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Diary of an IBD intern: Intelligence is a subsidiary requirement in investment banking

Relentless rather than intelligent

Relentless rather than intelligent

This week has been gruelling. Monday 9PM. Tuesday 12AM. Wednesday 3AM. Thursday 4AM. Friday 11PM. Saturday 1PM. Sunday, lots of sleep.

The first thing I’ve learned is that bankers really do work incredible hours. In fact, so much so that I consider myself fortunate to have had most of my weekend free! From outside of the bank it can seem strange that banking juniors do such long hours. But from inside the bank the reasons behind the rightly notorious working culture are slightly more apparent.

The hours are driven by the individuality of the work. Projects are dealt with in utmost confidentiality and on a need-to-know basis. This makes sharing out work much more difficult. Certain bankers may often have specific company experience or understanding which gives them priority and responsibility for certain transactions. Deadlines are set by clients and are always tough – because they are aware just how competitive the market is.

And then, of course, there are the other employees and interns – the ones you’re competing against for job offers and bonuses – to beat and prove yourself against. Among my team, even more so than amongst the interns, it is clear that to make it in IBD incredible determination, stamina, confidence and resilience are key. Intelligence less so.

Despite it seeming likely, perhaps, that the hours, the pressure and the competitiveness of the industry would mean that my team would be full of disagreeable, arrogant, grouchy and generally unfriendly people, this actually couldn’t be further from the truth (for my team anyway). My whole team, throughout its structure, is full of employees keen and willing to really listen and really help clueless interns like myself. Banter is common between employees and going to the pub, or watching the tennis, while at work is not uncommon at all, but instead a team activity. As is eating in the evening together.

Food is provided by the bank on demand for employees working into the night via an online system. Lots of bankers depend on these meals each day and within a couple of days I’d completely got used to expecting food in the evening. Similarly with taxis. At night the bank exit becomes a taxi rank – all for employees and all paid for by the bank. As great as these perks are at first, however, they quickly ring hollow compared to having some free time.

This week it has always been the analysts and interns who are left behind at the end of each night. It definitely seems that MDs hand work to directors by 6pm, who hand it to VPs/associates by 7pm who hand it to analysts by 8pm, who hand it to interns by 9pm. There’s a definite food chain within the average IBD team and interns are the meat right at the bottom of it.

This hasn’t exactly made my first week great. It’s already become the case that every time I see an analyst wandering towards me at my desk I’ll do whatever I can to avoid their eyes and the inevitable follow-on: “Are you busy? Do you have a minute? Can you help me with something?”. Projects never last a minute, it’s never help it’s a complete and complicated task and I never have a minute. Banking’s tough.

But it is rewarding. Within days, I’ve learned dozens of Excel shortcuts, quadrupled my typing speed, learned how to juggle multiple tasks and a lot of pressure. My first week has simply been about survival – I’ve just about managed it. The next weeks will be about trying to show that I can work independently and produce decent work consistently. Can’t wait.

Comments (6)

  1. Believe me: what you are doing is tough byt in the long run rewarding
    IB is a challenging but interesting career. We are involved in multibillion deals and people listen to us
    Thinks of those arrogant punks of the strategy consulting firms. Paid (less than we are but with more or less the same worload in terms of working hours per week) to prrovide alibis to C level officers and spending nigths and weekeind on projects nobody will ever apply !

  2. I do get the feeling that this is a made up series being written by some journalists based on a rehash of a few older books and articles

  3. @Whoever – this is a genuine intern diary. It has to be anonymous as the genuine intern will probably get into trouble if unearthed! And it may sound similar to other intern diaries, but that’s just because internships tend to be very similar every year…

  4. Really cool article – just a suggestion – Q&A at some point?? I’ve got a tonne of qs!

  5. Very interesting. Love it when analysts share the info the recruiters try desperately hard to hide away.
    Would love to know the office politics going on too- who you feel you can talk to, who you are trying to get contact time with and what happens when you do get the time of day to speak to more senior people.

  6. @ Markus: they don’t listen to you, clients listen to MDs. Anyone below is just another monkey. That’s why lots of people in this industry work their ass off up to Director and then get kicked out like an old bag of S****.

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