In fact, the 2022 Prospective Students Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) puts financial services in the top three most popular career routes for students, just behind consulting and technology.
But with so many options for a career path in finance, where is the best place to work?
A recent Highered survey of 3,800 students at 580 global business schools reveals the top financial companies, according to business school students. The survey asked students about their desired employers and offers a glimpse at the most coveted financial companies in the world.
While many of the entrants in this list are world-renowned firms, the ranking of top financial companies certainly isn’t limited to the US. So, let’s dive in and find out which banks and financial firms top the list.
Top financial companies in the USA, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, are most desirable
The USA is known for being a hothouse for financial services, so it’s no surprise that US institutions, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley make up the world’s top three financial services companies, according to business students.
These prestigious firms are renowned for offering huge salaries and an advantageous bonus structure. According to Glassdoor, financial analysts—a common role for new business school hires—at Goldman Sachs in New York earn $97k on average.
Meanwhile, associates at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs can typically see earnings hitting over US$100,000 per year. These companies offer strong career progression and compensation packages can be sky-high once you have a few years under your belt.
However, these firms have reputations for long hours and issues with work-life balance. In 2021, a group of Goldman Sachs junior bankers reported working in ‘inhumane conditions,’’ including 100-hour work weeks.
Other top US-based financial companies including Citi Bank, part of the behemoth financial service multinationl Citigroup, and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, also feature prominently. Average yearly salaries at BlackRock can range from US$50,000 to US$130,000.
European firms, including HSBC, UBS, among top 10 financial companies
While US institutions dominate the top financial companies on the list, the latter half of the ranking is packed with European companies.
The highest-ranked of these companies is HSBC, which just makes it into the five top financial companies on the list. Headquartered in London’s Canary Wharf district, HSBC is one of the UK’s most prominent banking institutions, and business school graduates can earn upwards of £50,000 in the UK.
Swiss-based, UBS, is the largest private bank in the world. It is the second-highest ranked European firm in the list. UBS is a top choice for students who want to work in investment banking or wealth management, as the company is a European leader in those sectors. Not to mention, analysts at UBS can earn attractive salaries, often topping US$84,000. Credit Suisse, another leading Swiss firm, also ranks among the top 10.
Spanish financial institutions appear on the ranking of top financial companies: BBVA and Santander—both based in Madrid—rank ninth and 12th, respectively. The list also includes top financial companies based in Germany and France.
Overall, less than half of the ranking comprises US-based organizations, reflecting the worldwide opportunities available in finance.
International financial institutions IMF, World Bank, make the top 20
Traditional routes for business students wanting to work in the finance sector include investment banking, asset management, and financial analysis. However, there are possibilities for students looking to enter more mission-driven banking careers.
Among the top financial companies on this ranking are the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, two international organizations that strongly focus on global issues like poverty and international development.
Their appearance on the list suggests that business school students are increasingly looking further than traditional finance roles. Indeed, according to GMAC’s Value of Graduate Management Education report from 2022, 24% of students pursue GME to increase their impact on communities.
However, that isn’t to say that graduates working with these institutions won’t see a strong return on their investment. Average salaries for US-based financial analysts at the IMF amount to more than $90k, according to Glassdoor.
Landing a role at one of the top financial companies in the world
With finance such an in-demand route for business school students, competition for the top companies can be fierce. So, how can you increase your chances of landing a graduate position at one of these top financial companies?
Amber Wigmore Alvarez, chief talent officer at Highered, says that preparation is critical and you can begin preparing early in your studies.
“Do your research early, understand the skill sets and in-demand digital skills involved, take extra courses if needed and pursue work experience and internships.
“Take advantage of networking opportunities such as online career fairs, where there is a wealth of advice on things like how to optimize your CV or handle different types of interviews.”
B-school students' top financial companies