Investment banking internships in Singapore and Hong Kong have either ended or are winding down and students in the two cities are now applying for fully fledged analyst jobs.
But provided they do secure graduate offers, what do this year’s crop of interns plan to do with their careers over the next 10 years? Summer analyst stints may be short, but the interns we spoke with say the exposure has already given them a clear idea of where they want to be by 2025 – and the skills they need to get there.
After spending his past two university holidays in the trading teams of global banks in Hong Kong, one intern now knows his career objectives: “In 10 years I want to be still working in trading, but in the buy-side as life is easier there than at a bank.”
Like most of his cohorts the budding trader doesn’t aim to have a particular job title on his business card by 2025, however. “I’m not too concerned about job rank because hierarchy is not really that important in trading – I’m happy as long as I get a book to trade. If you do well as a trader and make millions every day, everyone will respect you.”
With banks still requiring juniors to work 80-hour weeks, the interns say they’ll also garner respect – and advance more rapidly in their careers – if they put work-life balance on the backburner for the next decade. “I hope to slog it out while I'm younger, while I’m able to commit more time to being in the office,” says a capital markets intern at a local Singaporean bank.
His counterpart at a global investment bank in Singapore, however, says that in the long term she aspires to less gruelling working conditions. “I see myself at a private equity firm in 10 years’ time because the buy side promises shorter working hours and more control over my schedule,” she explains. “It would be ideal if I could join a PE firm at VP level after completing my associate years in an investment bank.”
The IBD intern from the global bank, who is from Singapore, says that Mandarin language skills will be increasingly crucial to bankers planning buy-side moves in the future. “I’m hoping that the growth of the China market will increase PE activities in Asia and in turn increase the need for Mandarin-speaking people with an investment banking background,” she adds. “So in the meantime I’m continuing to brush up on my Mandarin to ensure that I remain competitive in the job market 10 years down the road.”
Reform of Chinese financial markets generally looms large over the career plans of Asian interns. “Given the opening of China’s economy I expect the RMB market will grow larger in size, so there may be more need for FX traders in the future,” says the Hong Kong trading intern. “And programming skills will radically change the industry too. In the past traders didn’t need to know programming, but I believe it will soon be a necessary skill.”
For the intern from the local bank in Singapore, international experience is also key to career success – he hopes to get a graduate job at a global investment bank next year. “I want overseas exposure and that’s one of the main reasons why I'm striving to break into a more international bank. An opportunity to work overseas, while still young, is exciting and will add value to my career in the long run too. I want to leave Singapore for Hong Kong because it’s the dominant centre for ex-Japan Asia capital markets.”
Another aspiring young banker, currently still interning at a US firm, says by 2025 she wants to have clocked up enough managerial experience to land a job in a corporate affairs department of a large bank. “I want to help shape strategies that can help the business grow. So I’ll need to build leadership skills and of course analytical skills to be able to predict future trends.”
While the interns are all confident about their career goals, they admit they will face challenges along the way. “For me the key barrier is probably the tighter capital requirement imposed on banks in recent years, which reduce the amount of risk that traders are allowed to take,” says the trading intern. “It will be harder for traders to make the same amount of profit given all the restrictions.”
For the intern from the Singaporean bank there are more personal and immediate obstacles to overcome. “My current roadblock is my grades, which make me very slightly cut off from the bulge bracket banks. But if I can’t get into a global bank when I graduate I will definitely try the longer route – try an MBA perhaps.”