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Nine things to know before you even think about starting an internship on a trading floor

Don't get eaten alive

Don't get eaten alive

In a matter of weeks, this year’s summer analyst classes will start in the City of London and on Wall Street. If you’re wondering where to satisfy your stomach during your Wall Street internship, we have some important suggestions here. If you have less prosaic concerns about how to handle yourself during your months on the trading floor, we suggest you digest the advice below, from traders who’ve been there and know what will hit you.

1. You will need a pen and paper

“This sounds silly and basic,” says Terri Duhon, a former JPMorgan trader and author of ‘How the Trading Floor Really Works,’ “but the best advice for anyone going into a trading internship is to carry a notebook and pen everywhere you go.

“Take notes and write down all the words you don’t know the meaning of,” says Duhon. “There’s a lot of lingo on the trading floor and you can’t be expected to turn up with a full understanding of it in your head. Nor can you always ask people to explain.”

2. People will not want to talk to you when you want to talk to them

This brings us to point two: just because you’re sitting next to a professional trader, that does’t mean you can keep pestering him/her with questions.

“You need to know when to ask a question and when to keep quiet,” says Lex Van Dam, an ex-trader at Goldman Sachs who now runs a pseudonymous financial education company.  “Don’t ask a lot of questions. Just observe. A trading floor internship is as much about observing as it is about asking a lot of questions,” he adds.

3. You will be asked to do multiple things by multiple people and you yourself must manage this

Internships in any area of an investment bank can be about feast and famine – you either have nothing going on, or there’s so much happening that you can’t cope. “If persons a, b, c and d ask you to do something, make sure that they know you’re juggling multiple tasks. You need to establish deadlines and prioritize the tasks that you’re given,” says Duhon. “This may sound easy, but a lot of interns overlook it,” she adds.

Matters are made worse by the fact that people who work on trading floors are not always ‘natural managers’.

4. The lingo 

Trading floors are places with their own argot. Before you arrive, make sure you have an understanding of the following words/phrases: bid, ask, offer, spread, long, short, hedge. There are good lists of trader terms liberally spread across the internet – try here, or here or <arel=”nofollow” href=”https://fermatslastspreadsheet.com/2011/11/30/mine-yours/” target=”_blank”>here.

5. The players 

What does a hedge fund do? What does the buy-side do? What’s an institutional investor? What’s a real money investor? What’s the sell-side? What’s the FICC business?

6. You will be among cynics

Traders are cynics says Van Dam. “They always think the worst is going to happen. You always need to be able to talk about the negatives as opposed to the positives. If you go in there and say it’s good  and markets are rising, you’re not going to seem credible.”

7. You will be among jokers

Traders also like playing jokes. Especially on interns. Do not leave your work or personal emails open and unattended at any time.

8. You’ll need some anecdotes

Traders will warm to you if you have some funny stories, says Van Dam. Come armed some interesting tales of life at university. Do not tell them when markets are tanking.

9. Don’t even think about writing anything inappropriate in emails

Banks now have no tolerance for anyone who writes anything inappropriate (ie. uses expletives, sexist language, makes lewd suggestions) in emails. And yes, your emails and telephone calls will be monitored.

Related articles:

Does it really matter that you’re not joining an investment bank in the front office?

Is RBS still a good bank in which to start your career?

 

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