What to expect in a typical commercial banking graduate program

What's actually involved in a graduate program at a commercial bank in Australia? Check out this quick guide by GradAustralia.
Team GradAustralia

So, what do these graduate programs involve? In commercial banking, there will usually be programs across retail, business and wealth divisions of the bank (with sub-categories such as digital, analytics, pricing and marketing often available either as separate programs or within a certain division’s program). An average graduate salary package is $70,000 (including super and bonus) and the average hours worked per week are 40-45. This makes a commercial banking program slightly above average on a dollar-per-hour basis.

Graduate rotations

These programs will last anywhere from 12-24 months and almost always involve a number of rotations through different areas of the bank (which is the best part!). These rotations are designed to give you a feel for a variety of roles in the bank and provide a sense for which area you’d like to pursue when you finish. This really is a rare opportunity at the start of your career to gain a whole lot of diversity in a very short amount of time – to make sure you soak it up!

As an example, a graduate program in the retail banking division of a Big Four bank will normally start with a few months’ rotation in a branch or other front office area. The point of this is to give you on-the-ground insight and understanding of what direct customer-facing staff have to do, their challenges, strengths and areas of improvement. Normally in this rotation you’ll be moving relatively quickly across the different roles in front-office to get a feel for the service as a whole (and what everyone’s role is).

After this, you might do a rotation in a ‘channel’ area of the corporate office. This could involve working in digital channels to help develop new mobile apps, or operating out of the distribution area to determine what future branches might look like. Next, you’ll find yourself in a product rotation where the focus shifts to managing the profit and loss of a specific portfolio (such as savings accounts, mortgages or investments) and figuring out the best way to grow these balances.

Finally, you’ll likely have the opportunity to rotate through a more ‘support’ focused corporate area – including strategy, pricing or customer experience. This can involve anything from assisting the bank’s strategy to respond to disruption, analysing a portfolio’s profitability or conducting contextual customer interviews.

Training and development

The programs can be a whirlwind but are a fantastic way to develop your skills and experience across a broad toolkit. They’re usually coordinated by an HR ‘grad coordinator’ who you can speak with to provide your rotation preferences and get guidance as you progress. In addition to the rotations, grad programs also offer regular training and conferences (either with just your division or the whole grad cohort) that provide great opportunities to connect with other grads and work on extracurricular projects.

This can include generic training sessions (such as excel training or banking 101) or full-blown multi-day conferences with your whole grad cohort (such as an induction week, mid-year conferences or end of year conferences). These multi-day conferences are a great opportunity to catch up with grads from other divisions.

The days often come with numerous team-building exercises, fun activities, technical training and extracurricular projects to work on. These extracurricular projects can be engaging and rewarding, with examples such as helping a social enterprise startup a t-shirt pop-up store, visiting high school students in lower socioeconomic areas, or creating a fun video to highlight what your banking division does.

Life after a graduate program

Once you finish the grad program, you’ll normally have to begin applying for advertised roles in the bank (unless you’re lucky and a particular team is able to make a role specifically for you). By this stage, you’ll have built a solid network of people throughout the bank and have a good understanding of what different areas involve. As most of these roles are advertised externally, this process can be competitive – but you’ll have the support of your grad coordinator and lots of inside contacts to help you through it. No matter what, grads always land a role after the program. Whether it’s your first choice or not depends on the availability of roles and your individual performance!

Up next: what to do if you haven’t studied finance.