Nordic graduates scramble for fewer banking opportunities

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Banking graduate schemes are never easy to get on at the best of times, but this year Nordic students who have landed themselves a place can probably feel rightly smug, as banks across the region have seriously curbed what they are offering.

Danske Bank has nearly halved its intake to its two one-year graduate programmes, taking on 45 people compared with 86 last year, says Sren Rahbek, head of graduate recruitment processes.

"Obviously there has had to be a balance between the need to get new blood into the organisation and the need to be explaining to people who we are letting go that we are hiring someone else," he points out.

"As far as I'm aware, most banks have been reducing their numbers. It has been noticeable that many students see it as a positive that we even still have a programme. I think there is a lot of cutting back," he adds.

While Danske's deadline for applications closed in May, with its programme due to start in September, Nordea's is open until August.

Last year the bank took 60 graduates on to two one- to two-year programmes, one starting in September and one in November. It also ran a programme for 30 graduates in the spring of 2008.

This year it scrapped the spring programme and, so far, is taking on 36 graduates starting in September. Ann-Cathrin Savén, graduate programme manager, has stressed there is still the possibility of a second programme running if there is deemed to be enough demand to go above 40.

"The general situation for graduates is that things are more difficult this year. This has changed quite a lot since last fall, when it was probably easier to get a job or on to a programme," she says.

She also remains bullish about the longer term hiring prospects. "There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. We are recruiting more than at one point we expected," she adds.

SEB's one-year programme, which kicks off from January, remains unchanged and will be taking on 24 graduates, says programme manager Helena Dahlström.

Banks have still been attending careers fairs, but this year's cohort of graduates nevertheless face an uphill struggle, agrees Marina Mourad, director of Stockholm University Business School's career centre.

"In general students are finding it difficult to get a job and they are worried for their future," she says.

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