santander
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • J.P. Morgan
  • Goldman Sachs Group

Banking and investment banking internships open for student applications towards the end of the year, around the same time as the university year kicks off (September onwards). As the competition for these places is tough and applications come in thick and fast, many banking industry internships close to applications around January-February time. To give yourself the best possible chance of bagging yourself a finance internship, make sure you get your job application in as early as possible and spend time crafting your application.

Banking placements

A banking placement is an extended period of work experience that students can undertake with a banking company. Whereas internships generally last anywhere between one and four months, banking placements can last for up to a year. Many undergraduates are required to do a placement year in the industry as part of their university degree, hence why placements do generally last for up to 12 months.

As banking placements 2015 & 2016 last longer, it goes without saying that there are more opportunities to get involved in in-depth training sessions and varied projects across the company.

Given the size of the companies in this sector and the varied nature of their work, it's no surprise that there are many different tasks that you can get involved in. For example, on an investment banking industrial placement, you could end up carrying out financial analysis, working on Excel modelling, researching different financial markets and making sense of data sets. All in a day's work!

Prime Brokerage Sales

Prime Brokerage Sales

UBS

Internship (1-4 Months)

"Each day will have its own surprises and challenges which is what makes the work interesting and mentally stimulating."
Read case study

Banking insight schemes

For first year undergraduates who aren't quite sure about which direction they want their career to go in, or which sector they want to do work experience in, but still want a quick fire taste of what it's like to work in the banking sector, insights are the solution.

Banking insights offer shorter periods of time working at a company. These can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on which banking insights 2015 & 2016 you apply to. Take note that these may also fall under different names, like pre-internship opportunities, so make sure you do a thorough search in order to find the one that's right for you.

As banking insight schemes are more short-term than placements and internships, and are something you can arrange yourself, rather than as part of your course, they're likely to be more introductory in nature than detailed. For example, on a financial insight scheme, you'll be doing things like getting involved in workshops, presentations and networking events. Not only do these schemes serve as an introduction to the financial markets and systems used by banks, they also provide an idea of what's expected from working in this sector.

Banking top undergraduate employers

If only there was a way of telling who the top undergraduate banking employers are. Oh wait, there is – in RateMyPlacement's Top Undergraduate Employers guide. See what we did there? Banking and finance companies that made it into this year's guide include:

  • Barclays
  • American Express
  • RBS
  • Santander
  • HSBC

Investment banking companies that made their way into this year's guide include:

  • Barclays
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Credit Suisse
  • J.P. Morgan
  • UBS
  • RBS
  • HSBC
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Macquarie
  • RBC Capital Markets

Bank of England

The Bank of England is the UK's central bank, meaning it oversees crucial areas of national finance, such as the national currency, the supply of money and interest rates. After it was established in 1694, becoming only the second such central bank in the world, it became the inspiration for other global central banks. The Bank of England still plays a crucial role in the UK's banking and financial markets. Bank of England internships and industrial placements are popular with university students. The Bank of England's work experience programmes include:

  • A first year internship scheme designed for undergraduates in their first year. These finance internships run for six weeks and offer students the chance to work projects across the Bank of England. They also include inductions to the bank, talks and networking events. Performing well on one of these schemes gives you the chance to get a place on a penultimate year internship
  • Penultimate year internships at the Bank of England last for eight weeks, in which you'll get the chance to focus on a specific project. If students perform well on these schemes, they may well be offered a place on a graduate scheme
  • As well as Bank of England internships, the institution also runs industrial placements. These are extensive and last for 13 months, offering undergraduates the chance to work in research, IT, HR or as a project assistant.
“Markets are a major part of the UK economy. 350,000 people are employed in financial services in London alone, and 1 million across the UK as a whole. Across the country, their enterprise contributes £130 billion to our national income and £70 billion to our exports” Mark Carney (2015)

Banking internships, placements & insights in London

Banking internships in London

London has two major financial districts – first there's the traditional City of London (which is an area in London itself) and the more modern Canary Wharf (where the big, blinking building is that you've probably seen on The Apprentice). Many of these companies offer banking internships in London, while certain financial institutions also offer investment banking internships in London.

View banking jobs in London

Banking internships, placements & insights in the UK

Banking internships uk summer 2015

Outside of London, which is the UK's and Europe's major financial centre, there are also other cities that have a financial reputation and history. Bristol, based in the south-west of the country, has experienced great growth in the last few years, with major companies choosing to set up shop there. Financial organisations like Hargreaves Lansdown have a presence in the city, as well as major companies from other sectors like KPMG and law firm Osborne Clarke.

Scotland also has its own financial powerhouse in the form of the city of Edinburgh. This financial centre is the second largest in the UK, behind London, and one of the major economic areas in Europe.

"This is particularly true in Bristol, where the sector employs over 30,000 people, and a number of major financial companies, including Hargreaves Lansdown, have a significant presence." Gov.UK

View banking jobs in UK

Banking internships, placements & insights abroad

Banking internships abroad

As many major banks and financial companies have international operations and are involved in foreign exchange and currency trading, this is arguably the world's truly global industry. As a result, there are opportunities for you to travel in this sector, even on a placement or internship. Previous years' banking interns have reviewed experiences in places as diverse as Moscow, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Other major global financial centres include the likes of New York, Singapore and Zurich.

View all banking jobs

Banking Reviews

RateMyPlacement isn't just the place to be when it comes to finding the latest and best banking and finance student jobs. We also have thousands upon thousands of placement, internship and insight scheme reviews, written by previous undergraduates who've been there and done it. Check out the reviews to get an idea of what it's really like to work on a particular company's banking scheme.

Learn more about the banking industry on our blog

When I grow up, I want to be...a banker

Think you can handle a fast-paced career, where all your hard work will be paid off with huge sums of cash? If this sounds like your ideal career, banking might just be for you. Whether you want to become a financial trader or an investment analyst, this is an industry that asks a lot of you, but can pay off in big bucks for your hard work. How do you get into this business?

Read the full article

Banking entry requirements

There are a lot of banking and finance degrees out there, but this is one of those industries that does not necessarily require you to study such a specific course in order to break into it. Banks are generally huge companies, therefore requiring people from varied backgrounds and with diverse abilities in order to bring a mixture of skills into the company and stay strong.

Of course, even though you don't always have to have a banking and finance degree, you will be expected to be academically-strong and have a reputable degree. It also helps if you are happy to work with numerical information and data. Specific requirements vary from role to role, so make sure you look around and find a banking placement or internship that's right for you.

When do I need to start applying?

So, in summary, what have we learned about the world of banking work experience? That these placements, internships and insight schemes are some of the most sought-after and intensive student jobs out there, but that the insight and first-hand experience you'll gain is second to none.

That you don't have to solely be studying banking, finance or economics in order to break into this sector, and that undergraduates from diverse backgrounds are welcomed in order to create a diverse workforce. And that there are opportunities to work globally, thanks to this being an international industry. If you want to work in banking, there's no better way to start off than by undertaking a placement or internship.

This way you can see what's involved in working in the industry, and if you perform well, there's always a chance that you'll be offered an interview or place on a bank's graduate scheme.

Remember to check back regularly and see what student banking jobs are open for applications on RateMyPlacement.

In fact, why not take a look now, and find the financial placement, internship or insight scheme of your dreams?

Prime Brokerage Sales

Prime Brokerage Sales

UBS

Internship (1-4 Months)

"Each day will have its own surprises and challenges which is what makes the work interesting and mentally stimulating."
Read case study