Securing an internship in a Nordic bank is no longer down to who you know

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The days of nepotism during the graduate recruitment process in Nordic banks are a bygone era, and most students - international or local - are assessed on their merits rather than their connections.

Launching an initiative to crack down on nepotism in internships, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was embarrassed this month when the media revealed his well-connected father had pulled strings to enable him to work as an intern at the Helsinki-based commercial bank, Postipankki, for a brief period between leaving school and university.

Postipankki disappeared in the late 1990s, when it merged with Suomen Vientiluotto and, following a number of further mergers, became Sampo Pankki in 2001.

All the main Nordic banks do, of course, still offer a range of internship opportunities, though the numbers taken on tend to be small, with Swedbank, for example, focusing on taking on students studying economics, IT or science and SEB regularly offering work placements to students.

Within Nordea, too, the bank's capital markets division often takes on a number of interns, last year advertising for two interns to work within DCM for 20 weeks.

The global nature of banking does mean Nordic banks do attract students from all over the world, says Carola Hjelt, Nordea's graduate programme manager, based in Finland.

Out of the bank's current intake of 63 graduates, one is from Germany, one from France, one from Lithuania and one from Ecuador, she points out, though adding that internship opportunities tend to be scarcer.

"In terms of internships, I don't know of many students who come from overseas just to do internships, but it does vary from area to area within the bank.

"What we tend to find happens much more is that students come here to study, like it here and then, when they've finished their studies, apply to come and work here permanently. We have many young people working here from all over the world," she adds.

Either way, and whatever the opportunities, the days of parental string-pulling and calling in of favours are definitely long gone, she stresses.

"While English will, of course, be spoken, having some Nordic language skills will be an advantage, especially if when you are applying for an entry-level permanent position. But, whether for internships or permanent positions, it is all very much done on merit, there is no pulling of strings," she says.

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