Young bankers have a home in Scotland

  • 11 August 2022
  • Blog | Career Development | Blog

For young or aspiring bankers looking to launch their careers, Scotland’s financial sector offers solid growth and an open-minded approach.

Keith Thompson, HR Director at private bank Hampden & Co, shares some advice for young bankers starting their careers in Scotland.                _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

When it comes to financial powerhouses, there are few cities in the UK, or indeed worldwide, that can compare to the bright lights of London.

For young and aspiring bankers searching for the best opportunities, a graduate scheme tied to one of London’s big financial organisations has been a traditional route into the industry.

However, the unstoppable growth of Scotland’s banking sector – teamed with a forward-thinking approach to purpose-driven banking, means that for today’s young bankers, making a home in cities such as Glasgow or Edinburgh, could offer an alternative to typical London life.

Scottish banks are steeped in history

The Bank of Scotland is one of the UK’s oldest banking institutions, and dates back to the 17th Century. Edinburgh’s other ancient financial institution, the Royal Bank of Scotland was established back in 1724; and a short trip across the Central Belt leads to the home of Clydesdale Bank, itself formed in Glasgow 1838.

All three banks have retained the rights to print their own bank notes, and have played a major role in shaping Scotland’s economic status over hundreds of years.

There are other notable aspects of the country’s financial presence. American juggernaut J.P.Morgan, one of the world’s largest banks, chose Edinburgh as an expansion location in 2015. And, investment company Baillie Gifford, which currently boasts $454.9billion in assets under management, was founded in Edinburgh, and still has headquarters in the city today.

While Scotland may not offer the towering skyscrapers of the City of London, there is an established and significant financial history, particularly within the country’s two major cities.

The sector is growing

Banking in Scotland is not married to the past, however. The sector has demonstrated solid growth over recent years, and the Scottish Government has invested heavily in its start up ecosystem, and future financial and data skills programmes.

Glasgow has jumped 13 places in the Global Financial Centres Index, placing it 52nd in the world, Edinburgh also moved forward one place, making both cities global competitors when it comes to financial services.

A new Barclays campus in Glasgow is set to hire 5,000 people by 2023, and the Barclays workforce has grown by 90% in the city in recent years.

New banks are opening

The comparatively new independent private bank, Hampden & Co., opened its doors in 2015. Registered in Edinburgh, Hampden has offices in London and has grown to hire over 100 employees. According to Keith Thompson, Director of HR at Hampden, championing young and aspiring bankers plays an important role in the organisation’s approach to talent and values.

“I think there’s quite a lot of things a young or aspiring banker can bring to an organisation. Often, it’s a different perspective and an inquisitive mind; asking questions which challenge us, make us reflect, make us think of things in a new way,” says Keith.

“We are always on the lookout for good people to join the organisation, and in particular, people who are looking to start or develop their careers within banking.”

“We try hard here to champion innovation, continuously improve, and encourage all our employees to take ownership of making things better if they feel something isn’t working well. So, if young aspiring bankers have ideas about change, or want to try and do things differently, then that can be of real value.”

Advice to aspiring bankers

For any young or aspiring bankers looking to make a home in one of Scotland’s financial institutions, Keith offers some guidance to getting started.

“A key piece of advice I’d give to any young or aspiring banker is to try and experience as many different types of organisations and roles as you can; move around, try different departments within an organisation,” says Keith. “Financial Services is a broad term: trying different areas helps you to gain exposure and increase your understanding of banking.”

For Hampden, ensuring a solid cultural fit is fundamental to their recruitment approach. The bank seeks out individuals that align with their values, and takes their social responsibility seriously. More can be done, says Keith, to improve diversity amongst financial institutions.

“I think it’s about being open minded, looking at the aspirations of the business and the aspirations of the individual, and ensuring a cultural fit.”

Returning to advice for young bankers, Keith adds: “Be inquisitive. Sign up to news feeds, soak up information, set up Google alerts. There’s so much information out there, so try and keep abreast of what is happening. Understand what’s happening in the greater environment, economically socially and environmentally. And make sure you’re networking.”

While Scotland may never overtake London as the financial centre of the UK, its growing financial sector, strong history, and forward-thinking approach to banking makes it an interesting option for young or aspiring bankers looking to start their career.

As Keith summarizes: “The current financial services offering in Edinburgh presents a fantastic opportunity. Edinburgh is a great city, so is Glasgow -- and more broadly, Scotland is a great country focused on growth. Although, perhaps I am biased!”

(1) Edinburgh and Glasgow improve rankings in global financial centres report’, 2022.

(2) ‘Barclays unveils new campus in Glasgow’, 2021.