Next Monday, 13 young people will join Citi as apprentices, earning while they learn and kick-starting the bank’s first ever apprentice scheme for young people who haven’t gone to university. Increasing diversity and inclusion and a bid to boost Citi’s talent pool lie at the heart of the strategy, explains Dino Zannetos, COO Treasury and Trade Solutions, EMEA, whose business will take six of the new recruits who will work across data analysis and project and operations management. “This is a business-led initiative that is totally aligned with our values,” he says.
Citi’s apprenticeship scheme mirrors a move amongst other banking groups to tap a different kind of talent. For example, J.P. Morgan has just hired its first investment banking apprentices in the UK under a four-year programme that includes funding to complete a degree in applied finance at the University of Exeter. Tech firms have been offering apprenticeship schemes for a while, and Zannetos explains that a key aim of the initiative is to tap digital talent to help drive the bank’s digital transformation. “The generation we are recruiting through the scheme was born in the digital era. We are hoping they will bring a different way of looking at things to the table as we promote digitalisation across the bank. Junior talent brings a lot of energy and is hungry to learn,” he says.
Citi’s search beyond university-educated candidates began 18 months ago when over 2,500 young people applied for the scheme. Working with WhiteHat, a London-based tech start-up with the stated purpose to “democratise access to the best careers,” Citi was comfortable casting its net in a new and different pool in the search for talent, says Zannetos. “We felt very comfortable looking outside the typical pool of candidates that come with a graduate degree,” he said. “Diverse junior talent comes in different shapes and forms. We recognise that these individuals don’t have university degrees, but that is not to say they don’t’ have huge potential and a strong motivation to join the business, and a huge desire to learn.”
Candidates joining Treasury and Trade Services will work across front office and technology. They will follow structured learning programmes in full-time roles over 18 months, covering data analysis and project and operations management, all designed to help make the transition to a corporate environment. Zannetos, who notes that a supportive and nurturing environment provided by strong leaders is also key to unlocking talent, adds that mentors and buddies will allow apprentices to work in real roles under Citi’s established mentoring system. “We will help the individuals to take their careers whereever they want to go. This is what Citi is all about – it is up to them to decide what path they want to choose because the opportunities are all there.”
A catalyst for the creation of new schemes has been the UK government’s apprenticeship levy, a tax on employers which , forces large employers in the UK to set aside an equivalent of 0.5 per cent of their wage bill to spend on approved apprenticeship programmes. While the total number of apprenticeships has been declining for several years, new schemes are being created to attract school leavers to professional roles or provide management training for senior executives. The latest apprenticeship statistics for England published by the Department for Education showed that between March and July 2020 the number of new apprenticeships was nearly 50% lower than the same period in 2019.