City 'stigma' puts students off a career in banking

City 'stigma' puts students off a career in banking

London's banking sector has been dealt a huge wake-up call after research showed scores of talented young people have been put off a career in financial services since the crisis.

Students who achieved some of the best exam results in the country say that continuous banker bashing and the negative reputation associated with the UK's bankers has made them think twice about pursuing a career in the sector.

Some have actively switched the courses they want to study at degree level to avoid becoming a banker, the study of 16 to 18-year-olds achieving at least three A or A* grades at GCSE level, shows.

The majority think financial services jobs are "boring" and "stressful", with long working hours that allow no time for social life.

Dan Harrison, an 18 year-old who abandoned plans for a career in banking to become a civil engineer, said: "In banking you picture someone sitting there on a phone at a computer. With civil engineering, you're out in the field doing drawings.

"I'll always have the option to go into banking later on – for pure monetary reasons – but for now it wouldn't be the best option because of the insecurity."

Of the 15 career choices presented to the students during the study, banking and financial services ranked among the bottom five, along with retail, property, engineering and manufacturing, the survey of 321 students revealed.

The top three career choices were media, entrepreneurialism and technology, the survey by insurance giant Axa and YouGov showed.

The results come as thousands of GCSE students await their results this week and decide what options to study at A-level. The City is set to miss out on some of the most talented individuals because of the stigma. A third of students in the Axa study said the banking collapse had turned them off pursuing a career in the industry, while almost four in 10 said they did not like the "ethics" of banking companies. More than half thought the work too boring and a third said the job would be too much pressure and would not allow a good work-life balance.

The study is worrying for the big banks trying to rebuild their reputation following the worst economic downturn in a generation. RBS recently said it was working on improving job satisfaction at the bank after staff motivation took a hit during the crisis. The bank has cut at least 28,000 roles since the start of the recession.

A swath of other major banks has also announced thousands of job cuts in recent weeks, including Lloyds, HSBC and Credit Suisse, adding to students' perceptions that the industry lacks a solid career path. The Axa research suggests the banks may struggle to attract the best people unless they tackle their reputation as a place to work.

Paul Evans, chief executive of Axa, said: "Our research has highlighted the stark and worrying conclusion that only a small percentage of high achieving 16-18 year olds aspire to a career in financial services.

"The reputation of the UK financial services sector has clearly suffered greatly over recent years.

"More must be done to re-earn the trust and confidence of high achievers looking to build their careers and to highlight both the value of our services to society and to demonstrate that we offer stimulating and challenging career opportunities."

The Axa study showed 62pc of young people thought there was a negative stigma associated with working in banking. Just 4pc said this was "definitely not" the case, with 34pc answering "no, not really".

Elliott Cameron, 17, who took part in the study, said: "Bankers as a whole are quite demonised in the media sometimes, with all the bankers' bonuses and stuff."

Another A-level student said he knew someone in the financial services sector who could not make friends with anyone "because they're all back-stabbers", which had put him off working in the industry.

The extent to which young people relied on "word of mouth" from friends or family for their future career was laid bare by the study – signalling employers could need to change the way they try to recruit people.

David Morris, 18, who considered a career in banking, said: "My brother did a year's work experience [in financial services] and thought it was the most boring thing he'd ever done."

One way banks could try to turn their reputation around could be to capitalise on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter by encouraging staff to recommend the company as a good place to work

According to Mr Evans, the City must work to get rid of its old-fashioned reputation and prove to the world that things have changed since the crisis.

He urged financial services employers to match young people's job expectations to the careers on offer.

"The current generation of school and university leavers have been brought up in a fast changing world and they have very different career and lifestyle expectations as a result," he said.

"The City must dispel any reputation for being old-fashioned, ruthless, greedy, and unfeeling – each individual business working in our sector must better promote and live up to their values towards customers, employees and society and adapt to the ambitions of this new generation." 

This article was originally featured on

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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Anonymous Date: Aug 24, 2011

The problem with surveying 16-18 year olds in this way is that a career "industry" makes no sense. Their top choices were "media" - did they imagine TV presenter or telesales? - "entrepreneurialism" - that's just not an industry - and technology - computers popular with teenagers shocker! Again, are they thinking about being a junior code-monkey, or a games programmer/Apple designer? The big question is, do these still hold when they see the relative starting salaries of investment banking vs those choices? Also the "extent to which young people use word of mouth" is obvious, as most will not yet have done anything actively to look into careers, so word of mouth is what they have. This might be interesting if they'd qualified it with details of how many of the sample have actively sought a full-time role. This is a totally daft bit of research, and I doubt anyone in the City is losing sleep over it at all.

Anonymous Date: Aug 24, 2011

Whatever the situation with A-level leavers, it would appear that the banking sector has fully resumed its pre-recession appeal for university finalists, following its brief post-recession fall from grace.