Competition for graduate banking jobs is intense. Like a family game of Monopoly, but with real money at stake.
Enticed by the cushty average starting salary of £32,500, more and more debt-riddled graduates apply to work in the banking industry every year.
And with so many candidates to choose from, banks can afford to be fussy. Which is why they single out those who have shown a genuine interest in the industry throughout university.
So if you’re serious about starting a career in banking, it pays to start applying for banking internships and spring weeks from 1st year onwards.
You can start by reading this guide.
- DURATION: 4-16 weeks
- FOR: One and all
- WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-Mar
A banking internship is basically a period of time spent with a bank or financial company, working on real projects and being treated as any other employee would be - not just a student.
Banking work experience is open to undergraduates from any degree background, so you don’t need to be on a finance or accountancy course in order to benefit from it. Instead, employers look for students who can demonstrate key soft skills, e.g. communication, leadership and commercial awareness.
These schemes vary in length, depending on the company and the time of year. For example, a Bank of England summer internship for 2nd Year students is 6 weeks long, whilst Santander work experience programmes last anywhere between 1 day - 4 weeks.
An internship is also a chance for you to make a real dent in your overdraft. The average salary for banking internships is £24,285*, making it the highest-paid industry for undergraduate work experience!
Here’s how this professional experience will give your application the edge:
- REAL INSIGHT: Find out what it’s like to work in a sector that monitors countless financial transactions, and the movement of billions of pounds, on a daily basis.
- LEARN FROM THE BEST: Work with banking professionals on real business tasks, seeing first-hand what skills are needed to thrive in this industry.
- TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT: Get invaluable feedback from senior team members and managers, and advice on how to perform well in the future.
- EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: Banks are vast institutions, so there’s lots of room for you to move around and figure out where your strengths and interests lie.
- GET ON THE GRAD SCHEME: Most banking internships are designed to sound out talented students who may be able to progress onto the company’s graduate scheme.
*Based on the 1,842 reviews submitted by students who completed a banking internship in 2020.
DID YOU KNOW?
There is more Monopoly money printed in the U.S. every year than actual cash. Whilst the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces $1.3 billion, the board game prints up to $50 billion of its currency.
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Banking internships in London
London has two major financial districts - there’s the traditional City of London (which is an area of London in itself) and the more modern Canary Wharf (home to the second-tallest building in the UK, One Canada Square).
Most of the major players in banking have offices in one (or both) of these districts. And they all offer banking internships in London, with certain financial institutions offering investment banking internships too.
INTERNSHIPS IN THE UK
London is the UK’s and one of Europe’s biggest financial hubs, but if you’d rather live elsewhere in the country, there are plenty of other cities with a strong financial history and reputation.
Bristol, for instance, has experienced serious growth in the last few years, with lots of banks choosing to set up head office there. Like the sustainability-focused Triodos Bank; which only finances companies that focus on people, the environment or culture.
And Scotland’s financial powerhouse Edinburgh ranks an impressive 43rd in the world’s top 50 financial centres, with Glasgow not far behind in 49th.
BANKING INTERNSHIPS ABROAD
If you have the option to go abroad for your internship, most major banks and financial companies operate internationally. Other major global financial centres include the likes of New York, Singapore and Zurich.
HSBC’s Global Banking Internship is offered to students in their penultimate or final year of study, as well as graduates. The scheme takes 10-16 weeks, and is an opportunity to learn about the world of Corporate or Investment Banking in locations as far-flung as Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Banking spring weeksDURATION: 1-10 days FOR: 1st / 2nd years WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-Mar
The best banks want to snap up the best graduates, before their competitors can get a look in. And to do that, they start looking for potential candidates for their grad schemes amongst 1st and 2nd year university students.
So it’s worth getting in on the action as early as possible - with a spring week.
Spring weeks (or insight weeks) are the first step you can take in your banking career. Making them, quite literally, a springboard to success.
Taking place during the Easter holidays, these short schemes are an opportunity to observe a business in action whilst getting a comprehensive introduction to the industry.
You’ll walk away with a strong understanding of what a bank does, a much clearer idea of where you want to take your career, and the inside scoop on how to get there. A winning combo.
Most banking spring weeks will include:
- CV workshops and skill sessions
- Networking events
- Shadowing current trainees or senior managers
They can last anywhere from a day (known as an ‘insight day’) to a week, depending on which programme you apply for.
Spring week at Goldman Sachs, for example, is a two-week programme that gives students a feel for life at the firm. There are opportunities in six different departments; including engineering, investment banking and legal.
If you want to apply for a Goldman Sachs spring week, you will need to show a passion for excellence and a strong interest in the financial markets. They are looking to fill their roles with candidates who will blossom into successful bankers. So bring your A-game.
For a closer look at banking spring weeks read Our Essential Guide to Student Insights.
When to apply for a banking internship or spring week
AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. We can’t stress this enough.
Banking internships and spring weeks typically open for applications towards the end of the year, around the same time the university year kicks off (September onwards).
But most banks recruit on a rolling basis, which means they can accept candidates before the deadline has even passed. And because they are usually swamped with applications, the most popular programmes are often full by February.
Here are TWO ways you can improve your chances of getting in:
- Bookmark the RateMyPlacement.co.uk jobs page, and check it daily during peak season (September - February).
- Spend time crafting your application. Our blog is packed with inspiring career advice like How to Write a Student CV to get you started.
Best Student Employers to work for in 2021-2022
Each year, we use the thousands of reviews submitted to RateMyPlacement.co.uk to create our Best Student Employers table.
The banks that make this table do so because they run world-class banking internships, spring weeks and insights for students. They are the Roger Federers of undergraduate work experience.
These are 2020’s top NINE employers in the banking industry…
- American Express
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Bank of England
Keep reading for a closer look at the undergraduate programmes offered by Barclays, HSBC and Bank of England.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Barclays internships
Work experience at Barclays is offered in the form of a spring week or a summer banking internship. Both will give you a feel for the business and what it’s like to work there.
On a Barclays Spring Week, you’ll get an insight into your preferred business area through various project work, workshops, skills sessions and network opportunities. This will give you a much clearer idea of where YOU could fit into the business when you leave university.
And if you show you’ve got what it takes, you may be offered a place on one of Barclays’ summer internship programmes.
A nine-week Barclays summer internship promises ‘a more in-depth introduction to the business’. Interns are given responsibility from day one, as well as a line manager and buddy to support their development. They are trusted to work on live projects, and may even be fast-tracked onto the grad scheme.
VIDEO: Student Femi Jayeloa talks about his work experience at Barclays Investment Bank, and gives advice on how to get in.
SPOTLIGHT ON: HSBC work experience
Work experience at HSBC comes in all shapes and sizes; from global banking internships to local, market-specific programmes. Each is designed to scout out talent for HSBC’s global graduate programmes, so it’s an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door.
It’s one of the world’s biggest banks, so students flock to apply for HSBC work experience. To stand apart from the pack, you need to show you are motivated, collaborative and a curious thinker.
But it’s worth fighting for a position. Previous interns rated HSBC the 12th best employer for undergraduate work experience in 2019-2020. Here’s what a real-life HSBC intern had to say about their experience:
“The working atmosphere was honestly fantastic. 99% of people working in the office seemed to be happy coming into work. People in the team would take time out of their day to help others and there was a massive charity focus in the office as well, which generally lifted the mood and made me excited to go into work everyday.”
HSBC SPRING WEEK
HSBC’s spring week comes in the form of their Global Banking and Markets Insight Programmes. These have been developed to help 1st and 2nd years figure out if they are the right fit for the business, and vice versa.
Over the four days, you’ll get a unique insight into international banking by attending behavioural skills training, case study sessions and networking events with world-class business leaders.
And if you have what they’re looking for, you could be fast-tracked to the final stage of assessment for an HSBC summer internship the following year…
HSBC SUMMER INTERNSHIP 2023
HSBC summer internships are offered to students in their penultimate year of university. They last 8-16 weeks and there’s a variety to choose from, in business areas like commercial banking, retail banking and global asset management.
Their Commercial Banking Internship is a competitively-paid scheme that offers a closer look at the world of, you guessed it, commercial banking. HSBC fills their summer internships with team-orientated students, who can excel at building trusted relationships with clients.
Interns are put in a customer-facing role where they can learn about the 1.4 million business customers HSBC’s Commercial Bank serves. They spend eight weeks working alongside full-time employees to support the business’ growth, and learning about the new technology HSBC uses to interact with their clients.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Bank of England internships
As the country’s central bank, the Bank of England ensures banking services are safe, inflation remains stable, and the UK financial system is sound. The work that they do benefits every single person in the UK.
You can find out more about what they do, and get a feel for the direction your career could take, with an internship at the Bank of England.
You’ll find Bank of England work experience opportunities for 1st and final year students alike, in areas like regulation, technology and policy analysis. And there’s an African-Caribbean Scholarship you can apply for if you meet the criteria.
FIRST YEAR INTERNSHIP
Bank of England internships for 1st years take place in the summer, over a period of six weeks. They are open to students from any degree background, and pay £82.69 per day!
These shorter schemes are a stepping stone to Bank of England’s summer internships and industrial placements for penultimate-year students. Interns are tasked with real projects so that they can really excel in their role, and managers know who to put forward.
“I have always had a great curiosity in how technology underpins the world of finance. As a first year intern, I did not expect to be given as much freedom with my project as I was. This was possible because of the Bank’s passion for challenging and bringing out the best in people.” Callum Onyenaobiya, First Year Intern at Bank of England
PENULTIMATE YEAR INTERNSHIP
These Bank of England internships are eight-weeks long and pay £83.65 per day. (Think how smug you’ll be if that’s how you spend your summer holidays, whilst your friends fall deeper and deeper into their overdrafts.)
As an intern at the Bank of England, you’ll tackle projects that support, shape and challenge the biggest ideas in the economy. And if you stand out from your peers, you may be offered a place on one of their graduate programmes.
Banking work experience reviews
The RateMyPlacement team is on a mission to ensure university students like you are making sound career decisions. We want to help you reach your full potential, by providing you with the tools you need to find a job with one of the UK’s best student employers.
And that’s why we host thousands of banking work experience reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk. Over 1,800 of them! These are all written by students who have undertaken an internship or spring week themselves.
Reviews can give you information you might not find on a company website. The kind of information that could sway your decision if, say, you get onto more than one banking internship or spring week.
You might find out something exciting about working for a particular bank, like “there’s ALWAYS cake on Fridays”. As well as career turn-offs like “there isn’t enough work for interns to do” or “there is little support from the managers”. (Which would be weird to find on a company website.)