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Do you need to be multilingual and complete multiple internships to get a graduate job in investment banking now?

There's a mountain of internships to climb before you get anywhere near a graduate job offer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There's a mountain of internships to climb before you get anywhere near a graduate job offer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want to join an investment bank after graduating, you may think your path to success is simple: spring week in the first year, a 10 week summer internship in the 2nd year and then – with luck – the offer of a full time job offer waiting for you when you leave university.

That’s the theory.

However, our analysis of this year’s analyst hires at Bank of America, UBS, and (especially) JPMorgan, suggests it doesn’t necessarily work this year. Most of the university graduates hired into investment banks’ London offices aren’t UK graduates. A lot of them come from Continental European universities, speak multiple languages and completed multiple universities. Some even come from China.

UBS’s hires this year, for example, include an economics graduate from UCL who is fluent in both English and Mandarin. He’s interned at Herbert Smith, Deutsche Bank and – finally UBS. He’s also completed spring internships at both McKinsey and Barclays.  And he’s completed a month’s internship at HSBC in Brazil.  Similarly, JPMorgan has hired a Brazilian analyst into its investment banking team who studied management at Warwick Business School and has completed internships at JPMorgan, Lazard, Santander, and Banco Espirito in Brazil.

Among the eight people we looked at in JPMorgan’s 2012 analyst class, 5 had completed multiple internships.

So, what does this mean if you’re a lowly UK university graduate without so much as a two week photocopying stint at a local stockbroking firm?

Must try harder

You’ll need to get something. Being academically excellent is a prerequisite for getting a job in an investment bank, but it is not enough to ensure your success.

“The standard is high. Most of our full time graduate hires have interned with us and many have also completed internships elsewhere,” says Sally Whitman, head of graduate recruitment at Credit Suisse. “The strong candidates will have demonstrated their interest in the industry in every way they can.”

In line with our guide to the way investment banks’ graduate recruiters evaluate CVs, Whitman says work experience is an important means of differentiating between academically strong candidates. “We want to see that a candidate has the drive and determination to get as much work experience as possible. This can be a real differentiator because among top students academic qualifications can look very similar,” she says.

This means you’ll need to do whatever you can to find an internship for 2013. Greg Smith – whose book on Goldman Sachs is out today – says he found his first internship by cold calling. “I managed to land an internship by cold-calling some 30 or 40 people at banks and brokerage house. (“Hi, this is Greg Smith, I’m a sophomore at Stanford, and I’m looking to get some experience. Are you guys offering internships this summer?”). Ultimately, Smith says he landed an internship simply by offering to work for the minimum wage at Paine Webber.

There are no norms, but you may need to keep interning after you’ve left university 

There are no norms when it comes to the kinds of experience you need to get into investment banking, says Malcolm Horton, global head of recruiting at Nomura International. In the UK, it’s still normal to only have one internship, says Horton. In Continental Europe, it’s common to have more.

Logan Naidu, CEO of Dartmouth Partners, a recruitment company which runs outsourced graduate recruiting schemes for several banks agrees that UK graduates are often less experienced:“The norm in the UK is still a single summer internship and maybe a spring week. People without internships are still getting hired.”

Horton points out that if you complete too many internships, it may even act against you: “If you’ve completed a lot of internships, it begs the question why none of them have been converted into full time job offers.”

He also says that it may be necessary to keep applying for internships in the hope of converting one into a full time job offer even after you’ve graduated. “We see a lot of candidates who have no hesitation about interning after they’ve graduated,” he says. “If you’ve spent the past 4-6 years preparing yourself for a career in banking then doing one more internship is a worthwhile investment if that’s what it takes to get in.”

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  1. This game is over, when will these poor kids wake up?

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