The City of London and Canary Wharf could refill next month as big banks push ahead with their lucrative graduate programmes despite mounting pressure to slash costs.
The world’s biggest banks – including Barclays, UBS, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Santander, Nomura and Goldman Sachs – are hiring hundreds of university leavers as planned, despite the uncertainties thrown up by the pandemic.
This week, taxpayer-backed NatWest will bring in 250 graduate trainees, more than it had in 2018 and 2019, while 450 graduates have already started at Barclays.
The decision not to postpone or reduce this year’s graduate intake could be a boost to the City and Canary Wharf, London’s financial hubs, which remain largely deserted as staff work from home.
Those on Citi’s two-year markets graduate scheme have been told that they are expected to come into the office from Sept 21, while graduates on JP Morgan’s programme will alternate between working from home and its 33-storey Canary Wharf skyscraper. Credit Suisse is also looking at ways to get its graduates in.
In the meantime, banks have introduced “virtual ice-breakers” for graduates having to meet their new colleagues remotely. One bank has suggested graduates get to know each other better by asking them on Zoom “do you take part in any dangerous sport?” and “can you do a magic trick?”.
Bank graduate schemes – which can offer starting salaries of up to £60,000 – are going ahead after bosses made the decision earlier in the year not to cancel competitive summer internships due to coronavirus.
Rob Ager, Barclays’ talent acquisition chief, said there were concerns about running a largely virtual training programme but the bank was “determined to press ahead”.
Citi banker Flavio Figueiredo, who organises the US bank’s markets graduate scheme in Europe, says the programme is “one of the most important sources of talent for our business”, underlining the importance of these schemes months after trading revenues surged to record levels following a coronavirus trading frenzy.