Luckily, this is a sector where you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to work experience and internship opportunities. From huge monolithic finance companies to small local firms, there’s a wealth of work experience opportunities to be found in banking, finance and accountancy.
This article is designed to be the spurs on your (corporate) cowboy boots. We’re here to kick that work experience horse into action (we’re also fond of overstretched metaphors)…
Insight days & shadowing…
If you just want to get a taste of the finance world, many of the large firms run insight or shadowing programmes. For example, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young all offer insight days for people at different stages of their education. Asking to shadow someone for a couple of days is a more informal, non-committal way of getting work experience. It’s also a useful way of gaining a better insight into one of the career paths you’re considering.
First year internships…
More and more firms are offering internships for first years at university. These tend to be slightly less competitive than the summer placements and are usually shorter (one to two weeks). A number of companies in our list of banking, finance and accountancy graduate employers offer them.
If you’re on a sandwich course, you could look into getting an industrial placement with a banking, finance or accountancy firm. These often give you a general insight into the business, but may still allow you to build up experience in a specific area of interest.
Vacation schemes/extended summer internships…
Fiercely competitive to get onto, these are amongst the cream of banking, finance and accountancy work experience opportunities. Why? Because firms often recruit a large chunk of their graduate intake from them. Want evidence? According to High Fliers, 75% of investment banking graduate vacancies are filled by former interns.
The deadlines for most summer programmes are in January, although some close even earlier around November time. The majority of these summer internships are given to penultimate year university students.
Other work experience ideas…
Investment banking and accountancy might be the areas of banking, finance and accountancy that you’ve heard of, but there is far more to this sector than you think. The beauty of work experience is that it allows you to gain an insight into different areas of an industry and into jobs you might not have otherwise considered.
That’s why it’s well worth looking into other areas of finance, such as insurance, pensions, wealth management andretail banking.
Look for work experience with different types of companies, from small, specialist firms to large ones that cover a range of professional services. You might want to try boutique firms or the in-house finance departments of Blue Chip companies.
Don’t just restrict your work experience hunt to the private sector either. The public sector offers bountiful opportunities. For example, you could look for work experience in the finance or accounts departments of local councils, central government departments and NHS trusts.
Think outside the box…
Whilst it may be tempting to head straight to the Big Four, have you thought about your other options? Most large companies in other sectors, such as media, arts and culture,science and engineering, have in-house finance departments or accountants. It’s certainly worth exploring this avenue if the culture of large professional services firms doesn’t appeal.
You could go crazy and look into financial journalism, seeking out work experience with industry publications or trying to wrangle yourself work experience with financial media giants like the Financial Times.
What about think tanks or research bodies specialising in the finance sector? Consultancies? Or organisations like the FSA, Audit Commission or National Audit Office?
Alongside applying for structured internship programmes, you might want to supplement your work experience by getting involved with community or charity work. Not only does it show that you are a well-rounded person, but you could donate some of your time in the finance offices of a charity.
Speculative work experience applications…
The majority of companies in the banking, finance and accountancy sector don’t have structured internship programmes. However, many of them will offer work experience on an ad hoc basis to a whole range of people from GCSE students to graduates.
It really doesn’t hurt to check their website (sometimes they’ll provide an email address to which you can send work experience applications) or give them a call to find out whether they would potentially offer you work experience. Using this method, you’ll need to send companies a speculative work experience application.
The main hurdle for speculative applications is finding out about the businesses in your desired area. ICAEW, FSA and the Association of British Insurers have lists of accounting firms, banks, building societies and insurance firms.
Who offers banking, finance or accountancy work experience opportunities?
Large companies who offer some of the most established work experience opportunities include:
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Bank of England
Ernst & Young
You can find more large banking, finance and accountancy companies here. Many of them accept speculative work experience applications.