- Application deadline: Likely to be December for the graduate programme, January for the summer internship
- Starting salaries: £29000 + £2500 starting bonus + flexible benefits package (~£1600 if taken in cash)
- Regions: London
- Industries: Financial regulation - finance, public policy, law, accountancy, economics and actuarial
- Website: www.fsagraduates.com
- Email: To email HR, use [email protected]
- Telephone: 020 7066 3568
- Address: 25 The North Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5HS
What is the FSA?
The FSA regulate the financial services industry, from stock markets and investment banks to mortgages and high-street banks. The FSA is a non-governmental body, funded by the financial services industry, with the power to create new legislation governing financial markets. It’s tasked with four statutory objectives:
- market confidence: maintaining confidence in the financial system;
- public awareness: promoting public understanding of the financial system;
- consumer protection: securing the appropriate degree of protection for consumers; and
- the reduction of financial crime: reducing the extent to which it is possible for a business to be used for a purpose connected with financial crime.
In short, it aims to ensure the financial system works well and that retail consumers get a fair deal.
What roles are available?
There’s a huge variety of roles at the FSA. There’s the wholesale business unit, which regulates the financial markets, tries to reduce financial crime, writes prudential policy (in simple terms, how much banks need to hold) and supervises investment banks, wholesale insurers, asset managers and hedge funds. Roles here could involve managing the relationship with a firm, writing policy, investigating insider trading or market issues and a whole host of other stuff.
There’s the retail unit, who deal with retail policy (for example how banks sell mortgages or what independent financial advice is), authorising new firms and supervising high-street banks, financial advisers, general insurance firms, life insurance firms and the multitude of small financial firms. Roles here could involve researching the risks of particular financial products, writing policy, etc. There’s operations, who perform all the usual stuff you’d expect a firm to do – IS, finance, HR, procurement, etc. Roles here could be project management, accountancy or a variety of other stuff.
Lastly, there’s the standalone departments: Enforcement, who investigate and prosecute people who break financial law; Communications; General Counsel, who provide legal advice; and Strategy and Risk, who deal with help improve how we regulate firms, economic research, market analysis and EU policy. This is where the researchers, PR guys, lawyers and investigators work.
The FSA has 6 graduate programmes (though not all are offered every year) and a summer internship scheme:
- Graduate Development Programme: Starting with a month induction, ‘grads’ do two rotations, each 12 months long, before moving into their 3rd rotation, which is their permanent role. Each rotation is in a different area of the FSA, so you could be supervising Goldman Sachs one year to working on new policy on the selling or mortgages, or go from a rotation in markets trying to stop insider trading to supervising financial advisers. During your 3rd, permanent placement, you do a 6 month secondment to an external organisation (paid for by the FSA) – this could be one of the firms they regulate, the Treasury, The European Commission or a whole host of other organisations. Alongside this, grads have the option of being sponsored for a variety of professional qualifications, like the IMC, CFA or SII Diploma.
- Management Accountancy Programme: The programme runs in the same way as the general above, except you’ll be working in various finance functions around the FSA while studying for a CIMA qualification.
- Actuarial Development Programme: As with the accountancy programme, this follows the same cycle of rotations and the secondment, except you’ll be working in a variety of actuarial roles and be sponsored to qualify as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries.
- Human Resources Development Programme: Again, this runs in a similar way to the above programmes, except the roles will be in HR and you'll be sponsored to do the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development professional qualification.
- Economics Development Programme: As with the programmes above, this will include 3 rotations and a secondment, this time as an economist. During the 2nd and 3rd year (or 1st and 2nd if you want to), you’ll study for a MSc in Economics, part-time, and end up either as a macroeconomist in the Macroeconomic Analysis team or a microeconomist in the Economics of Financial Regulation department.
- Legal Development Programme: First, you’ll be sponsored to complete the LPC and CPE full-time (fees and maintenance grant), if you haven’t already completed them. Then you’ll do a two-year training contract involving 12 months in General Council, 6 months in Enforcement and a 6 month external secondment.
The vast majority of places – usually around 40 – are on the general scheme, with one or two places a year in each of the specialist schemes.
On the summer internship, you’ll have one week of training then nine weeks in one of the departments. As with the general rotations, this could be anywhere across the FSA.
The FSA Graduate Careers Website above gives details. The first round is an online application form; the second is a competency-based phone interview; and the third and final round is a one-day assessment centre.
Entry requirements and type of person suited to working at the FSA
All applicants need a 2:1 honours degree (in any degree), a minimum of 300 UCAS points and the right to work in the UK. The FSA looks at specific competencies to select graduates: more details here: Graduate Capabilities
If you’re interested in finance or public policy, or just want to try a range of different roles to see what you like, the FSA could be for you. The main programme is a general programme, with an emphasis on getting a wide breadth of experience across the finance industry, and so people who are absolutely sure they want to go into a specific area may be better applying directly, rather than to the graduate programme.
Future prospects and training
All grads can do sponsored study, and most do. While usually these are finance qualifications – CFA, IMC or the various SII qualifications – some people have done masters in economics or politics and a variety of other qualifications. Anything is considered if you write a business case for it.
The graduate programme has only been running for a few years (the FSA was only founded in 1998), however there are already quite a few ex-grads who are managers (quite a senior and well-paid level). Grads also go on to a variety of careers elsewhere, from banking to the civil service.
Other comments about the FSA
The FSA has the typical benefits – private medical insurance, 6% non-contributory pension, interest-free season ticket loan, 20 days holiday, etc. – as well as the flexible benefits package mentioned above, that can be taken as a variety of things. Also, all FSA staff get a performance-related bonus of 0-35% of your salary.
After 3 years on the programme grads will be on a total of around £45000 plus bonus.
If you have applied to the FSA, we would like you to hear from you. Please use the following form to detail your experiences of application, to aid those interested in following a similar career path.
Position applied for: I applied for the summer internship first. After this, I was offered a place on the Graduate Development Programme, which I did a year on, before moving over to the Economics Development Programme as a microeconomist.
Year of Application: 2005 for the 2006 summer internship. I started on the Graduate Programme in September 2007.
Educational Background: BA Economics and Management at Oxford (though I stress that people starting with me had studied a wide range of degrees from a variety of universities, so a finance/economics background is not necessary, nor is having gone to a well-rated university)
What were your experiences of the application process? Much like those for any other graduate programme: an application form, a telephone interview, then finally an assessment centre. They've now added some online tests before the telephone interview, though this is also pretty standard. The application is competency based - showing you can work on a team, motivate others, solve problems, innovate, communicate, etc. which is also becoming increasingly common.
What is it like working for the FSA? Personally, I love it. I have a job that's intellectually challenging with some real responsibility; I've had a huge variety of work over the programme and advise on a wide range of policies now; I have a very supportive manager and team; I have a great work-life balance; I have the opportunity to innovate, suggest new ideas and research projects; and I've got a good group of friends from the grads who started together; and I'm paid well. If you want a challenging job with variety, early responsibility and decent pay, yet where you won't work really long hours under extreme stress and where the bottom line is what's good for society, not profit, the FSA is a great place to work. Think of it like the Civil Service Fast Stream, except with better pay and an external secondment. Those two bits made my decision for me and I'm so glad it did.
How has it compared to your expectations? Having been an intern, I knew pretty much what I was getting myself in for. However the economics programme has surpassed my expectations - I never thought I would think this hard and have this level of intellectual challenge in a job outside academia, especially combined with a decent work-life balance and salary. What's more, the work I do is relevant and often gets comments in newspapers when we propose new policies.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? As an economist or policy maker, either still at the FSA or in the civil service. Promotion after the grad programme is usually quite quick and entirely on merit. I'd be happy to stay here and work my way up, though I'm interested in a wide variety of policy areas so can see myself moving elsewhere for a different challenge. In fact, this is encouraged by the FSA and is why the Graduate Programmes involve an external secondment - outside experience is valued in the FSA.
Finally, any advice you would give to potential applicants? If you have a general interest in finance, policy or aren't sure what you want to do, the FSA is a great place to start. The variety of experience and exposure to lots of different areas create a great platform for going in a variety of career directions. If you know you're interested in one area already, then one of the specialist programmes may be for you, or the FSA may not be the right place to start your career.
For the application process, it's worth doing a bit of reading beforehand to get an idea of what the FSA does and the high-profile issues it's currently dealing with. Reading a speech or two by Hector (our CEO) and Adair (our Chairman) on the website is a big help in this.