London remains leading financial centre for graduates but standing has been hit

As the first generation of graduates post the collapse of Lehman take their first steps into the working world, the latest survey of over 600 students in three European countries by, the leading global careers site for financial professionals, highlights the sobering impact that the events of the last ten months has had on their career path and aspirations.

Based on the findings of the survey, graduate job opportunities on the continent appear to be in short supply for those wanting to enter the financial services sector. In Italy and France relatively few students graduating this summer who want to enter the finance sector have so far been able to secure a place (11% in Italy and almost 16% in France).

In comparison, UK graduates have been moderately more successful – one in five having already landed their first job. In the main, though, rejection letters have been the order of the day.

Despite the knock-backs, the survey highlights that the overwhelming majority of undergraduates surveyed still want to work in financial services – almost 74% of British students saying they will continue looking for a job in the sector should they fail to have found a position by graduation.

In France and Italy, commitment levels were even higher: 76% of Italian students questioned and 80% of French said they would continue looking for financial services jobs post graduation.

Interestingly, few of the continental students seemed concerned by the tarnished reputation of the banking industry; only 4% of Italian students and 9% of French students said they felt awkward telling friends they wanted to work in investment banking.

By contrast, over a third of UK students said they felt embarrassed mentioning their choice of career to friends. And in a separate poll of 277 UK students by eFinancialCareers, 26% admitted their parents had expressed a negative opinion about their desire to go into the City.

London nevertheless remains the financial centre of choice in which to work for both French and UK students wanting to enter the financial services sector. For Italian students, Milan is the preferred centre, narrowly beating London into second place.

However, many admitted that the City of London has lost some of its appeal. This trend was most notable amongst the UK students surveyed. When they started college, 82% of UK students admitted to viewing London as the financial centre of choice in which to work. Now part or full way through their course, only 65% ranked London as their leading location. A lack of job opportunities and higher taxes were identified as the leading reasons for this change of heart.

With regards which specific financial firm to work for, Goldman Sachs was seen as the institution of choice for French and UK students outranking their respective national banking groups BNP Paribas and Barclays. For Italian students, BNP and Credit Suisse were viewed as the front-runners. However, for the vast majority of students surveyed, working for a nationalised bank was viewed as an acceptable first step in their planned career path.

But when it comes to doing whatever it takes to get a foot in the door, the survey indicates significant cultural differences. For example, whilst just over half of the Italian and British students surveyed said they would be prepared to work for nothing to secure their first job, less than half of this number (26%) was prepared to do so in France.

John Benson, CEO and founder of, commented:

“This survey shows that the allure of the financial industry to the next generation of bankers remains firmly intact and that offers are still being made to top students. However, the reputation of the sector has been severely tested over the last ten months and this has undoubtedly left its mark on the next generation of financial professionals.”

The online survey of 607 students took place between May 20th and June 10th 2009.


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