Smart Futures supports renewed view of banking opportunities

  • 8 June 2022
  • 2025 Foundation | Blog | Career Development | Volunteering Opportunities | Blog

The results from the pilot cohort of the Chartered Banker Institute’s Smart Futures Programme have been overwhelmingly positive. The students reported that their business and communication skills, their confidence in sharing ideas with a group, and their time management skills increased to 100% after taking part in the programme.  

“I have gained a lot of confidence as a result of the programme,” said one participant. “Before I took part, I couldn’t have imagined the great amount of self-development I have experienced in such a short amount of time.” 

Deepening the talent pool 

In an industry that’s often found itself reputationally compromised when it comes to areas such as diversity and inclusion, and which has worked hard to shift the shadow of the 2008 crisis, opening up to a new generation of talent from as broad a pool as possible is important.  

“Often, we see a real desire from businesses to be much more inclusive and to address the lack of diversity both within the organisation and within the talent pipelines. But, what's needed is the link,” says Kathryn Eastwood, Head of Business Development and Employer Partnerships at EY Foundation. “Smart Futures can provide that link.”  

Indeed, the programme specifically reached out to young people from low-income or under-represented backgrounds. “Some 82% of those in the pilot cohort were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and 100% were from free-school-meal backgrounds,” says Kathryn. 

Building awareness 

One of the barriers that can prevent recruitment is a lack of awareness of the opportunities available within the sector. As part of the programme, students were exposed to different departments, providing a glimpse into the breadth of career possibilities and the different pathways into them. “A lot of our young people have very traditional and narrow views of, firstly, what a bank entails, and second, the type of person that would or should work there,” adds Kathryn. 

The programme has certainly helped shift perceptions, with 100% of those taking part in the pilot stating that they now have a better idea of the careers available within the industry. As one participant explained: “I thought that banks were just there to keep people’s money safe, but it is much more than that.” 

An inclusive sector 

Exposure to the myriad departments that make up a bank didn’t just highlight different career opportunities, it also showed that employers are walking the walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion. A survey of the pilot cohort before the programme started found that only 32% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the banking sector is a good employer for young people of all backgrounds, regardless of sex or ethnicity. A post-programme survey showed this had increased to 100%.  

“It’s very diverse and inclusive,” remarked one participant after completing the programme. “During my placement, I met different people from different backgrounds who all worked in banking.” 

For the future of the industry, this is a crucial point, says David Thorburn, former President of The Chartered Institute of Bankers. “It’s important for a variety of reasons that the industry is looking to improve the diversity of its employee base and to reach out into parts of the community that have traditionally felt themselves excluded.”