While banking remains the most popular career choice for business students in the UK, increasing numbers are saying that they don't see financial institutions as being particularly innovative – an important consideration in their future careers.

Our latest research into students' expectations and aspirations for their careers found that, globally, banking has been knocked off the top spot by fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. While FMCG businesses are presenting the main challenge, the technology sector is also proving increasingly popular to business students.

This competition for banks is also reflected in the choices being made by business students in the UK. Google and Apple were the top two employers of choice, scoring highly with 20.8% and 17.2% respectively.

While these organisations don't have a particularly large presence in Scotland, it has to be remembered that the draw of the City of London is a strong influence for graduates north of the border.

Nevertheless, banking's continued resilience as a career choice could be explained by its strong presence in Scotland's central belt, with many banks basing much of their operations in the region.

If banking wants to remain in the top spot and continue to attract the best talent, it must broaden its horizons and learn lessons from other industries. 

Our research found that, despite the damage done to the sector's reputation since the financial crisis, banking remains top of the pile with 23.1% of British students saying it was their preferred industry.

The motivations behind our respondents opting for a career in banking might come as a surprise. Although banking is often associated with large financial bonuses, students who were inclined towards the sector did not rate these forms of remuneration highly as part of their future career.

Instead, business students with ambitions in the banking sector want to be competitively and intellectually challenged. Just under half (48%) of UK respondents told us this was their top career goal. Of equal importance was a good work-life balance, which is particularly unexpected given the perceived high-octane, long-hours nature of a career in finance.

On top of that, business students are looking for international careers which offer them the opportunity to manage people – much more so in the UK than in other countries. Those indicating they were looking for a career in banking also expected, on average, to stay in their jobs longer than other business students and expressed a desire to have leaders who supported their development.

The challenge to the banking sector is clear. If they are to continue attracting the students and skills they require to maintain and even improve levels of customer service, as well as innovate their product offering, banks must demonstrate their ability to compete with the giants of the tech world.

Attracting the best talent will be crucial in that regard. To do that, they must offer careers which provide graduates with the intellectually stimulating and challenging environments they require, combined with international exposure, stability, and the responsibility they crave.

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