Seeking ‘people skills’, investment banks plan to hire more liberal arts graduates

by Grace

Investment banks plan to hire more liberal arts graduates as they seek to add on employees “from all backgrounds”.

Michael Ridley, a vice-chairman in investment banking at JP Morgan and a senior capital markets banker with more than 30 years of experience, said there has probably been “unconscious bias” against arts graduates but that their skills are valuable. He said: “Even our traders are selling and dealing with people.

You need some communication and presentation skills to be able to persuade people to change their mind on things.”

A push for diversity has several banks seeking employees “with a strong focus on behaviours and attitudes rather than just an expertise in finance”.

JP Morgan is making a push to hire more humanities students this year than it has in previous years.

RBS is also focusing on arts graduates. Its Indian Summer student programme targets candidates from non-finance-related backgrounds and Glen McGowan, head of RBS Early Career, said academic diversity is key to providing a good service to clients.

“Fundamental to this is ensuring that RBS has an attractive proposition to engage students from varying educational disciplines,” he said.

McGowan said the bank has adjusted its selection and assessment criteria to accommodate students from all backgrounds.

Tim Skeet, a managing director in the financial institutions group at the bank, said “With the rise in trading across the financial services sector over the past two decades, the tide has flowed against humanities. Now the tide is turning.”

Jane Clark, head of corporate and investment banking campus recruitment, Europe, Middle East and Asia at Barclays, said the firm recruits “from all degree disciplines with a strong focus on behaviours and attitudes rather than just an expertise in finance”.

What about math skills?

Alix Roe, head of graduate recruitment at Citigroup, said the bank is “moving to dispel the myth that banks only look to hire graduates from economics or finance subjects”….

More banks are coming round to the view that liberal arts graduates have skills that can equip them even for areas such as trading, in which more technical subjects such as mathematics have previously been the norm.

The typical liberal arts curriculum has been watered down, with minimal math and science instruction.

Just to clarify, the traditional liberal arts disciplines include economics, as well as math and science.  However, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market”.  The typical liberal arts graduate of today has probably received very little rigorous math and science instruction.

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