In difficult times, passion pays
University students who have grown up wanting to become successful bankers could be forgiven for cursing their luck at the current state of the banking sector. Industry-wide cuts at major banks have been a common feature this year, with many previously popular areas such as investment banking undergoing significant reductions.
While changes to the global environment have seen demand in certain areas rise, headcounts overall remain down. This means that students and recent graduates who want to set up a great career in the field need to go the extra mile to secure good positions at top banks.
"At the student and graduate level, the banking industry is quite competitive," says Margaret Cheng, head of HR Hong Kong and global businesses Asia-Pacific at HSBC. "It is important for students to start considering their career interests and options earlier in their academic life, rather than waiting until their final year of university."
Cheng advises students to start networking as early as they can. "We encourage students to attend as many company career events as possible and meet and speak to people in the industry.
"They should also do their research on any potential companies they find attractive to find out what it's like to work there and what early opportunities may be available to them, such as work experience, internships and, finally, graduate programmes."
Top exam results are no longer a guarantee of success. "In addition to academic achievement, it is equally important for students to be well-rounded and involved in extra-curricular activities that demonstrate their capability in leadership, teamwork, time management and interpersonal skills," Cheng says.
Deutsche Bank also emphasises the need for a number of skills in addition to academic achievement. "It is becoming increasingly competitive for students to secure graduate roles with top international firms. Stellar academic records alone are not enough. Business acumen and commercial awareness are among the other attributes we look for in potential candidates," the bank said in response to a question from Classified Post.
"Our business is a people- and service-orientated business. It is imperative that potential candidates have an international outlook and are able to demonstrate the emotional intelligence to work effectively with colleagues and clients in a global environment," it added.
While all these attributes are helpful in securing the perfect job, there is one thing that is even more important. "Above all, graduates really need to demonstrate their passion for the industry," Deutsche Bank said. "In a good market, everyone is attracted to the industry. When the market is down, and candidates are faced with greater challenges, they tend to give greater consideration to their career options."