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Financial services want grads with ‘soft skills’
February 17, 2005
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Indianapolis, Ind. — Indianapolis-based Networks Financial Institute (NFI), an initiative of Indiana State University, has published research that addresses the skills, experiences and curricula employers in the banking, insurance and securities industry are seeking in new college hires.

The research indicates that while employers deem it important for new hires to have a solid education based on traditional curriculum, there is an intense and emerging interest in “soft skills,” particularly in the area of business ethics and financial services specific coursework.

The research study interviewed 181 hiring managers and human resources recruitment officers representing small, mid-sized and large institutions in the banking, securities and insurance sectors across the nation. Objectives focused on understanding the importance of and preferences for new college grad work experience, curriculum and skills within the financial services sectors. The research also sought to assess the college courses hiring officers deemed most valuable in new college grads.

“The information gleaned from this research has implications for higher education, financial institutions and the college grads,” says Liz Georgakopoulos, Executive Director of NFI. “The findings provide insight into what curricula need to be strengthened or added, what skill sets employers need to coach and mentor in new hires, and feedback that can help students better prepare to meet future employers’ expectations.”

Financial services companies participating in the research hired on average 10 new college grads in the past year. Overall, these companies placed more emphasis on soft skills when hiring new college grads, with curriculum a close second and experience being less important. These findings were true regardless of company size or sector. The soft skill deemed most important by a large margin was ethics (honesty and integrity) followed by communications, teamwork, discipline, enthusiasm, maturity and problem solving. The least important soft skills were project management, presentation and planning skills.

When asked to evaluate the soft skills performance of recent college grads, research participants cited ethics, enthusiasm and teamwork as the strongest skill sets. Respondents cited leadership potential, analysis, business writing and decision making as the weakest skill sets.

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