You’ve spent years working towards your first job in an investment bank. You’ve beaten tens of thousands of other students to an internship. And now, this.
If you listen to the doomsters, it’s bad. One former Goldman Sachs MD who now works for a London hedge fund has a horrible prognosis. “This is going to be like the classes of 2001 and 2002 in the US,” he tells us. “After the tech bubble burst, banks cut their incoming graduate recruitment classes by 50%. Summer intern offers were down 40% to 50%.”
Fortunately banks’ internal human resources (HR) people have a more reassuring message. “We haven’t even discussed the impact of the EU referendum vote on this year’s interns yet,” says the head of HR at one international bank in the City, speaking off the record. “For the moment, it’s just not something that’s high on the agenda. As far as our graduate intake is concerned, it’s business as usual.”
If you’re a summer intern at a bank in London this summer, she therefore advises that you proceed as if nothing much has changed. “If you’re in IBD you need to really get to know the product and sector team you’re assigned to. Make sure you have visibility with the seniors on the team – not just the juniors.”
What if you’re a European student who’s just embarked upon a London-based internship? The head of HR is sanguine. “No one is panicking. No one is making any snap decisions. For the next couple of years we are all European citizens and after that it’s quite possible that we will be part of a European Economic Area in which freedom of movement is maintained.”
This is echoed by the deputy head of markets at one European bank in London. “In the short term, nothing will change,” he tells us. “The stakes are too high for everyone – for the eurozone and the UK.”
The ex-Goldman MD does, however, have some sensible advice for London-based students who want to cover their backs in case of the worst. “If you want to stay in London, look at areas like equity capital markets, debt capital markets and M&A,” he says. “It’s going to be jobs like equity and FX sales that will be off-shored first.”
And if graduate hiring really does go to pot? “The smart kids will use the back door,” he says. Think risk management, operations, compliance. Get a foot in the door and then wait for the good times.”