Regardless of your major or educational background, sometimes you can get the foot in the door of a prestigious financial services internship by telling your story and being real about who you are. You have to put yourself out there and not fear rejection. And given the low acceptance rate of students applying to banking internships, you’ll like experience rejection. If you do get an opportunity, you’ll have to make the most of it to get a return offer.
“What are you going to do with an English major?” is the question that I’ve gotten the most throughout my college career, and I didn’t always know how best to respond. When I entered college, I was completely unsure about what industry I wanted to go into after graduation. While journalism was a top contender, I had dabbled in finance and business management in high school, and those interests remained.
During my sophomore year at Bryn Mawr, I applied to the Girls Who Invest program, whose mission is to get more women involved in the asset management industry. I assumed that I wasn’t going to get in, due to my lack of mathematical and quant-based experience both in and out of the classroom, but the most striking question asked from the application was to describe a certain challenge and how you overcame it.
I have been in a wheelchair my entire life, and it has always been harrowing trying to live life as a normal teenager or young adult while also being restricted in what I could do. I have always tried to make the best of these circumstances by being adaptable and resourceful. That’s what I wrote about in my essay.
When I saw the congratulatory email, excitement and fear took over. I was the only non-STEM major amongst the other young women, all of whom were studying either economics or mathematics.
From Wharton classes to meet-and-greets with portfolio managers
Our classes at UPenn’s Wharton lasted the entire day and covered topics such as binomial options pricing, balance sheet accounting, Excel basics and valuation.
During lunchtime, we spoke with investment managers from companies like Alliance Bernstein, Blackstone and T. Rowe Price, who told us about how they became involved in the financial sector and gave us advice on being potential newcomers in the industry.
Then, at the end of the week, we went on several field trips, one of which was a visit to the New York Stock Exchange and, of course, the infamous bull sculpture.
Towards the end of the program, we began working on a group project researching Comcast to present a stock pitch evaluating if we should buy, sell or hold it.
Financial services internship at PNC
Transitioning into my internship at PNC was even more daunting, because no longer would I be surrounded by students to whom I could relate. Rather, I was working primarily with professionals who had been in this business for years, with most of my fellow interns in different departments of the bank.
I was placed on the investment strategy team within the asset management group amongst bank employees who were shocked by my English major and skeptical of my future in finance.
My days often involved sitting in on investment policy committee meetings, having discussions about smart beta ETFs and other investment products and meeting with investment strategists one-on-one.
Also, I was expected to complete a project with other interns across different markets presenting PNC’s asset management, banking, investment advisory and fiduciary capabilities to bank executives.
In the middle of my six-week internship, Brexit surprised the world. Doing research for the investment strategists at the bank helped me to learn more about the potential impact of the referendum than any news story.
Getting a return offer
When the internship ended, I decided to take my experiences from the internship to the classroom, having proved to myself and others that I could handle a quantitative education. I had just started the school year when I received a call from a PNC HR executive. Not believing I would be asked back, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a verbal return offer for another internship the following (this) summer.
This encouraged me even more to push through my economics and advanced calculus courses, eventually becoming an economics minor, as well as an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal.
Now, more than halfway through my second summer at PNC, these past two internships have allowed me to understand the various constituents of portfolio construction from the strategists to the advisers. More broadly, these experiences have opened my eyes to the various career opportunities available to me in financial services and, in particular, the investment management industry.
I’m optimistic and grateful for the opportunity to venture out into a whole new section of the professional world that I didn’t think was readily available to me and, despite coming in at a disadvantage, finding success in the asset management division of a bank. That’s something that some people – and most English majors – don’t get to experience during their college years, so I don’t take it for granted.
Keana Bloomfield is a student at Bryn Mawr College and an intern at PNC. She participated in the Girls Who Invest program at Wharton in 2016.
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