This is where we will be posting this year’s anonymous markets intern diary. The author will be reporting back weekly on what it’s really like to spend the summer in a sales team at a leading investment bank.
I’m packing my bags in preparation for jetting off somewhere hot and sunny, away from the constant grey drizzle of London town. The past week seems like a lifetime ago; I’ve cast my suit aside, am sporting a pair of comfortable trackies, and struggle to recollect my final days as an intern.
As you’ll note from the diary below, my chances of gaining a full-time place were negligible and I had spent the weekend prior to the final week on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But on Sunday afternoon, my fighting spirit re-emerged and I wasn’t prepared just to give up after eight weeks slogging my guts out.
I devised a game-plan, which can best be described as a Blitzkrieg.
Firstly, I sent out a number of e-mails to my network in the bank, telling them that my dreadful presentation wasn’t an accurate representation of me and that I’d simply buckled under the pressure of it all. Sounds pretty desperate, right?
Well, the response was fairly positive. Some members of the business offered me some advice and told me that this had been noted, and that it would be taken into account in my final review. This was a huge improvement on where I finished on Friday, but wasn’t enough and I wanted some really positive feedback.
This required a bold move. I contacted the panel before whom I’d royally exploded and begged for a chance for a mulligan on my presentation. Amazingly, they agreed. Either this meant that they wanted to give me a second chance, or that I’d screwed up so badly it was merely a vote of sympathy. Either way, I wasn’t taking any chances – I triple checked every number and performed about 20 dummy run throughs.
I had a decent idea of the type of questions they were likely to ask, but unlike the previous occasion, I didn’t crumble like a biscuit. I faced up to the grilling and gave some intelligent and accurate answers.
Riding on the crest of this success, I then fired out a barrage of e-mails to members of the business throughout the organisation and did my best to impress with some trade ideas I’d crimped off the sales guys and regurgitated.
This all seemed to be working in my favour and by the time decision time came on Friday, I knew it would be a close call.
Interns have not been immune from banks’ headcount culling, so much of the day was spent gossiping about those who had been given offers and those who failed. It was finally my turn; I met with a stone-faced lady, who launched into a spiel about how hard it had been to pick the grads this year etc etc…and then said I’d been given an offer!
I stood with a look of disbelief for around 30 seconds, until she just started laughing.
It has been an emotional 9 weeks, and one which I will probably never forget. I have learned a lot, made a couple of great friends I will keep in contact with and, most importantly, come away with a graduate job in an incredibly tough market. The whole process has been absolutely draining, and I am definitely going to cherish my last year at university, where a 9am lecture still feels like torture.
This week has been awful; by the end of it I felt more battered than long-only hedge fund manager’s portfolio. Not only have I been working 18-hour days throughout the week (totally unheard of in the markets division), but I have completely thrown away my internship by screwing up my final presentation.
Monday morning didn’t start well; I hadn’t worked on my presentation at all. Call me stupid if you like, but I just need one relaxing weekend after last week. Speaking to the other interns, I developed a mild sense of panic when I realised they’d finished their presentation over the weekend.
I thought I only had to fill in a few gaps, maybe throw in an extra couple of slides, but I soon realised that there was a lot of essential information missing. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a huge problem – I could have just called the research analysts. However, it’s summer and everyone I needed to speak to was on holiday.
I felt I had two choices; guestimate some data, or just completely omit it. I went for the former, which was a bad decision in hindsight.
The week was progressing at an alarming rate and my presentation simply didn’t seem to be coming together quickly enough. This meant long hours – 6am until midnight – and by the time I’d completed it, I hadn’t been able to practice it once, some information had been entirely estimated or I just omitted some details. It wasn’t going to go well.
So, here’s the part where my guestimates turned out to be correct and I waltz through the presentation on a wing and a prayer, right? Uh, no. Unsurprisingly, I was completely torn to pieces and fed to the wolves by the panel of MDs assessing me. Every question they asked became more complex, every small hole picked at, until I eventually melted quicker than a chocolate tea pot and waited for the earth to swallow me up.
I sulked at my desk for some time, knowing that I’d probably smashed my chances of a full-time offer to pieces. With a week to go, my only option is to network aggressively and hope that an MD will take a liking to me, but I feel like I’m clutching at straws.
I started this week thinking a lot about the intern presentation. Some of the interns have already finished it and submitted it to HR. I have not even begun it. As it’s very important to our chances of receiving a job offer, this is not good.
I tried to get started on the presentation on the first day, but seemed to spend most of my time messing around on formatting. And then, as the week progressed, I realized that I was spending so much time on the presentation that I was spending no time on the desk. I figured I ought to balance the two out and tried to get more hands-on on my rotation. This didn’t work out either.
With lighter trading volumes and no liquidity in the markets, volatility was causing the markets to yo-yo. This meant the traders were even more irritable and less willing to talk than normal. Considering normal means they will only speak to me once every 30 minutes and that I’ve been spending a lot of time just watching them uncomprehendingly, their increased irritability was a problem.
The traders will need to judge me on something other than my watching skills, so I asked them for a project. They didn’t oblige and said I needed to stick to asking questions and learn how to price trades. This isn’t as simple as it sounds!
Altogether it was a pretty frustrating week. There was no way in hell I could price trades unless someone explained it to me. And no one did so, even though I asked repeatedly.
Worse still, even when they could have helped me at the end of the day they went home immediately – knowing I had been waiting all day for them to talk to me.
By Friday, I thought there was no point in wasting any more time trying to do something productive on the desk and just tried to get on with my presentation. But I was pretty fed up by then so my productivity slumped and I decided I would take my work home with me at the weekend. I’ve figured that if I can produce a decent presentation it will help negate any bad feedback I get from my second rotation. At least, this is what I’m hoping.
This week marked the start of my second and final rotation. I was slightly nervous as I was going to be on a trading desk, whereas my previous rotation was on a sales desk.
Internships on trading desks are notoriously very hard as it is difficult to add value, unlike research or sales desks where interns can generally be much more hands on.
As soon as I had arrived and taken my blazer off, I found myself doing something which I had so far managed to avoid, my first coffee run of the internship. Worse still, I made the mistake of not writing down what everyone wanted and tried to memorize it.
This had dire consequences as not only did people have specific requests such as ‘skinny’ or ‘with chocolate’ there were also the different sizes. Completely messing up half the traders’ order wasn’t the best first impression and they certainly did not hesitate to let me know that they were unhappy. So I painfully learnt that a notepad would be essential in future.
Most rotations begin with shadowing to get an understanding of exactly what it is the desk does and about the asset class. But the traders were so busy, that even when I thought they were free for a second and asked them a question they would just ignore me. So by the end of the first day I was still mystified as to what the hell the desk did.
As the week went on, my skill at intuiting when traders had 5 seconds free in which I could quickly ask a quick question improved massively. I often had to wait 30 minutes for this 5 second window to appear, so my acquisition of knowledge was generally quite slow and it took me a full week to understand what exactly the desk did.
Towards the end of the week my MD gave me a dummy trading book to run, which was pretty tough as I didn’t even know what a trade for that asset class was. Luckily I manage to waffle a couple of trades out by Friday with a few generic reasons as to why they would be profitable due to the current fragile economic climate. All in all this was probably the worst week of my internship so far. I am not sure how I going to impress my team to get the sort of review which will bring me a graduate offer. Hopefully next week will be better!
I knew this week was going to be brutal – it was the last one of my current rotation, all of my projects were due in by Friday and I was a long way from completing the final two.
If on Monday there was a growing sense of urgency, as the week drew on there was an undeniable feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach. I simply had no idea how I was going to get all the work done, but I didn’t want to tell my desk this.
The other looming test was my upcoming mid-programme review; one of the key determinants of whether a graduate job was likely to be on the table. It seemed to go well, though, with my MD telling me that I had been reliable, proactive, intelligent and inquisitive, even if my confidence was a little lacking and I needed to be more forthright in demonstrating my technical skills.
Most of the interns told me that they had received similarly positive reviews, which is slightly disconcerting as there’s not enough headcount available to hire everyone.
I took on the advice, but the upbeat notes had made me a little anxious about completing the projects and not letting the team down. Just when I needed the time to put my head down and work, though, we received invitations to some compulsory intern events both during the day and in the evening. This really didn’t help.
It dawned on me that unless I started working on my final presentation, or at least came up with a title, I would be pretty screwed. HR had told us repeatedly how important the project was, to the extent that past interns who had received excellent reviews in their rotations, but stumbled in the presentation didn’t get offers.
I thought it would be a good idea to garner some opinions from my desk, and so it proved. I ended up with 10 different suggestions, so I ended up picking the simplest title and got on with my projects.
By Friday, my anxiety had been replaced with a sense of sentimentality. Four weeks with the same team and I’d begun to regard them as family. Well, maybe not, but I was going to miss the people on my desk.
Still, I was so panicked with working towards the deadline that I missed lunch and paid little attention to the US debt ceiling talk that was causing so much consternation around me. By the time I looked up, it was 6.30pm and everyone had left without so much as a goodbye. I pressed send on the final project, and prepared to head home feeling a little downbeat.
So this week was far more productive and vastly less eventful than the last thank god.
My main aim this week was to finish off as many of the projects I could, and so reduce the number of demanding bankers constantly behind me asking whether their work was done.
I was partially successful, finishing 3 of the 5 projects off. One thing I realised pretty soon was that the last part of the project is the most frustrating. You almost always end up waiting for one person to get back to you about one last piece of information, which ‘sod’s law’ dictates will be the hardest and most painful to source. For the first time in my internship I began replacing the kind, reserved and somewhat naïve emails and phone calls I was making, with straight to the point, curt and slightly aggressive ones.
This had the desired effect. I did receive a couple of equally rude emails in return, but I also got a lot of information.
One thing I noticed this week was the attention bankers pay to attractive female interns.
There are quite a pretty girls on my programme (along with a few ‘Anne of Cleves’ lookalikes), and whenever I find myself rotating with them it is next to impossible to get all of my questions in and make a good impression as the (male) bankers are paying so much attention to the girls. But I have accepted this fate and just make the best of it I can!
By the time Friday afternoon came, the office emptied out extremely early with half the employees watching the cricket either at home or live, and the other half pretending they were and just going home. For the first time in the internship I decided to stay late and work, but by the time 6pm approached my enthusiasm had faded away and I checked out for the week. The highlight of my week was probably catching a glimpse of an old Apprentice star Debra Barr on the train, sitting there looking glum.
This week started off with some terrible news. I found out from my flatmate that a female Oxford university student who was interning in the markets business of JPMorgan had passed away. They weren’t told any more information than that, but it’s shocked everyone, especially those who’d been working closely with her. The news has passed quickly through the intern grapevine and my condolences go out to her friends and family.
In my own internship, I decided to start this week by sending an email to my desk as a formality asking whether they had any work for me to do. This was a mistake as the response was astonishing. Within ten minutes, I received 6 major projects, all of which were for paying clients who’d needed something done more or less urgently.
After kicking myself for my stupidity, the first thing I did was to confirm when each of the projects was due in an effort to prioritise them. This was pointless as everybody simply said theirs needed to be done ‘ASAP’. I decided to start by getting detailed statistics on various variables and parameters one of the bank’s top clients had requested. This meant I had to liaise with quant guys all around the world, working in various time zones and offices. It proved a nightmare as some people were impossible to ever get hold of no matter how many times I tried. I also made a completely fool of myself trying to pronounce their names and couldn’t understand their English, which was spoken with thick local accents.
While I was working on this, the people who’d given me the other projects started asking for update reports. I was conscious that saying I hadn’t started would not go down well. So I decided to do a bit of them all in order to have something to report back on.
Before long I was running around like a headless chicken. I started to skip lunch and seemed to be sending continuous update reports to my desk. Some of my other projects included researching a new law that was passed in an emerging market and coming up with trade ideas around this which we could market to clients. Another was creating a database for a client on detailed product fundamentals.
Because of all this, I ignored the constant flow of emails on the intern thread. When I finally clicked one of them, it detailed plans for an ‘intern drinks’ on Thursday, which I seemed to have zero chance of attending. Nevertheless, when Thursday came I was frustrated enough to feel that I had to get out and so went along.
As the drinks coincided with payday, the pitchers were piling up and before long everyone was absolutely hammered. One of the interns then had the bright idea of going to a strip club and even though I had a gut-feeling it would end badly, I decided to tag along. The girls went home and about half the boys continued on. My next memory was being in a full blown brawl with the bouncers along with all the other interns and being physically, and extremely forcibly, removed from the club.
That set the tone for Friday which was a complete disaster. Not only was I in serious pain from being repeatedly punched and shoved, but I was struggling to stay awake despite a continuous line of espresso shots. So I decided to save myself and made an excuse that I had serious food poisoning and needed to go home. What an end to an unbelievably turbulent and torturous week!
Wow. That’s all I can say. This week has been a week of lifetime firsts: First coffee, first pitch, first grilling by a MD (Managing Director) and first meeting with a FTSE 100 CEO.
I ensured I was in very early on Monday morning. I contacted one of the guys on my desk the week before and he told me they arrived at 6.30am, so I arrived at 6.15am to be on the safe side.
I’ve done a summer internship before, so I know how important it is to have a good buddy on the desk. In this respect, I’ve been incredibly lucky: my buddy is very warm and helpful. On my first day, he took a few hours out to introduce me to the people on the floor and the other members of my desk.
I thought the first day would be easy and consist of nothing more than me watching the guys working and asking some questions. But I was wrong. I was immediately dragged into a meeting with the research analysts who gave us notes on various sales ideas for our clients. After that, the guys on my desk quizzed me on which ones I thought were best and then told me to prepare a pitch for the end of the day to do in front of the whole desk!
Not only was this a serious test of my antiperspirant, but a serious test of blagging ability! One day is hardly enough to learn an asset class’s fundamentals, and suffice to say, I got verbally abused in the most painful and vicious of ways in the question and answer session following my presentation. The worst of this naturally was came my MD!
As the week wore on I found myself struggling to stay awake and often caught myself momentarily zonking out, so in desperation I turned to something which I had somehow managed to avoid my whole life, coffee. It took me a day or two to get used to the taste, but now I have no idea how anyone can work in investment banking and not drink it!
By the time Friday came I had built up a substantial sleep deficit which I was keen to start shedding.
However this was not to be. At 5pm, were dragged in to meet the CEO of a FTSE 100 company who was doing a ‘roadshow.’ After this, I made an excuse not to attend the intern drinks and went home to bed. I hope my body starts adapting to less sleep or else there is no way I am going to make it through the remaining 8 weeks!
I’ve had the good fortune to internships before, so I know what they’re like. This year, I made the wise decision to live in Central London, much closer to my workplace than I had done in previous internships. It was a decision I definitely appreciated on the first morning of my internship, getting that precious hour of extra sleep!
I got in, determined to make the best of networking opportunities. All internships start with introductions – which university is everyone from, what have they studied, which division are they in etc etc. I kept a lookout for a potential lunch partner and moved from person to person in search of suitable material.
Apart from that, the first day consisted of admin stuff – most importantly, the setting up of our payroll, potentially the most important thing of the whole process in my eyes! There were also countless divisional talks about how everything came together in the bank and a panel session of ex-interns who were now graduates.
In the evening we had networking drinks with the other interns and by the end of the day I had found myself a good group of potential candidates for lunch.
The rest of the week consisted of four full days of training covering a whole range of topics that I had previously known very little about. I didn’t complete any finance modules at university, so it was an extremely steep learning curve for me.
I rapidly found out that having done previous internships was not going to be of much help: the material was quite advanced and I was on a level playing field with the rest of the interns. I wasn’t too bothered however, until we were told at the end of the first day of training there would be an exam of everything we had learned with the results going directly to the bank for evaluation! This had the sudden effect of increasing my attention span dramatically!
On the night before the test everyone spent the evening revising their heads off, and some even came in an hour early forming ‘mini study groups’. But the test was not too bad in the end and it seemed all the worry was for nothing.
What with the exam stress, I was shattered by the end of the week. This wasn’t helped by the knowledge this would definitely be the easiest week of the internship programme!