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Diary of an IBD intern: Banking isn’t a glamour industry for geniuses

final intern pic

In a flash, it’s all over. Although tough, and at times, oh, so long, I’ve completed my investment banking internship still feeling fresh and relatively enthusiastic. In many ways the experience hasn’t always been as enjoyable as I’d hoped. But in many other ways it’s completely surpassed my expectations. Let me explain.

For a start, the people I got to work with were great. They were generally very easy to get on with, up for a laugh, genuinely respectful to interns and reasonable in terms of their expectations. It was a huge contrast to the arrogance and coldness I was expecting. The people you work with – much more than the clients – ought to be your main concern as an analyst as they’re the only people you’ll really deal with. I feel that my team struck a great balance between getting me involved and recognising my inexperience. Not everybody is at all so lucky with their teams though and they do differ a lot in terms of culture – much like the differences between university cultures actually. I’ve really learned that team selection, above even bank choice, is absolutely critical to an intern’s experience.

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The work has by and large been more dull and monotonous than I expected. But it’s also been surprisingly easy to pick-up quickly. I’ve learned that an analyst’s job is basically manipulating data and collating information to put into pitches whilst also occasionally assisting superiors in the management of a deal. Banking isn’t particularly glamorous and isn’t particularly for geniuses. It’s not about having super stamina or enjoying late night work. It’s about being reliable, accurate, driven and astute. The most respected junior bankers are those that produce high quality work time and time again, on time and in good time. It’s not those that work the longest hours or are necessarily the smartest that are held in the highest regard.

Technically I’ve developed massively over the internship. Although without doubt the training programmes have helped in this regard, I’ve learnt much more from actually being on the desk. It’s then that you find out what is actually done most commonly and what techniques are actually used. Even more importantly, being on the desk has let me see which short-cuts people take to get results and which theory just isn’t so practically applicable. I’ve started to learn how to problem solve at the most basic level and where the limitations are with my work too. It’s here that you can start adding real value to a project.

Still, I believe that what the internship experience has taught me about myself – in terms of understanding my abilities, motivations and expectations to a greater extent – has been more valuable than almost anything else. I previously thought that I’d be particularly strong relative to the other interns in terms of my numerical ability based on my experiences at university. But it was actually in my ability to manage my workload that I felt most confident by the end of the internship. I also used to focus much more on the money that a career in banking could bring to me, although I now give that much less weight. I just couldn’t imagine it making the job worth doing if you’re not really interested in it. And you’d never be successful at it either. I’m now much more focused on finding a job I enjoy.

All in all, my summer internship has allowed me to learn an incredible amount, be pushed hard, develop a lot both emotionally and technically, sharpen my future aspirations and even earn some good money for my impending final year. I’ve met some great people and made some brilliant friends who I hope to keep in contact with.

I leave my summer internship with more questions, not fewer though, and have a lot to think about: Where is my career heading? What do I want from it? Enjoyment? Money? Challenge? Progression? But I can answer one question for sure: would I do it all again? Absolutely. The industry is riding an upsurge in momentum and it seems like a great time to get into M&A. Just to try it out is definitely an experience I’d recommend to anyone.

Oh, and I got the job offer.

Comments (2)

Comments
  1. I’ve really enjoyed the diary series. Congrats on the job offer and best of luck!

  2. Agreed. I was a banker for just 2 years (& buyside for about 17). Very clear from day one that smart & thoughtful were more a hindrance than an asset. Not that I didn’t like the job, but it’s a different gig.

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