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Interning at a global or local investment bank in Hong Kong, what’s the difference?

Internships are, of course, the fastest route into a full-time investment banking job. But students looking for a job in Hong Kong have two options – go to a local Chinese firm based in the City, or stick with an international bank. Is there really much difference? We interviewed two students – one has just completed an internship in an domestic firm, the other in a bulge bracket investment bank. This is what they had to say.

The work:

Global bank: A substantial part is to do research, including sector and specific companies. I need to turn my research results into Powerpoint slides so that my boss could use it for future presentation. I also did a lot of sourcing work, helping clients to identify potential buyers or sellers, or find out which company is in need of financing. Aside from that, I did communications work as well, such as making calls and arranging my boss’ timetable.

Local bank: I actually rotated between different desks, so did a lot of different work. Chinese local firms usually give interns experience of the various desks.

Working environment:

Global bank: We are treated well. We even don’t have the so-called ‘facetime’, which means you can’t leave the office if your boss hasn’t. They were quite flexible.

Local bank: We are nicely treated too. Team dynamics was good. Traders sometimes get irritated during trading hours, but become nice again after the market is closed. Corporate culture is neither aggressive nor harsh. Most senior managers are warm and cordial.

Academic background:

Global bank: 90% of the class are from US or European universities, but many are Chinese students studying there. Global banks love those who have Western education background. On the contrary, it’s quite hard for Chinese universities graduates to make it into global banks in HK, even for those from Peking University or Tsinghua University.

Local bank: Those from Chinese universities are all from these four: Peking, Tsinghua, Shanghai Jiaotong and Fudan. The rest are all from overseas universities.


Global bank: Average monthly pay for interns is around HK$45,000 ($5,806) among global banks. This is much higher than Chinese local banks in HK. It’s the same as full time analysts. But full time analysts also enjoy a monthly housing allowance between HK$15,000 ($1,935) to HK$20,000 ($2,580). Global banks also apply a global pay scheme, which means the pay is similar regardless which city you are based.

Local bank: Average monthly pay for interns is around $HK30,000 ($3,870). But it varies immensely from bank to bank, because most Chinese local firms don’t have a very mature pay structure for summer interns. In many occasions, pay for interns are negotiable. Some in Mainland even don’t pay at all. Generally speaking, Chinese local firms offer higher pay in HK than in Mainland.


Global bank: Arrive at office around 9am. Average finish time is 10pm. There were few occasions when we had to stay until 2 or 3am, if there was work to be done. I can go to office a bit later the following morning, say at 10am, provided I don’t have a lot to do. Overall, the hours are quite flexible. No one is checking your time.

Local bank: Traders’ hours are nine to five. They arrive an hour before the market opens, and leaves an hour after the market closes. Sales’ hours are longer. Most arrive at 7:30am, and will stay on even after the market closes. When the market is good, leaving at 9pm is not uncommon.

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