The world's leading banks are joining the fight to help improve social mobility in the UK by boosting access to the lucrative sector for talented students from modest backgrounds.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Lloyds are teaming up with educational charity The Sutton Trust in a new scheme.

The charity said the Pathways to Banking programme will improve social mobility by giving young people the training and support they need to realise their potential.

"I would never have enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur and philanthropist without both the education and access to opportunities I had," said Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation.

He added: "Too many state educated students remain unaware of the careers available in banking and how to attain them, and I believe it is in the interest of the banks to attract talent from a wider range of social backgrounds."

The scheme comes as the Sutton Trust published its Pathways to Banking report, which was conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and questioned 500 leaders and 1,800 new recruits in the financial services.

The research revealed that more than a third (34%) of recent intakes and over a half (51%) of leaders in the banking sector who were from the UK went to independent schools.

For the financial services sector as a whole, which included banking, insurance, hedge funds and asset management and private equity firms, the report found 37% of recent intakes and a majority (60%) of leaders were independently educated.

Pathways to Banking draws on an approach developed by the Sutton Trust through its successful Pathways to Law programme, which was funded by the Legal Education Foundation.

The scheme has supported 2,000 students during the last seven years and now involves 12 major universities, including Oxford, and 30 top law firms, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Mayer Brown.

Simon Martin, head of global corporate sustainability at HSBC, said: "I am delighted that HSBC is supporting the new Pathways to Banking programme to help improve social mobility by getting talented young people from less advantaged backgrounds into the top universities."