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About 110,000 students applied for Deutsche Bank's graduate scheme this year in the most striking example of millennials' appetite for careers at even the most troubled banks.
The applications for Deutsche, which recently announced 7,000 job cuts to drop its workforce to less than 90,000, were up 20 per cent in a year when rivals including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup also saw significant increases in applications, data gathered by the Financial Times shows.
Several other large investment banks would not reveal application numbers but said they had increased graduate hires. UBS said it increased its UK hires by almost 50 per cent, to 100, despite the uncertain climate created by Brexit.
Graduate hiring has been a vexed topic since the financial crisis, with banking steadily falling in popularity among the Ivy League and Oxbridge pools from which banks traditionally filled their benches. Brexit was expected to blunt London hiring.
"We had all of the top universities pre-crisis … now [our demand] is more varied. We're going broader in terms of the places where we source from," said Manolo Falco, Citi's head of Emea corporate and investment banking.
Citi drew 60,761 applications for its corporate and investment banking programmes globally, up 12 per cent year on year. The candidates were vying for 520 jobs, which was down from the 575 offered a year earlier. Figures for Citi's markets division are not available.
Deutsche's candidates were applying for jobs across the bank, according to a person with knowledge of the bank's hiring. The person said that Deutsche had hired 619 graduates globally last year, and that "we expect that to increase this year too".
Deutsche has spent much of the last year mired in crisis, culminating in the chaotic replacement of its chief executive in April and the announcement of another round of cuts that will largely fall on the investment bank, a popular destination for graduates.
Its investment bank has been one of the most progressive in its graduate hiring techniques, using groundbreaking AI assessment tools to screen a broad pool of talent for those who are the best emotional and cognitive fit for the bank.
Morgan Stanley attracted about 100,000 applications for about 1,000 places on its summer analyst programme for undergraduates and its summer associates programme for MBA students. The bank said applications were up 8 per cent year on year.
Barclays International will hire about 500 graduates this year, up from 450 in 2017.
"We continue to see high levels of interest in our programmes globally, including from students early in their university careers," said Margaret Capote, head of Barclays' International Graduate Resourcing and Development, adding that the bank had expanded its spring programmes in both the UK and the US.
UBS would not give details of its application levels but said it had hired about 400 graduates so far this year, including about 100 in the UK. Last year, UBS hired about 400 graduates globally, of which 70 were in the UK.
Citi's Mr. Falco said that banks' efforts to promote work-life balance had "definitely had an impact" on application levels, but the jobs were still very demanding. "You can't hide it; banking is a hard-working kind of industry … Even with all of what we've done, it's high intensity over long hours."
Banks have rolled out measures including mandatory weekends off and flexible working arrangements to make life as a junior banker less gruelling and more attractive to talented graduates weighing offers from other sectors.
Citi looked at whether the intensity and hours could be reduced by simply hiring more graduates but concluded that it would not work, Falco said. "When a client has a problem, the solution has to be the next morning, having more people wouldn't obviously fix that, the client wants specific [directors or managing directors] and those people want people around them they can trust."