If you’re thinking of getting a job in finance, you’ve probably heard people use the word, “leverage.” It’s the ratio of debt to equity, but it’s also a corporate cliché meaning using something to its maximum advantage. The latter sense may sound cheesy, but it’s absolutely relevant if you’re trying to get internship with investment banks. The first internship is the hardest to get, but once you’ve got investment bank or finance internship, you can leverage it to get a whole lot of others.
This is why first year internships – so-called spring internships or sophomore internships, are so important I gained five spring internship offers (although I could only accept four) and leverage played a huge part in this. Like most students, I applied to around 30 investment banks, brokers and buy-side firms in order to gain a place on a coveted ‘spring week’. My first offer came from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) after I applied through their online system. With this under my belt, I was able to get the other four.
Another of my spring internships was with Citi. During a telephone interview with them, I mentioned that I already had an offer from BAML and – rather soon after – I was invited to a one-off pre-internship insight day and received an offer from two separate divisions. I then had telephone interviews with BP and with ICAP (the interdealer broker), where I mentioned my two existing offers. BP offered me another spring week, but ICAP was more reticent (probably because they only accepted eight spring interns in total). – Even so, ICAP did make me an offer after I mentioned that I’d played squash in Credit Suisse’s office in Canary Wharf and had met several sell-side traders there (it helped that one of the traders I met at ICAP played squash too!).
My final spring offer came from the insurance group, Liverpool Victoria. It helped that I spent time within a competitor of theirs the previous Christmas and was therefore able to show how I could add-value from my past experience.
Now comes the important part. As you’ll know if you’re trying to get a first job in an investment bank, the really important part of the process is the summer internship in your second year. This is what can lead to the offer of a full time position when you graduate. I was able to use (to “leverage”) my spring weeks to get multiple summer internship offer from BAML, Citi and J.P. Morgan.
The key takeaway here is that once you’ve got your first offer, you can use it to create a waterfall of other ones.
So, what is the key take-away here? Leverage is key in creating the potential waterfall of offers after you get the first one. Leverage doesn’t have to be a dirty word: it’s simply a question of showcasing what you’ve done already in order to get ahead. In doing so, you need to communicate enthusiasm, but you also need to be humble – no one likes a showoff, least of all leading investment banks.
Michael Truckle is a student at the UK’s Warwick University.
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