What Barclays Seeks In MBA Hires

Recent MBA graduates at Barclays

Recent hire in a meeting at Barclays

Looking back on history, you could argue the late 1600s laid the foundation for the modern world. At Cambridge, Sir Isaac Newton was formulating the laws of gravity and the language of calculus. In Essex, John Locke was advocating natural law and property rights to little fanfare. But his beliefs would cross the Atlantic to be enshrined in the United States constitution.

In 1690, two bankers created their own ripple, quietly setting up shop on London’s Lombard Street. Fast forward 325 years and their investment has blossomed into one of the world’s largest multinational banks, with nearly $2.5 trillion dollars in assets and over 125,000 employees in 50 countries. Despite such deep roots, Barclays views itself as an entrepreneurial venture, says Laura Keys, the firm’s co-head of Americas campus recruiting. “We’re a relatively young investment bank,” she tells Poet&Quants in an exclusive interview. “We’re really building out our coverage groups and investing in core areas.”

As a result, they’re looking for MBAs. In 2015, Barclays is bringing in a 100 student intern class for associates (which doesn’t include analysts). And they’re adding another 100 full-time associates globally. According to Keys, nearly every MBA summer intern who earns an offer chooses to come back, a testament to Barclays’ supportive and mission-focused culture that prizes professional growth and mutual respect. Make no mistake: Barclays sets the bar high, accepting roughly only 12 percent of intern applicants. But Keys doesn’t believe such odds should dissuade candidates. “It’s all about getting to know the people. If you do that and really dedicate the time and interest, you’ll find that number is not as daunting as it seems.”

PRACTICING WHAT IT PREACHES ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP

To the general public, banks are perceived as stodgy defenders of the status quo. But don’t tell that to Barclays, which has jumped to the forefront by stressing entrepreneurship as part of its mission. And that is epitomized by the firm’s Social Innovation Facility, which Keys describes as a grassroots effort “where employees with great commercially viable ideas are given funding and support to bring them to life.”

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Targeting the development of solutions that promote social good, Barclays is best known for hatching the Women in Leadership Index. This index points investors to firms led by women that also feature heavy female representation on their boards. Barclays has since partnered with a third party index provider, using this model to help bring to market the recently-created Return on Disability Index to help promote investment in firms that employ and serve individuals with disabilities.

HEAVY INVESTMENT IN MBA DEVELOPMENT

For many firms, training and development are given lip service. At Barclays, serious resources are devoted to helping MBAs develop their skills and progress up the ranks. Aside from a six-to-seven week initial training program, Barclays offers continuous training throughout an MBA’s tenure. Such course modules cover areas such as accounting, modeling, valuation, and a variety of other technical topics. “We find there is a lot of enthusiasm for this training,” Keys notes, “especially when people can pick and choose what’s going to be best for them in terms of subject matter and timing.”

Along with training, Barclays leans heavily on a pioneering rotational program to develop more well-rounded and connected MBAs. Each hire must complete three rotations, five weeks each, where they work with a different banking business group. As a result, MBAs are exposed to a variety of industries, roles, and approaches.  “This allows you to see different parts of the firm and helps you build a network early on in your career,” Keys points out. “So wherever you land, you’re going to have relationships from all three of those rotations that you can use professionally to your advantage. Additionally, you’re getting exposure to senior business leaders across more than just one part of the firm and lastly, you can make a more informed decision about your permanent placement. Hopefully, the rotations give you peace of mind and confidence in the choice you’ll ultimately make.

And such breadth of experience comes in handy at Barclays, where MBA associates are quickly given a big role. “I think it is a relatively flat organization,” Keys adds, “where associates are encouraged to assume responsibility quickly and take ownership for deal execution and client management. As an MBA, you’re going to come in and very quickly be exposed to senior people within the firm and clients, and really have an opportunity to do things that matter.”

Recently, Poets&Quants sat down with Keys to learn more about Barclays’ culture, expectations, and needs. Here are her thoughts on ways that MBAs can improve their chances of leaving a memorable impression with the firm.

What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

On the MBA side, we definitely look for diversity of experience but there isn’t one specific thing we’re looking for in a resume. When we hire MBAs, we’re looking to hire future managing directors so we want to ensure we bring in a class of proven leaders who’ve excelled in their prior endeavors. [These are people who’ve] shown a strong ability to collaborate and solve problems. Most importantly, we look for people who really want to do the job and have shown drive and motivation. You often see this reflected in professional track record and investment in previous work.

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