It's an unsettling time for banks. Their public standing has not yet fully recovered from the financial crisis and they remain under intense regulatory scrutiny in a number of areas including capital levels, liquidity, structure, governance and conduct.

And now, our latest Talent in Banking survey shows the rivalry for the best talent is heating up, with innovative tech giants and a growing financial technology ('fintech') industry providing stiff competition.

Banking's popularity as a career destination has dropped every year since 2011 and now ranks second globally. It had fallen from 18.7% of expressions of interest in 2008 to 14.4% in 2015, a decline of 4.3%.

Meanwhile, software and computer services continues its inexorable rise, increasing by a striking 4.1% in the same period. On current form, this sector will overtake banking in popularity terms by 2022.

If banks want to reverse this trend, they'll have to focus on three aspects of their graduate recruitment strategies:


Banks face two key barriers if they are to continue to innovate in an increasingly competitive and evolving marketplace.

Firstly, banking-inclined students aspire to creativity and innovation much less than the average across business students. The three attributes that banking-inclined students aspire to least are: 'a creative and dynamic work environment', 'attractive/exciting products and services' and, most worryingly of all, 'innovation'.

Furthermore, banking-inclined students are deeply pessimistic about whether they will find innovation at their future banking employers: barely a quarter (27.6%) expect banks to be innovative. This doesn't compare well with the 43.1% of all business students who expect to find this characteristic at their future employers. Clearly, banks have an image problem to overcome in that respect.

A boys' club?

In the survey, women made up 61.1% of respondents, but just over half (51.7%) of the banking-inclined, and a mere 44.0% of investment banking-inclined students.

The 'glass ceiling' – the barriers perceived to keep women out of top jobs – and lower anticipated pay throughout their careers, are two well-known deterrents for women considering banking. A third factor is culture: just 28.4% of respondents expect to find 'support for gender equality' at banks.

Whether this is a fair reflection of reality or not, the survey suggests banks are recruiting those who care as little about gender equality as they think banks do. We found that banking-inclined talent globally ranks gender equality 39th out of 40 career aspirations. This 'men in suits' image is unlikely to go away without major steps towards a more inclusive culture.

An old-fashioned image

In recent years, bank executives have understandably been focused on the crisis and its aftermath. Now it's time to look to the future, develop a new mission for banking, and define what the banker of the future looks like.

To improve diversity, banks need to work on their practices as well as their branding. They should examine whether women and minorities are progressing proportionately, and identify and remove barriers, e.g. exclusionary job ad wording, recruitment from certain subject areas, family-unfriendly working hours. As they do this, banks can also highlight individual success stories to counteract their old-fashioned image.

How do you differentiate your bank as a graduate employer? Let us know your thoughts by getting in touch, leaving a comment below or tweeting us on @DeloitteScot.

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