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Read this diary of my operations internship in an investment bank and you will understand why I am determined to work in the front office


This summer, I spent 12 weeks working as an intern at a leading investment bank in London. I wasn’t in M&A. Nor was I in sales or trading. I was in operations. What’s operations? Read the condensed version of my internship below.

Is operations an appealing job? That’s for you to find out. Personally, however,  I will be doing my best to ensure I work in either sales or trading when I graduate.

Week 1:

• A crash course on financial markets

• A lot of talks from HR and people in compliance about being a good banker and representing the firm

• Some networking events with interns and mid-ranking managers

Week 2:

• Introduction to the teams you’ll actually be working with

• An explanation of what those teams do and how they fit into the ‘complex lifecycle of a trade’

• Attempts to ask traders what they really do. Traders seem to stall for fear of jeopardising their own jobs.

• Work shadowing staff to get a feel of how a trade flows (from sales to trading to the back office).

• I am often left alone and use this time to browse the, ‘educational centre.’

Week 3:

• Massive social event.

• Lot of repetitive redundant excel tasks

• Handed a project aimed at streamlining trading and making more money for the bank

Week 4:

• Finish first project (way ahead of schedule), handed a 2nd. This one very, ‘complex and customer-orientated.’

• Use all spare moments on the online training courses provided by the firm.

• Fully familiarise myself with the Bloomberg machine and became the office Bloomberg guy. Everyone learns I love the Bloomberg machine and asks me to deal with anything requiring it. I love the BBG machine because I want to be a trader. They don’t know this.

Week 5:

• Massive responsibility. Handed a lot of the work for handling trades as they pass through my desk. I am now doing the job of a full time desk assistant.

• Exhausted. Keep falling asleep.

• VP meets with us interns and asks us to analyse 6 months’ of raw data to highlight system improvements. This is dubbed “the intern project”

Week 6:

• Try to make a start on the intern project but daily tasks are extremely time consuming

• Due to sickness and resignations the team was struggling so all the work load falls onto me

• Other interns doing the same projects are making progress on their main projects. I haven’t even started.

Week 7:

• Try to meet with manager to ask for less daily tasks so I can work on the project. Given 3 hours every alternate day

• Start attending office wide meetings to get a feel for the company culture; very welcoming and warm

• Go along to a volunteering event to promote the firm to a few local charities and spend the day having a laugh with the other interns

• I have started leaving the office a few hours after all the other interns

• I am really close to finish the ‘intern project’ when I am told the VP wants a reproducible Excel template to carry out all my analysis in the future

• As the daily tasks are not going to stop,  I start studying the process instead of just doing them blindly and pick out bits that could be automated

• By the end of the week I have implemented a few small basic Macros in the excel sheets which reduced my work load by 20%, letting me finish the daily tasks faster and get back to the intern project

Week 8:

• Start learning how to write Macros and use VBA in Excel

• I break down the process in which I analyse the data and write a Macro

• I’m still spending 6 hours or more a day on daily tasks

• I arrive in the office around 8am and leave around 9pm

• The cleaners are my friends and make fun of the fact that they leave work before I do!!

• I speak to my VP and ask if I could possibly have a wander around the trading floor just to get some exposure to it

Week 9:

• We cancel our presentation as not all the interns can make it to present to all the MD’s & VP’s in the department

• Associates go over my Powerpoint slides and tell me to redo everything, from the beginning

• I negotiate my daily tasks down to 3 hours per day so that I have more time to spend on ‘the intern project’

• I am doing other bits and pieces of projects here and there

Week 10:

• I manage to redo everything and rewrite the presentation to the specification of the associates

• I decide to call over my MD and ask his opinion. He makes me redo the analysis for a 3rd time based on business need. Most of the analysis the associates have suggested is redundant as it’s not beneficial to the firm.

• Meanwhile, my formulas and codes for daily tasks have become so complex that trying to debug them has become a nightmare! I signed up for banking not programming

• Other associates from other departments hear how fast I have finished some of the tasks and they urge my manager to make me do their work as well since they were all similar

• I am angry that other departments are giving their interns free space to run around while I am not only doing some of the team’s work and my own projects, but other projects that should have been handed to other interns

Week 11:

• Finally finish “the intern project” and stop doing the daily tasks as new staff  join the team and sickness has decreased overall

• My VP is very impressed with what I found out about the department in my analysis and sees this as an opportunity to develop the weaknesses I highlighted to further improve the efficiency of the department overall

• The other interns have gone down the “discussion” root and just speak about existing problems they have heard about by talking to other people, yet I have actually carried out some in depth analysis of my own and my conclusions are not influenced by pre-existing problems in the process or anyone else’s perception of the issues

• Seeing I’ve managed to write a macro and develop a new report for the department, all the other MD’s start conditioning their raw data so they can use it and get the same analysis carried out in their department

• Once I have some free time to breath, I start staying behind after hours and get my BBG certificates

• I manage to go through most of the online education material too

• Due to my exposure to the daily tasks,  I start networking with other staff in FO and MO, email them for advice on how to succeed in their department and how to deal with HR

Week 12:

• After a week of relaxing, the associates realise I will be leaving by the end of the week to go back to university

• Pressure is high from my associates to finish their projects. 3 different people asking for different things at the same time can get really stressful when you can’t say no to any of them.

• I meet with the associates and give them some realistic targets so that no one thinks I’m underperforming. They’ve  benchmarked me against earlier in the internship when I finished projects very fast, and this could be a problem.

• On Tuesday my VP calls me into his office and said he will arrange for me to visit the trading floor for a quick tour, but i wouldn’t be paid for it so I need to take a holiday

• By Thursday night, I make sure everything is done and taken care of, say all my goodbyes to everyone and hand in my badge, looking forward to Friday morning when I get to see the trading floor

• I start preparing questions for people I will meet on Friday

• The experience is priceless and I make sure all my questions are answered within those few hours!!

• Now I’m doing everything i can within my power to make sure I secure a front office role ASAP

In conclusion, the internship taught me that neither networking alone nor excelling at your daily task will get you under the spotlight. It’s a combination of the two, and you have to make sure you get the right balance. When you do, doors will open.

Comments (2)

  1. Ops is not banking.

  2. So, did it work?

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