Retail banking has been transformed over recent years, with mergers, new technology and a greater emphasis on customer relations and satisfaction. It is now a 24 hour-a-day business, much of it conducted electronically, with plastic or by mobile, and much of it outside branches, in business or regional centres. Retail banking has modernised; there are now fewer branches and a greater number of automated services. One of the key catalysts for change is mobile technology, especially smartphones, which represents the biggest opportunity to retail banking since the advent of the credit card four decades ago. This new dynamic is redefining the relationship between the bank and its customers.
Retail Banking attributes/skills profile
|Key attributes/skills needed for the role||Where you could develop these skills or attributes while at university|
|Analytical and problem solving skills with the ability to produce accurate facts, figures and reports.
Through academic studies and relevant work experience. Practical problem solving skills are particularly valued for example taking on the role of treasurer for a society.
|Demonstrable interest in retail banking and commercial awareness
||Keep up-to-date with business and sector news, especially through publications such as the Financial Times and the Economist. Develop this through extra-curricular activity in student-run societies such as GIG and the Investment Society, who often have prestigious leaders from the industry as speakers.
|Excellent inter-personal and customer service skills
||Mainly through working in a customer service environment but could include roles such as university ambassador or working for a university unit.
|Ability to achieve targets and motivate others to achieve targets
||Achieving academic deadlines and through work experience. Working as a campus brand ambassador can be a good role to evidence this skill. Any selling experience – entrepreneurial projects are looked on favourably.
|Strong communication & interpersonal skills
Many of these skills you will develop through your academic studies and extra- curricular activities.
CAPOD offers courses on these kinds of skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum
|Ability to organise time and work methodically whilst paying attention to detail
|Leadership qualities and effective team working skills
||Using the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel, the latter is particularly valued in the finance industry.
Nature of sector or roles
Despite the changing face of commercial banking, maintaining, managing and extending both existing and new customer relationships in a competitive market is a higher priority for banks than ever before. Graduate career roles are more to do with project and staff management. As well as "High Street" banks there are a large number of other areas and roles to explore too. There’s online and digital TV banking, as well as credit and debit card services, offering roles in various areas. Retail banking job descriptions: Bankers, Building Society managers, Credit risk analysts, Independent financial advisers, Tied financial advisers.
An important point to remember about embarking on a career in Retail Banking is that most positions are now largely sales driven with most staff given targets to achieve. The main graduate job roles in retail banking are:
- Branch manager, this remains a popular choice.
- Strategy and marketing: developing promotional campaigns for banking services, researching the market and identifying gaps in that market.
- Credit and risk: assessing the risk factors of loan requests, and approving or denying them.
- Human resources / personnel: staff recruitment, training and development.
- Operations management: researching and developing new operational methods and processes to increase or diversify company services and efficiency.
- Digital team – creating innovative content to meet out commercial and customer needs through online and mobile technology eg creating banking apps for mobile phone such as Pingit
Visit the Prospects website for detailed information on job roles in the banking and finance sectors.
TARGETjobs - retail banking graduate area of work
Networks - why and how to use them
Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Visiting the Careers Centre Careers Fair and turning up to employer run events is a great way to make valuable connections, it helps to introduce yourself to representatives from the banks and ask for their card so you can make contact in the future. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook (many organisations have their own page). Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, Clydesdale , Tesco PLC and Santander. You will find St Andrews alumni at most of the main financial institutions all over the world ranging from graduate trainees to CEOs. These alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect- is the new networking platform which allows you to connect with alumni and join discussion groups. Find out how to use Saint Connect by viewing the 'Video Tour' (bottom right-hand side of Saint Connect screen).
- Groups - Retail Banking by joining this group you will receive updates on events, competitions, jobs and other sector related news.
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool, this feature shows the career paths of 30,000+ graduates. By using the search field you can find alumni working in a particular organisations eg RBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Aviva, RBS and Barclays. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource.
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
- This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
How to gain experience/internships
Retail banking is competitive. Getting some work experience, especially in a sales or customer-focused environment, can be a real advantage when it comes to interviews, as you will be able to use specific examples to illustrate your answers.
Many of the larger banks and firms (eg Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, Santander, and RBS) offer structured internship programmes for:
- Second years (occasionally 1st years) NB These opportunities are targeted at students who have 2 further years of study - so although they advertise for 1st years, this means 2nd year at St Andrews. - these are often advertised as "Spring" or "Insight" programmes and last from 1 day to several weeks. It is becoming increasingly common for banks to chose their interns for the next summer from these students. A problem for St Andrews students is that many of these programmes run over semester time.
- Penultimate years - these are becoming the most common entry into a graduate position with over 80% of graduate roles being filled by students who completed a summer internship.
Relevant internship opportunities are often advertised on our website and details can usually also be found on the banks’ own websites. Closing dates for applications tend to be before Christmas, although interview places are allocated as soon as suitable candidates apply, so you should get your application in well before the closing date. For smaller banks and firms you should try making speculative applications and have a look at work experience for other options such as work shadowing. If you are unable to get work experience directly within a bank or financial services firm, other business or financial-related vacation work would be an advantage.
- Spend time on websites such as efinancial careers, All About Careers and TARGETjobs which will provide information on internship opportunities, including application details and deadlines.
- Have a look at our website for vacation vacancies, quite a number of banks will advertise their internships with us each year.
- Visit the Careers Centre and take away a guide to the financial industry, such as TARGETjobs.
- Attend the Careers Fair and Employers Events. Use these events as an opportunity to make a positive impression on company employees, create useful contacts and find out about internships.
- Scottish Investment Operations - gives contact and vacancy information on Scottish banks (mainly investment banks).
- If you haven't been able to find an internship, or you are an early years student, then think about other opportunities that will give you the skills that banking employers are looking for. Joining a society such as GIG or Investment Society also taking a financial role within a society or a voluntary organisation will all be useful additions to your CV.
- Regularly check RateMyPlacement for relevant undergraduate placements and internships.
- Read Inside Careers - Work Experience: Banking internships & work experience
How to get a (graduate) job
You don’t need a numerical degree to get a job in retail banking - most employers will accept graduates from any degree discipline, although an interest in finance and numeracy skills may often be advantageous.
Many of the large retail banks offer graduate programmes, Barclays, Lloyds Banking, RBS, HSBC and Santander.
As well as these more traditional banks, there are a number of banking businesses owned by retail groups, such as:
- Co-operative Bank part-owned (20%) by The Co-operative Group.
- Harrods Bank owned by Harrods,.
- Sainsbury's Bank: owned by Sainsbury's.
- Tesco Bank: owned by Tesco.
- M&S Bank – owned by M&S
- Virgin Money plc - owned by the Virgin Group
To begin your job search:
- Attend the Careers Fair. This is a great opportunity to speak to many retail bank recruiters. Remember to network and pick up contacts which could be used in the future.
- Search CareerConnect for relevant job opportunities.
- For up-to-date information on recruitment you should look at the individual banks’ websites. These usually include a recruitment brochure and vacancy details, online applications forms, and information on some of their financial activities. In some banks recruitment to the different divisions is conducted by those divisions rather than centrally.
- Have a look at the events on our website to see which banking employers are coming to recruit on campus. Many of these events will occur early in the first semester and they will give you a good opportunity to talk about careers in banking and the recruitment process.
- The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers website provides the very latest news about Britain's most popular graduate employers. Register to receive free weekly e-bulletins with news and information about the Top 100 employers you're most interested in.
- Browse and take away the guides (such as TARGETjobs) available from the Careers Centre for information on graduate schemes in retail banking.
- Cititec specialists in technical recruitment for digital, banking, finance and pharmaceutical sectors
- The Gateway is an independent business and careers newspaper. Search for graduate jobs and internships.
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
You will need to be able to market yourself effectively through the recruitment process; otherwise banks are likely to take the view that you could not market their products to their existing and potential customers.
Many graduate schemes at retail banks open in August or September, and some close in late October/early November. You need to do your employer research and be ready to apply early in your final year. Don’t leave your application to the last minute - Santander says on its website 'We encourage you to get your application in as soon as possible as we process applications in the order they come in, so it’s worth getting yours in quickly, especially as closing dates do sometimes change.' Regularly check employer websites for up-to-date details.
What to expect
The recruitment process for retail banking graduate training schemes may vary from company to company, but typically includes the following stages:
- Online application (many employers also ask candidates to attach a CV as part of an online application form).
- Online tests
- Telephone interview
- Assessment Centre (plus a possible further interview)
You need to be aware of how you are expected to present yourself at each stage and what the recruiters are looking for. Check the employer’s website as most will provide details on their own individual recruitment and selection processes.
Financial Edge Academy
- Financial Edge Academy offers a series of free online courses, tailored specifically for undergraduates who are interested in finance roles. Particularly relevant for arts students who have little prior financial knowledge. They will give you the background to have more confidence in answering financial questions at interviews for banks and accountancy firms. Register using the access code: FEAzbSTA
Relevant Postgraduate Study
A postgraduate qualification is not essential for a job in retail banking. Employers will, however, usually offer you the opportunity to study for a professional qualification (depending on the role), and expect you to pass them as part of your career progression.
TARGETjobs has some good advice on professional qualifications for retail bankers
Key UK links and resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
- Financial Times Guide to Using the Financial Pages
- All you need to know about the Global Financial Markets
- The Economist Guide to Financial Markets (5th Edition)
- Target:City and Finance
- Inside Careers:Banking, Securities and Investments
Related Careers A-Z pages
General banking/finance careers information
- Prospects: Accountancy, banking and finance sector
- TARGETjobs Finance and TARGETjobs Employer hubs independent reviews on top graduate employers
- Inside Careers career information and graduate jobs for your career in banking
- The Job Crowd - Careers in Banking & Finance
- Glass Door - jobs and careers community which allows you to search companies for up-to date salaries, vacancies, reviews and actual interview questions.
- AGCAS: Industry Insight - Banking, investment and insurance
- The Unofficial Guide to Banking
- Online Industry Sector Profiles - Scotland This online resource has been produced by Heriot-Watt University Careers Service to help explore Scotland's main industries. It provides industry facts and figures, significant Scottish employers, job options, vacancy sources and case studies.
- All About Finance Careers finance-related careers website
- eFinancialCareers: This is the best site for up-to-date vacancies and detailed sector careers advice. Also offers vacancy services for a range of financial centres, including London, Scotland and Ireland.
- Assessment Day- some practice numerical, verbal and inductive reasoning questions. Free downloadable in-tray exercise for the Retail Banking industry.
Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.