Job market outlook
There’s no shortage of graduate programs at all the banks in Australia, however, this doesn’t make the process any less competitive. Across all divisions, the Big Four banks in Australia typically take between 80-100 grads per year from thousands of applications. Commercial banking roles at the Big Four banks might make up roughly 10-20 per cent of this intake.
For a rough comparison, the graduate job prospects at a commercial bank are probably harder than the Big Four accounting firms but easier than the investment banks. Obviously, this depends on which division you go for in each of these organisations.
Retail banks offer structured graduate programs each year and there are always plenty of opportunities for talented grads — though, while graduate positions are in no short supply, the competition is still tough because of the sheer volume of applicants.
Investment banking is growing in opportunity as the sharemarket strengthens post-global financial crisis, though brokerage specifically is still soft. This sector is extremely popular with grads, so competition is fierce.
Insurers are in the midst of an identity crisis, with some slow to respond to technology’s challenges to their traditional model of business. With more and more challenger brands springing to life, the older model of aggregate insuring is moving towards direct sales and artificial intelligence is driving down underwriter headcount across the industry. There will be more and more opportunity in customer-tailored, peer-to-peer insuring as the population becomes more savvy, demanding and connected. Grads will need to be adaptable to a changing market and able to learn new business models to thrive.
Fintech is where you’ll find entrepreneurs making waves post-crisis, and Australia is an emerging player on the global market. Incubator programs are popping up everywhere, and there are opportunities as endless as the number of ideas people have — everything from new platforms for foreign exchange and investing, to concepts like peer-to-peer lending and robo-advice.
How to get hired
You’ll usually be expected to apply to a particular business area, so it’s important to undertake internships and work placements to determine which spheres of financial services you’d like to enter. Other ways to get the inside scoop include learning about companies and graduate experiences on the GradAustralia website (gradaustralia.com.au), researching company websites to get a feel for their projects, clients and culture, and attending presentations and open days.
If you’d like to ‘try before you buy’, it’s a good idea to apply to a large organisation that can offer you lots of opportunities to give different roles a go — particularly those that offer rotational graduate programs, where you work across different business areas or specialties in a structured program.
Fintech placements are easier and harder to come by — it’s hard to find a graduate job, but it’s easier than ever to toy around with your own ideas and get them into an incubator program, effectively creating your own job.
Key skills you need
Grads need to be able to grasp new concepts and process information quickly — whether it’s gathering and absorbing new data, managing a project or meeting a new client. While academic performance is important in this field for ensuring your ability to do the work, recruiters will want to see that you are able to apply this ability to fast and practical problem-solving.
Banking and financial services involves conveying complex information in a relatable and professional manner to clients and stakeholders, so learning to communicate in this manner is crucial. Recruiters will be assessing your communication abilities from the moment you complete your application form to your final interview, so make sure to show what you can do from the start.
Employers are looking for forward thinkers who can provide fresh ideas for the company, and will gravitate towards those with a can-do attitude and enthusiasm for innovation. Banks are facing an increasing need to innovate and reinvent their approach to customers. Innovation is, therefore, becoming an increasingly important part of banking operations. If you can show the recruiters that you have an entrepreneurial mindset, have undertaken innovative pursuits and can bring fresh ideas to the organisation, then that should stand you in good stead against your competition.
If you haven’t realised yet, banks are big on meeting customer needs. They’re looking for grads who demonstrate a strong ability to understand the customer perspective and devise appropriate measures or solutions to account for this. Having work experience and demonstrated capability dealing with customers is a big plus for prospective grads.
What do you do when digital is pushing a new product feature but compliance are pumping the brakes and warning you that this will create too much risk for your product? How about when you need to get sign-off from the distribution network but their team appears resistant, disengaged and dismissive of your recommendations? Strong stakeholder management skills are crucial in these situations and are something that banks actively seek in their grads. Being able to use clear communication, understand the needs of others and manage these expectations accordingly will be core competencies assessors will look for in your interviews.
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