10 Top Tips for Banking and Finance Applications

Application Adviser Emily gives us 10 top tips for preparing an application for a banking/finance role …

  • Check closing dates: The deadlines for applying to graduate jobs in this sector are very early in the academic year – sometimes October of the year before you would start the job. Internships too are advertised in the autumn semester. Start researching job and internship opportunities ASAP so that you don’t miss out. And don’t leave applications until the deadline; some graduate schemes and graduate jobs will close earlier than advertised if enough applications from qualified candidates have been received.
  • Understand the sector: Many students have a vague idea that they want to work in finance because the industry has a reputation for high salaries and challenging, exciting work. But you need to fully understand the way it works and the type of role you would be suited to. Research on the internet, read the financial news (for example the Financial Times) and consult the resources in the Careers Information Room. Attend networking events, where you can also get first-hand advice from companies’ recruiters. Your answers to questions about motivation in application forms and at interviews will be far more persuasive if you really understand the field and the requirements of different roles.
  • Read application forms carefully: Make sure you understand what is required by the application process of each company you apply for. Banks often have similar but slightly different application forms, for example – although the difference of emphasis in a question might seem minor, it might call for a quite different response. Also, some employers ask you to fill in a form, some ask for a CV, some for a CV and form, some for a CV and a cover letter – and there are many other variations! Make sure you have enough time to answer all the questions and prepare the necessary documents.

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Focus on Finance (3rd-14th October)

Focus on Finance is our programme of events designed to showcase the range of areas in the finance sector you can work in. Over 40 employers will be visiting the campus to
showcase their opportunities to QMUL students and give you a unique insight into their work. From Accounting to Investment Banking and beyond, this is your opportunity to find out more about the sector, and network with your potential future employer. 

What’s coming up?

Visit our Events page at careers.qmul.ac.uk/events for the full list of upcoming events, and to register your place. Here are a few highlights below, but see the link above for all events.

Tuesday 4th October: ‘Careers in Insurance – Discover Risk’ with The Chartered Insurance Institute

This session focuses on insurance and wealth management – it will include an overview of the Chartered Insurance Institute with case studies from graduates and a Q&A at the end.

Tuesday 4th October: Careers in Accountancy

There are many different strands to accountancy, and this session will look at the types of area you could work in at a large or small firm. The session will also take you through the qualification process, and look at topics like how you fit in ACA qualification with a working life. The event will be led by ICAEW and KPMG.

Tuesday 11th October: Applying for Insight Days and Internships

Attending insight days, and undertaking internships is more or less mandatory for a successful application to a graduate role in the finance sector. This session will go over the essentials of finding relevant work experience and will feature a discussion with current students talking about how they found their placement and what they did. 

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Financial Institutions – What are they and what do they do

For those that are looking to pursue a career within the business and finance sector, I want to provide a brief introduction on the different types of financial institutions and what they do.

Financial institutions or financial bodies are establishments which provide some sort of a financial transaction, which can include the withdrawal and deposit of money, loans, investments and advice. I want to highlight some of the different types of financial institutions and their roles.

If you are a graduate interested in starting a career within one of these financial institutions you have a wide choice of roles available.

Commercial Banks

One of the most common types of financial intuitions is the commercial bank; they offer everyday services to individuals and companies, such as current and savings accounts, loans and deposits. They are found in most high streets and city centres.

Examples of commercial banks include Barclays, Natwest, Halifax and RBS.

You can do a varied role within commercial banks. You might also find that there are more types of this institution around, as they are used for everyday banking by the public and companies. Types of roles in different areas that you could pursue include Customer Services, Retail Banking, Corporate Banking, Compliance, Finance, Technology & Operations, Human Resources (HR) and Marketing.

Investment Banks

Although these are sometimes classed as banks and some do offer similar services to commercial banks, their operations are very different. They offer businesses and some governments services such as underwriting debts, facilitating mergers, acting as broker for institutional clients and making markets.

Example of investment banks include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and UBS.

Investment banks offer different roles within the different business areas, such as Debt & Equity, Mergers & Acquisitions, Proprietary Trading.

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Insurance Companies

Insurance companies offer a financial service by providing financial protection to the individual or property such as home and car insurance. By charging premiums insurance helps individuals and companies manage risk and preserve wealth. By insuring a large number of people they can operate profitability and at the same time pay for any claims that may arise.

Examples of insurance companies include Admiral, AXA, ING Group and AIG.

You can  pursue roles within insurance companies within areas such as Graduate Underwriter, Trainee Loss Adjuster, Product Manager and Trainee Actuary.


Brokerages or brokers are companies which act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers to assist in and facilitate securities transactions. They provide their service by charging the client a fee or commission. An example of this is a mortgage broker who will help an individual (buyer) looking to get a good mortgage for a property from a bank (seller).

Examples of brokerages companies include Investec, Apex Insurance and Bairstow Eves.

The roles that are available to choose from include Insurance broker, Real Estate broker & Stock Broker.

A Day in the Life…

A bit about me

My name is Yun, and I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science with Business Management at Queen Mary, University of London, before moving on to London School of Economics to gain my postgraduate degree in Management, Information Systems and Innovation. The four years of studies paid off when I secured my job as an IT Business Management Leadership graduate, and I am now enjoying the corporate life in the Lloyds Banking Group Head Offices.

Yun Seok Lee

What I do on the Lloyds Banking Group graduate programme

There are various graduate schemes available to join, including IT, Digital, Group Ops, Finance, HR, and more. I am on the IT Business Management graduate scheme and this specific scheme consists of four 6-month placements in different parts of Group IT. This ensures you gain the best possible exposure, and fully understand the different roles and teams, and are well experienced to ensure you have the necessary knowledge when you roll off the graduate scheme.

I recently completed my first 6-months in Service Delivery – Infrastructure Projects team in Copley, West Yorkshire, and have re-located to the Bristol Harbourside office (complete with harbour views!) for my second placement in ADM Insurance (Application, Development & Maintenance). The two roles differ in a lot of aspects and I already appreciate experiencing various roles within the bank.

I have gained the right kind of exposure for self-development in my roles. I personally enjoyed the management aspects of IT during university and have, therefore, joined this scheme to further my career in this field, and I have been provided with such opportunities and have enjoyed various aspects of management, including stakeholder, people, time and project management.

But as well as the work, there are other aspects to working in LBG [Lloyds Banking Group]. We are the biggest corporate charity donor in the UK by a considerable margin, and the bank supports its employees to undertake charitable activities. The graduates also have their own charity challenge, and we are currently raising money for BBC Children in Need.

There are also plenty of networking, development and senior leader meeting opportunities throughout the graduate scheme, and I have appreciated time out of the office being a part of these various events and conferences organised by the bank.

What I enjoy the most

I am thoroughly enjoying my life in LBG so far. I have been provided with the perfect opportunities to develop both as a person and as a leader, and both of my managers have also been very supportive and flexible to ensure my own development as a future leader.

But I also enjoy the networking and team working aspects LBG actively provide for the graduates, such as development days and team charity fundraising. Such events bring graduates together and maximises team working capabilities, and the bank ensures that the graduates have plenty of other activities to learn the Group’s values and actively support the wider communities we serve.

What tips I’d give someone applying

Apply with confidence, and just be yourself. Lloyds Banking Group does not just assess you on your academic abilities, but also looks at your personality, your achievements and extra-curricular activities, and other factors. Our aim is to be the “Best Bank for Customers” and “Help Britain Prosper”, so apply and prove you are the perfect fit into LBG and a future leader in the making!

Working at Lloyds Banking Group

Tasleem Patel, a QMUL graduate in Mathematics, Business Management and Finance, tell us what it’s like to work for Lloyds Banking Group.

Tasleem photo

What scheme are you on?

I‘m currently 6 months into my first placement on the Business Management & Operations Graduate Leadership Programme.

What do you do day to day?

I’m working in Brighton on a Customer Operations Change Management programme called CARS (Collections and Recoveries Simplification) which is part of the Group wide End to End Simplification initiative, aiming to simplify the customer to employee journey.

A little bit about the CARS programme: Within LBG [Lloyds Banking Group] there are currently 17 Collections and Recoveries debt management platforms – CARS will consolidate 14 of these systems and simplify the associated processes. It’s an exciting programme as it’s going to have a massive impact on customer experience by delivering a ‘Single Customer View’, enabling any customer to call any agent. It will provide a customer-centric treatment strategy that will make customer contact more effective and efficient.

To enable the transition into a single shared platform a variety of work needs to be undertaken which has been divided into different work streams. I am currently working on the ‘Implementation’ sub team. My time at work thus far has been spent on tracking activities and preparing for the practice migration events in the run up to the actual live migration event. As you can imagine, there is a whole multitude of tasks to complete in preparation for the events. So to give a few examples of task that I do, I have created rotas ensuring there are people available to work in the required roles; I have been preparing an event handbook which has detailed descriptions, including all the information required to understand the activities taking place on events; I have also taken a lead role on the migration events, working up to 14 hours overnight! This has been a great opportunity to showcase my knowledge as there are various senior stakeholders present at these events.

A large chunk of my time has contributed to a big piece of governance work called the ‘Implementation Readiness Review’. This assesses the whole programme’s readiness to hit the target live date. This has involved a great deal of engagement with other work streams on the programme. The document, once complete and signed off by the programme lead, is then approved by various other parties such as Audit, Risk and the central Programme Management office.

Outside of my day-to-day role I am actively involved in the Group’s Diversity and Inclusion Networks; recently I have been working on a project to enable greater diversity in recruitment for the graduate scheme. D&I is a hot topic here at LBG, so it’s exciting to be involved in something that I am passionate about by bringing new ideas to the table that should be implemented in the near future.

What do you like about the Business Management & Operations graduate scheme?

What is special about this specific scheme is that it gives flexibility in offering three different placements over two years. My next placement will be in Group Security and Fraud based in London, a complete contrast to my current placement! The benefit of this is the exposure gained in the different areas in Group Operations giving the potential to build a diverse network. Another element of the graduate scheme is the yearly graduate Charity Challenge, where graduates are teamed up and compete to raise the most amount of money for the chosen charity of the year. For me this has been a highlight as it provides a fun competitive element to the scheme.

Hints and tips for applications:

  • Do your research. As obvious as it seems, preparation is essential! Being prepared will allow you to feel more confident and one way you can do this is by using the Careers service, I would definitely recommend it. I had practice interviews with both Abi and Jeff and they proved to be super helpful- the more interview practice you can get the better.
  • Try and understand where Lloyds Banking Group sits within the industry and what their current focus is.
  • Try to be yourself at interviews and assessment centres, just go for it!

Banking – Part 2: How do I choose which area of banking is right for me?

You need to think carefully about which area of banking you would like to be in, because although there is a possibility of moving between the two, this is very rare. Things to consider include:

Who would you like your customer to be? Is it the average person on the street, the wealthy individual, the large corporation or the small/medium business owner?

Who do you want to work for? Retail banking is customer-focused, and the work you do will be determined by what the public wants and needs from their banking services. Investment banking on the other hand is driven by the financial markets, and is not so directly linked to customer service.

What do you want your work lifestyle to be? Graduates are often attracted to investment banking because they have heard about large salaries and bonuses. But consider your work lifestyle too. Long hours with evening and weekend work is common in investment banking. Likewise, there can also be times when you have little to do. Retail banking roles are generally more predictable, with steady hours.

Where do you want to work? All the large investment banks are based in big cities. Retail banks may have their headquarters in the city, but there will also be numerous local branches. With both types of banks, there may be opportunity to work abroad. However, while in investment banking your attention is always on the global monetary market, with retail your work would be focused on the country in which you were based.

What are your skills and interests? This is important to think about, not just to help you decide between investment or retail banking but also which specific role you would like to do.

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Front, Middle or Back?

When trying to decide what job you would like in banking, think about whether you want to be in the front, middle or back…

Front office roles are generally client-facing, talking directly to the company or individual which you are serving. These jobs are involved, one way or another, in creating profit for the bank.

The middle office does not directly generate profit for the bank, but does support those in the front office to help them do their job effectively. So those within the legal department make sure everyone is operating within the boundaries of existing laws and regulations. The people within Treasury keep colleagues informed of the financial status of the bank.

Back office jobs involve all the things that help the bank in its day-to-day running. For example technology/IT roles, HR positions and jobs within operations.

Each of these areas is just as vital to the success of a bank as the others. So don’t limit your choices simply based on how important you think a job is – rather look carefully at what matches your interests and skills. Potential employers will also want to see that you understand how a role that you are applying to fits within a company, and how your work would influence others. So research is the key!

How do I find out what is right for me?

Spring Insight – most of the major banks now run a programme in the spring break for first year students where you can get a taster for different aspects of the business. This experience will give you a better understanding of different sectors of banking, and are becoming vital for later securing an internship.

Internships – an internship is not only crucial if you want a graduate job in banking, but it is also a great opportunity of discovering what you do and do not like.

Networking – get talking to people who currently work in banking and ask them about what they do. The Careers Centre organises many different events where students have the opportunity to talk directly with employers. Use LinkedIn to follow companies and where appropriate, ask questions. Some websites also have forums and live Q & A sessions, for example http://news.efinancialcareers.com/uk-en/qa/.

Spend some time online – putting the effort in to research of your own can pay dividends in helping you clarify things. And the information gathered will also be useful when it comes to making applications and preparing for interviews. Use www.careersbox.co.uk and www.careerplayer.com to see video case studies and hear banking employees talk about their jobs.

City Course – each year the Careers Group organises a unique event for students to spend time gaining an insider’s perspective on a career in the City. Organisations participating have previously included the Bank of England and Barclays Capital.  This is a fantastic opportunity to get a better understanding of the banking and financial industry in general, and to make contact with current employees. Further details can be found here: http://www.gradsintocareers.co.uk/events/meet-employers/the-city-course.aspx.

Banking – Part 1: Investment or Retail?



Think you might like a career in banking but not sure what it’s all about?

First thing’s first: ‘banking’ is a very broad term.

Generally speaking there are two areas – retail and investment. Corporate finance and wealth management are where these areas overlap. Some banks focus on retail or investment only, whereas others such as Barclays or HSBC, cover both areas and are known as ‘universal’ banks.

If you want to work in banking you must understand the differences between these areas, as they are two distinctive career paths. This will help you make the right choice when choosing which job you want to pursue, and help you articulate this to employers at application and at interview.


  • Also known as ‘high street banking’ (although increasingly these banks also have an online presence). These are the companies which have branches in your local town centre where individuals can open a current account or obtain a mortgage etc.
  • These banks also help small, medium and even large companies with their banking needs.
  • This area of banking is customer-led – products and services offered are generally determined by customer demand. For example, if a retail bank notices an increase in people making home improvements rather than moving house, they might look at ways to encourage people to take out small loans with them.


  • The clients of investment banks are large corporations and organisations, and governments. These banks use a variety of methods to ultimately make the most of their clients’ money and assets through investment.
  • The main areas of activities that investment bankers are involved in include:

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): advising client companies on mergers (where two companies join up as equals) and acquisitions (where one firm takes over part or all of another).

Sales, Trading and Research: the buying and selling of shares, bonds and other financial products.

Capital Markets: creating the financial products to be bought and sold.

  • This area of banking is driven by the global financial market and has a reputation for being high-pressured and fast-paced.

Corporate Finance

  • The terms ‘corporate banking/finance’ and ‘investment banking’ are sometimes used interchangeably. Yet both investment and retail banks may have corporate divisions. In basic terms, corporate finance is about managing the money of businesses and companies.
  • Depending on what help the company would like, depends on where it goes for its banking. And some businesses might use both retail and investment banks. For example, a company might use a retail bank to handle its day-to-day monetary affairs, such as paying its staff or securing a small loan. If, however, the company needed to raise a large amount of capital, or wanted to take over another business, it would go to an investment bank.

Wealth Management

  • Sometimes known as ‘private banking’, wealth management includes aspects from both retail and investment banking.
  • Just like retail banking, this involves managing the money of individual people rather than large corporations. However, these people are of considerable personal worth, and so they also might utilise services often offered by investment banks to help grow their money.