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INVESTMENT BANKING INTERN DIARY: It’s the last week, and all I can think about is my bed

This is where we will be posting this year’s anonymous investment banking intern diary. The author will be reporting back weekly on what it’s really like to spend the summer in the capital markets team at a leading investment bank.


WEEK TEN

The final week was the slowest so far of my internship and, after the draining few weeks I’ve had, this was a relief. I’d run out of steam, and was pretty inefficient with my tasks. I tried my hardest to focus, but I just craved my bed all day, every day.

The markets weren’t as frantic, but the analysts were still trying to milk as much as possible from the interns before they left. Most of the team were on holiday as well, so in some ways it was an anti-climax, but I welcomed the respite.

Let’s get this out of the way early on – I still don’t know if I’ll receive an offer. I met with HR and they explained that they only decide once the internship has ended. But we discussed how the internship had gone, my plans for the future and the recruitment process and it all seemed fair. I’m just hoping that I did enough.

This week I’ve drank way too much coffee, having gone out with my director, staffer, buddy and various analysts. I must have consumed enough to keep Starbucks in business for another few weeks.

Unexpectedly, I felt quite emotional saying goodbye to these people that I’ve worked with for (the vast majority) of the last ten weeks. I’ve made some great friends within the team, and the prospect of not seeing them again choked me up a little. I was looking forward to the break, though, it has to be said.

I even managed a night out this week, but it was a BAD mistake. If I ever worked full time here, I would find it really difficult to go out on week nights and get into the office in the morning. Admittedly, I may have had a bit too much to drink, but you do get a bit carried away when you haven’t seen your friends for so long. The next day was pretty awful, and I had to resort to a nap in the toilet again.

Packing up my desk on the last day was really sad. I had managed to collect about 3 pairs of shoes under my desk; I had clearly made myself at home. Even after saying goodbye, sending out some last minute emails and handing in my pass, I still felt like I’d be walking back in the next day. But it’s all over.

It has been the hardest 10 weeks of my life, but the most challenging as well. I am so thankful to everyone who made the experience what it was, and hopefully I’ll be starting full time on the desk next year.


WEEK 9

I had to make my final presentation this week, and came into the office on Monday at 9am having only left at 6am. After weeks of stress, I knew the project would be over by Tuesday, so just had to power through on coffee and Coke.

After a couple of weeks feeling nervous about it, the presentation went reasonably well, with no major hiccups. People from the team who attended told me that they were all very impressed with what I’d produced. This was obviously very encouraging, particularly towards the end of the internship, and gave me the extra motivation to carry on doing a good job for the remaining week and half.

Maybe that was their intention! I’m sure all the other interns’ presentations were just as good as mine. It’s getting to the stage now where we’re all thinking about the possibility of an offer and doing everything we can to try and make the best impression in the time we have left.

On that subject, I’ve been trying to network like crazy. I’ve met a lot of people from other divisions this week, and all of the MDs I got in touch with were friendly and willing to meet. A few of the VPs I contacted never got back to me, but a 50% response rate wasn’t too bad.

I took a lot of inspiration from the senior figures in the business, who were happy to share their experiences of how they managed to get to the top. The conclusion I’ve come to is that there’s no one route, and certainly no easy way.

The week ended on quite a fun note. We had our final IBD intern event of the summer out on the river followed by food (which disappeared very quickly). It was nice to catch up with everyone and hear their stories.

I’ve made some great friends here, and will be sure to keep in touch. It’s true what they say about networking with your class; some of these people who I am relaxing with now are going to be the financial leaders in the next 10 years or so. It will be interesting to see where everyone ends up.

As has been standard over the last few weeks, I had a bit of weekend work and ended up leaving the office at midnight on Sunday. But I wasn’t too fussed, as a lot of interns were around finishing up some work. Only one more week to go. Despite the long hours, I can’t believe it has gone so fast.


WEEK 8

This week, I’ve clocked 114 hours. I can honestly say I am physically and mentally shattered.

The bank has been squeezing what it can out of its interns. I’ve actually got quite used to the continuous late nights and lack of sleep. They haven’t done much for my appearance, but I managed to get into work by 9.30am every morning and work through the day. It’s become almost robotic.

August is typically a quiet month in banking and this August has been quieter than usual. I’ve been writing the daily updates for a deal I’ve been working on and it’s been a bit depressing – everything’s been going downhill.

On the other hand, however, we’ve been incredibly busy. It seemed our MDs wanted us to pitch to any and every company where there was even the vaguest chance of potential activity. A VP I was working with openly confessed that the current project we’re working on (and putting incredibly long hours into) is a complete waste of time and will never happen. Encouraging!

The late nights were mainly because people needed little tasks doing for their projects. Because they were working to morning deadlines, I usually had to work late to finish them. Mid-week, we had an intern-wide talk from another department, and embarrassingly, I was asleep from the moment I sat down. It seemed a lot of the other IBD interns were too.

By Thursday I was forced to confront the sad truth that the project was not taking shape. It was supposed to be in for Monday morning, and I could see I would be obliged to spend the weekend finishing it off. I wasn’t too happy with the finished product but there wasn’t much I could do. Nevertheless, considering I have never done any finance before, and received very little help, I was proud of what I’d produced. Come the early hours of Monday morning, I left the office at 6am and was in again for 9am to start the week…. I think it’s time for the caffeine supplements.

On another subject, I also realized last week that I had hardly been networking this summer, just the occasional chat with an MD or VP. So I emailed a dozen or so people I’d met to arrange a coffee. I’ve realized that I ought to meet as many people as I can before I leave in two weeks’ time. This isn’t just for the sake of it, but because I’d like to find out how people have got where they are.

I can honestly say, if you want to work in a place full of smart people who will challenge you at every corner, this is definitely an industry to consider. No one just accepts what you say: they want you to explain how you think, from MD to intern.


WEEK 7

How quickly things can change in this industry.

Just as I was starting to feel comfortable, I have the week from hell. Mentally, it was probably one of the toughest weeks of my life. With only four weeks to go I HAD to start making headway with my project too.

This week I was asked to help out with a pitch taking place on Friday. Nothing too strenuous according to the staffer. Well that was a lie.

I started to work on it properly by mid-week with my analyst and we were making good progress, so I left the office at 2am, and planned on spending the next day finalising it.

By Thursday we had finished so we submitted the book to the VP and MD for comments. The VP was not happy at all. He came back in at 11pm and made us re-do most of our work.

It was quite discouraging, and he was very blunt about it. At one point, he simply didn’t believe something I told him, and called another division to confirm, openly saying in front of me that ” she [I] doesn’t know anything”. This was the first time I truly felt taken back by someone’s comments. He wanted the book finished and printed by 1am. But after the MD sent his comment through too, we knew it was going to be a tough night. My latest yet in fact, I left at 5am.

That whole experience made me realise that this industry can be pretty ruthless. Though it was the first time I had come across quite aggressive management style, I had heard lots of stories from other interns about how they were treated. That early in the morning, it really makes you want to throw your coffee over someone!

On another note, I had my “breakfast with an MD” session, which was great. I haven’t had that much time to network with senior management so far except the odd coffee, so it was great to sit down and talk to someone who was clearly very respected in his line of work. He asked us all what we thought of the internship so far, and what our divisions were involved in at the moment. It made me realise just how involved interns are in what their teams are doing. You never realise how much you are learning until you talk out loud about it!


WEEK 6

Over half way there! I’ve actually had a good week! Not only am I into the final stretch, but I have started to think this might be the career for me. I’m enjoying working with my team, the work is challenging but I’m not in over my head and the hours have been manageable too. Maybe I’ve found what I want to do in life!

Workflow started to pick up this week and I was staffed on a longer term project, which was exciting. So far, I’ve spent my time doing little bits and pieces for projects, but this will give me a chance to really see how a deal is executed. My staffer warned me it would be a lot more work, but I was up for it! In the end, the week was a little bit busier than the last one, but still manageable.

Wednesday came, and so did my half way review. I was pretty nervous beforehand, as my director wanted to see some progress on my Summer Project which hasn’t been coming along too well. I tried to scramble a few pages together on the Tuesday night so I had at least something for him to glance at for about 5 seconds!

He seemed ok with what I gave him and I was pleased with my review overall. He gave me ‘anonymous’ feedback from the team, which was all very positive, and told me everyone was pleased with how hard I was working. BUT, there was one ‘developmental comment,’ as they like to all it. And despite this being anonymous, I knew who had written it! My analyst. He said I need to stop asking so many questions and to start figuring things out for myself.
This was a fair comment I guess – I have been asking a lot. Overall, however, I was happy with the remarks. ‘On your way to an offer’ is how he ended. Certainly put a smile on my face for the morning.

This week we also had a female intern breakfast. A senior female MD invited us to the executive suite (which was like a 5* hotel) and invited us to ask questions about women in banking. It was interesting to hear how much the mentality about females working in banks has changed over the last 20years. So far, I have never felt looked down on as a woman in the office – although some of the girls who were in all male teams said they sometimes felt uncomfortable. To be honest, banking is dominated by men; 80% of our IBD intern class is male. But it was good to mingle with female MDs and see how they got to where they are now.

The week passed quickly and by its end I’d staffed on some more projects, which was great. Since August is holiday season, a lot of the team are heading on holiday so things are going to get quiet. One of the analysts I’ve been working closely with is leaving for 4 weeks, so I won’t see him again. This is sad, but hopefully we’ll meet next year!

On Friday, I left the office and headed out with some interns to a very expensive club in London. Fortunately, I wasn’t paying. Investment bankers + money + club +being the only girl out = cheap and cheerful night for me!


WEEK FIVE

Things seemed to have quietened down a lot around here. This week, I’ve actually had time to read around the job and pull together everything I’ve learnt over the past four weeks.

On Monday morning, my analyst sat down with me and quizzed me a little on the basics of accounting. Unfortunately for me, I have never studied any finance, and didn’t really know what he was talking about. He could see right through me. But as ever with this team, he filled in the gaps and was more than happy to spend an hour of his time explaining what I didn’t know.

Despite the quietness, I’ve had reason to feel concerned. This summer, we have to complete a project. My buddy had warned me at the start to begin doing this from week two. But it’s now week five and I still haven’t chosen a topic.

Deciding that I couldn’t put this off any longer, I spent much of Tuesday reading through piles of research in an attempt to find something to focus on. I should point out I am the world’s worst decision maker, and had to resort to “ip-dip” to make a decision. I really need to work on this skill; it seems I won’t survive very long in this fast-paced industry without being able to make decisions.

I suspect my evaluating director also spotted my lack of progress on this project. He called me and the other intern into his office and asked us how it was going. We both had very little to say. I really need to buckle up this week!

I’ve definitely reached the stage of my internship where I’m expected to get things done on my own. Although the analyst was happy to explain accounting principles to me, I’m increasingly being left to figure things out for myself. I’m a quick learner, but much of the stuff I need to get to grips with is actually very difficult.

As the week went on, I therefore spent a long time trying to figure things out on my own. The analyst seemed happy that I’d attempted it. He revised it and he told me that if I was happy with it, to send it straight to the MD. Scary!

With holiday season approaching, many of the team left this week for a break. This meant that on some of the deals I had been working on previously, there was no Associate or VP on the job with me anymore. In some cases, it was just me and the MD. This was actually great exposure, although it was very daunting to be directly working for an MD. The senior staff are so friendly though, it really did not feel like I was working for someone so high up.

The week ended on a high, payday! Though I am not earning an impressive figure per hours worked, I definitely earned enough to pay for a very long holiday at the end of the internship. The weekend will be spent on expedia.com. Oh, and preparing for my mid-way review. Eek.


WEEK FOUR

Things got better this week. For the first time, I can say I have managed to have a life alongside work.

It helped that I wasn’t assigned to a particular project, but was helping do small jobs for all the projects that were going on in the team. It was interesting to learn about all the different pitches and companies we’re working work for at the moment.

With the markets the way they are at the moment with the Greek debt crisis, business across capital markets has been extremely subdued. I found myself reading more and more articles and attempting to understand investor behaviour. It all seems to be coming together now.

On Monday, I had to be in particularly early to meet with the sales force. I had put together a presentation over the weekend for the sales guys about a new issue we had worked on with a client. This was the first time the transaction was going public. It seemed crazy to think I knew about it for a long time before anyone else! It seemed even crazier to see my presentation being discussed around the table.

The rest of the week was spent doing small things. I pulled together a case study on an old transaction which I found really enjoyable. The research aspect of the job is definitely what I love most. I also did some work for the Director around current ongoing deals. He wanted me to document the deals we were working on and give a brief summary of each including financials, structure etc. This was a great exercise as I managed to learn a bit more about everything the team was involved with.

As I said earlier, I also managed to have some sort of social life. I made it into the city on two week nights. I feel like I am at school again! Even though I was a little tired the next day, I feel like it’s vital that you can maintain a work life balance. There is simply no way to survive in this industry when all the people you ever see are the ones you work with.

No weekend work this week! All in all it’s been a pretty great week.


WEEK THREE:

As I sit here writing this entry, I can hardly keep my eyes open. It’s finally the weekend, but I am so drained, I can’t even contemplate doing anything but sleeping.

Last week began much like the one before. Luckily, the analyst didn’t call me over the previous weekend so I managed to go home and see mum and dad. I went in on Monday feeling thoroughly refreshed and ready for a full week of work. I was going to be working on a few small projects, helping to prepare some presentations. It didn’t sound like much, so I thought this would be a pretty relaxing.

Monday and Tuesday definitely went this way. I was home by 11 both nights (this is early for me now). I spent both days trying to dodge the person whose computer I had been using the week before when I hadn’t been assigned one. I had saved pretty much all my work to her desktop; she wouldn’t be pleased. The work was beginning to get more interesting. I was putting together more slides, and slowly getting the hang of using PowerPoint efficiently.

Wednesday was actually quite fun. I was taking part in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge along with 150 other interns from different banks. It was a nice break from the office, and also the first chance I had to experience the warm weather. Having done close to no exercise for a couple of months, I was just hoping to complete the 5.6k! I managed to do so, and the free food and drink afterwards were great. It was nice to meet other interns and hear all their stories. Some of them went back to the office after, but I went straight home. My legs were absolutely killing me!

The rest of the week was not so fun. On Thursday, I was asked to help out with another deal where I had to chase clients for some information which had to be gathered by Friday. This involved e-mailing around 40 clients, attaching individual files, and forwarding their responses to relevant people. It was a long and pretty boring task, but it had to be done. I was in the office until 3am. The manager wanted me in by 8.30am the same day.

Four hours sleep and I was back in. My eyes were red and I was squinting at the computer screen the whole day. It was not good to think I had an entire day ahead of me. I carried on chasing the clients for the afternoon deadline. Around 4, I was given another task to do; prepare a presentation for the sales guys which needed to be finalised by Sunday evening. This meant I would definitely be in on Saturday.

By this point I was pretty much running off coffee and packets of crisps. I had no energy. I was determined to get the first draft done quickly so I could leave relatively early. I pulled all the graphs together and was out by 9pm. Saturday came and I was in for another 6 hours. There were a few analysts about so it wasn’t too depressing, but I couldn’t wait to go home. Mum’s cooking was just what I needed.


WEEK TWO:

This week started off a bit crazy. I moved into my London accommodation late on Sunday night after driving back from university only that evening.

You could say, this was a bad move. Training is now over and it was my first day on the desk on Monday, but this was the last chance to see my friends off before the summer. Anyway, I was absolutely shattered, and after 5 hours sleep I didn’t feel much better. But I was determined to start my internship off making a good impression, so arrived half an hour early. Only one analyst was around, but he saw me come in and acknowledged my early arrival. Hopefully he’ll tell the ED!

The day was filled with lots of meeting and greeting. I had a coffee with my evaluation director who ultimately decides if I get a job or not, and met my staffer briefly who gave me some idea of what I’ll be doing over the next 9 weeks.

It all sounded really interesting and I couldn’t wait to start. I was given some minor tasks to do, mainly involving trading comparables. Pretty mundane, but I was happy to be learning. Evening came and the directors started to leave. I thought I’d be off soon too… I was wrong. Despite it being my first day, my analyst sent me a long e-mail and asked me to read and learn it. I ended up leaving by midnight.

At lunch the next day with a few other interns, I realised leaving at midnight was extremely lucky. Some of them had been there until 2am.

Over the rest of the week I was introduced to some of the long term projects I’ll be working on, and started to work with more analysts and associates.

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent pulling together some slides for a presentation due on the Thursday morning. I left at 1.30am both nights. The analyst left at 3am and was in again by 8am. I would have stayed, but he told me to go home and I wasn’t going to argue.

Everyday this week, I have come home and gone to sleep straight away; I haven’t even met the other people living in the flat yet (they are all doing internships too). It is slightly saddening to think I won’t have much interaction with anyone except my team for the rest of summer.

I don’t know if I could handle that for the next few years of my life.

By Friday, I was falling asleep at my desk. I am ashamed to admit that I even went to the bathroom for a five minute snooze. I’m pretty sure someone was doing the same thing in the cubicle next to me. I had been given a specific project to do that day, and I was determined to finish early so I could meet my friends in town. I powered on without eating any lunch (surviving off vending machine coffee), and finished by 6pm. I did a few more bits for my Staffer so as to seem helpful, and then he told me to go.

Freedom! Bag packed and jacket on, I checked my e-mail one last time. One new message from the analyst, ‘I might need you on the weekend, send over your mobile number please. Thx’. Rats.


WEEK ONE:

I wake up in a panic. As usual, my alarm seems to have muted itself. This is bad: I’m not about to miss yet another university lecture, but the first day of my internship. NOT a good start.

I spend the next half an hour sweating on my commute to Canary Wharf and am running in my heels to get to the office. I arrive 15 minutes late, but it’s thankfully no big deal – everyone’s still milling about in the foyer saying hello to each other. Notably, they are mostly boys. I manage to find a few girls eventually, all of whom are looking as stricken as me to be immersed in such a sea of men.

The rest of the day turns out to be great. There’s a panel with current analysts, during which – surprisingly – everyone seems initially reluctant to ask questions but ultimately poses the inevitable ones (“Do you have time for a life? What are the hours like?”) and receives honest answers (“Barely.” “Long.”)

The first day ends with a drinks session with our ‘buddies.’ This is basically a networking session, of which I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come.

The remainder of the first week is spent in a computer suite learning the basics of accounting, how to value a company, and the use of Excel and Powerpoint.

I’m not very computer literate and I feel frankly overwhelmed with the amount we’re expected to learn in a very short space of time.

By Thursday, I am knackered. I meet my buddy for a quick coffee and he tells me I have been assigned to a capital markets team. He also tells me that the earliest I can expect to leave the office will be 9pm, but that I can expect a free dinner in the office if I stay past 8.30pm.

On Friday, I have my first day on the new desk. I am pretty nervous and have NO idea what to expect. We are given an overview of the project we’re supposed to submit in 8 weeks’ time, which is pretty depressing as I barely understand it at all.

Nevertheless, things start looking up as I am introduced to the team and within an hour we are in the pub. Following this, I am introduced to another intern working near me. Depressingly, I note that she is looking at a MASSIVE file of numbers and Excel sheets. This is one hour after arriving on the desk.

I must clearly up my game. This could be an interesting summer. Stay tuned.

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