Diary of an IBD intern: Intelligence is a subsidiary requirement in investment banking

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intern diary 3

Relentless rather than intelligent

This week has been gruelling. Monday 9PM. Tuesday 12AM. Wednesday 3AM. Thursday 4AM. Friday 11PM. Saturday 1PM. Sunday, lots of sleep.

The first thing I’ve learned is that bankers really do work incredible hours. In fact, so much so that I consider myself fortunate to have had most of my weekend free! From outside of the bank it can seem strange that banking juniors do such long hours. But from inside the bank the reasons behind the rightly notorious working culture are slightly more apparent.

The hours are driven by the individuality of the work. Projects are dealt with in utmost confidentiality and on a need-to-know basis. This makes sharing out work much more difficult. Certain bankers may often have specific company experience or understanding which gives them priority and responsibility for certain transactions. Deadlines are set by clients and are always tough - because they are aware just how competitive the market is.

And then, of course, there are the other employees and interns - the ones you're competing against for job offers and bonuses - to beat and prove yourself against. Among my team, even more so than amongst the interns, it is clear that to make it in IBD incredible determination, stamina, confidence and resilience are key. Intelligence less so.

Despite it seeming likely, perhaps, that the hours, the pressure and the competitiveness of the industry would mean that my team would be full of disagreeable, arrogant, grouchy and generally unfriendly people, this actually couldn’t be further from the truth (for my team anyway). My whole team, throughout its structure, is full of employees keen and willing to really listen and really help clueless interns like myself. Banter is common between employees and going to the pub, or watching the tennis, while at work is not uncommon at all, but instead a team activity. As is eating in the evening together.

Food is provided by the bank on demand for employees working into the night via an online system. Lots of bankers depend on these meals each day and within a couple of days I'd completely got used to expecting food in the evening. Similarly with taxis. At night the bank exit becomes a taxi rank - all for employees and all paid for by the bank. As great as these perks are at first, however, they quickly ring hollow compared to having some free time.

This week it has always been the analysts and interns who are left behind at the end of each night. It definitely seems that MDs hand work to directors by 6pm, who hand it to VPs/associates by 7pm who hand it to analysts by 8pm, who hand it to interns by 9pm. There’s a definite food chain within the average IBD team and interns are the meat right at the bottom of it.

This hasn’t exactly made my first week great. It’s already become the case that every time I see an analyst wandering towards me at my desk I’ll do whatever I can to avoid their eyes and the inevitable follow-on: “Are you busy? Do you have a minute? Can you help me with something?”. Projects never last a minute, it’s never help it’s a complete and complicated task and I never have a minute. Banking’s tough.

But it is rewarding. Within days, I’ve learned dozens of Excel shortcuts, quadrupled my typing speed, learned how to juggle multiple tasks and a lot of pressure. My first week has simply been about survival – I’ve just about managed it. The next weeks will be about trying to show that I can work independently and produce decent work consistently. Can’t wait.

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