By and large, if you want to work for a large investment bank, you must complete a summer internship first. Now is the time to be polishing up an application in time for the 2018 intake. As well as knowing what to include when you apply, it's also worth understanding which firm is likely to provide the best experience.
We've looked through the reviews of three big U.S. investment banks, Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, which are among the most competitive to get into, to see what are the good – and bad – things about working at each of the banks. These are all part of the Vault's annual “The 50 Best Internships” rankings. It's worth noting, however, that just one of these banks - Goldman Sachs - made the top ten investment banking internships overall for 2018. Elite boutiques Perella Weinberg Partners, Evercore and William Blair placed first, second and third, respectively.
Goldman ranks ninth, down from seventh on last year’s list and eighth the year before. It also placed fifth on the most prestigious internships ranking.
Looking at the positives, many interns cited Goldman’s people, culture and networking opportunities. For example, one said: “Everyone at the firm, from the most senior to the least senior person, made themselves available to talk to us, give us advice and tell us about their stories.”
Another praised the “exposure to unique information and incredible professionals,” while yet another cited “the people you meet and connections you make, alongside the personal growth and development.”
As for the negatives, many predictably lamented the long hours and lack of a good work/life balance. One said: “Work could have been more interesting.”
A second intern warned about the “steep learning curve which takes a while to grasp; full suit attire [required] most days,” while a third went on the following rant: “The internship was horrible. Many of the traders were straight up mean to interns (I was told I was the dumbest person they'd ever spoken to and should go kill myself more than once), communication and feedback were not clear at all, the hours were insane (especially since there was no work we could do so it was mostly just sitting at your desk), and the culture was terrible in encouraging interns to cut each other down.”
Another recent intern bemoaned the "unhappy people" and "stiff culture," as well as "lack of senior exposure," saying that "people ostracize you when you make a mistake" and it's a "really pretentious crowd" of people who "care way too much about things other than work product," as well as management that "showed favoritism early on."
While J.P. Morgan didn’t crack the Vault’s top 10 list of investment banking internships, it did place eighth on the 2018 most prestigious internships ranking.
In addition, its interns did give the bank plenty of positive reviews, including the following: “Organization and effort put in by members of HR & Graduate Recruitment team meant that my internship was a great experience. There were lots of networking events which gave interns the opportunity to meet each other, employees and find out more about J.P. Morgan. I was given various responsibilities and tasks by my team, all of whom were very accommodating and welcoming. The buddy and senior advisor system helped me to meet people at different levels of the business and give different aspects to what it would be like to work full time at J.P. Morgan.”
Another appreciated “being able to engage and work alongside extremely smart people in an exciting and dynamic environment,” while others praised the learning and networking opportunities, the company culture consisting of “people eager to share what they knew” and respond to questions, and the “many resources for self-improvement.”
As for the downsides, aside from complaints about long hours and lack of work-life balance that seem to apply to all investment banks, interns complained about “political power-play in the office,” “training was sparse” and “my boss acted like an intern was imposed upon him.”
One disgruntled person lamented “the lack of access to senior mentors, administrative nature of the job, and the overall culture of the firm. There is absolutely no social aspect to working at J.P. Morgan.”
A former investment banking intern who became a full-time analyst acknowledged the bank's strong brand, good exit opportunities and good training program, but criticized its "extremely political culture," saying that performance "reviews are driven by favoritism versus work product." The recommendation? "I strongly encourage you to go to a place with better culture, smarter people and equal exit opportunities [such as] GS, MS, Evercore, Greenhill, Perella Weinberg and Centerview."
A recent intern noted, "When you divide the hours worked by pay received the job is minimum wage."
Morgan Stanley placed ninth on the Vault's 2018 most prestigious internships ranking, up from 10th last year.
On the plus side for Morgan Stanley, one intern said: “From analysts to managing directors, all members of our group took an extremely invested interest in teaching us and being there for us to engage with them. In addition to having the assistance of great colleagues and mentors, the training and on-the-job learning was an incredibly rewarding experience and I know that I have several relationships that I will value for the rest of my career.”
Other interns lauded the “mentoring program” with “amazing people there to help and push you,” “working on interesting, meaningful projects” and the “culture on the [trading] floor.”
As for the negatives, most investment bankers complain about long hours and poor work-life balance, and these interns are no exception. One said: “Somehow I ended up in a team where people were not very nice. Other teams told me from the first couple of weeks that my team was ‘a bunch of ****.’ To be honest, this destroyed many things that were otherwise good about the experience.”
An intern complained that there was “less exposure to financial modeling than I had hoped,” another cited “sometimes menial work,” while yet another said the internship was “not very structured. [You were] lucky if you got a supervisor that had projects, unlucky if you didn't.”
Another former intern complained that the experience was "not very structured" and you were "lucky if you got a supervisor that had projects, unlucky if you didn't."
Across all three banks, the most common complaint was having to work long hours and a poor work/life balance.
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