Hierarchical, disorganised, anti-social: my internship at a Singapore bank

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Singapore bank internships

Internships are in full swing at DBS, OCBC and UOB. But what’s it really like spending your summer break at a Singaporean bank? And how do internships at local firms compare with those at the global players?

We spoke with a current front-office Singapore bank intern, who’s also done a stint at a US institution, to find out.

What type of work do you actually do?

For these first few weeks, I’m doing market research on past trends and forecast upcoming trends in my team’s field. It’s really mundane, and I wish I’d got involved earlier in the deals that the team is working on. But as an intern with so little understanding of the job, I’ve had to build up the fundamentals before going any further.

What’s surprised you most about the internship?

My team is really small, even though they handle many huge projects at the same time. And I’m the only intern in my department.

What do you dislike the most about the internship?

The bank could have structured the internship better so I get to learn more from the work that I’m given. It’s really hard for me and other interns to get to do interesting work that we actually want to experience. And I’d like more networking sessions so we can meet up with people throughout the bank, to learn more about the industry and other departments.

And what are your favourite aspects?

My colleagues are really friendly and the seniors are willing to help when you have a problem. But of course, you don’t go to them whenever you encounter a small issue that you can solve on your own.

Is there much competition between interns?

Not really because each department only takes on one intern on average, so we don't really feel the competition because we’re quite isolated from each other.

Have you socialised much during the internship?

Not too much. For the past month, the only social event I know of was a team dinner and a short drink with one other department. I’ve only got to know other interns by socialising with them outside of the bank’s official internship programme.

Do international banks offer better internships than Singapore ones?

Yes, I think internships at international banks are more structured, and place more emphasis on networking. Both these aspects are lacking at Singapore banks.

What are your tips for making a success of an internship at your bank?

At Singapore banks you have to proactively ask for more work if you want to actually learn anything interesting. You have to take the initiative because everyone is so busy and you can't expect them to always remember how you’re doing. And ask questions when you’re unclear of the instructions. This beats doing the wrong work and having to redo it, especially when your manager needs the information to meet a tight deadline.

What would you improve about your internship?

Each department should give interns a mentor who they can learn from for the first few weeks and who then monitors their progress. The bank should also be much more structured in the way it organises internships.

Do you want to work full-time at the bank you’re interning for?

To be honest, I’m not too sure. While the work the department does is exceptionally interesting, I don’t like hierarchical culture the bank.

Image credit: kieferpix, Getty

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