Summer internships usually feed 70%+ of full-time recruits into banks’ graduate programmes, and now that I’m into my fourth week here I can see why.
Firstly, the hours are, of course, brutal but everyone knows this about investment banking. I am here until at least 2am every day, but I’m more likely to leave the office at 4am. The bigger issue causing more anxiety among the interns is that expectations have picked up.
People are still friendly and encouraging, but analysts and associates are now expected to produce a prodigious amount of work in a much faster timeframe. There’s also still no room for errors, so it makes the whole thing much more stressful. Coupled with a massive uptick in work on my desk, I also have the longer-term project work that we have to complete across the internship. This is a perfect storm that means I rarely leave the office.
There are two big downsides to this. Firstly, my waistline is suffering. Spending 12-16 hours every day at your desk means you don’t have time to look after yourself and I’m already feeling the consequences of my new sedentary lifestyle. Then there’s the fact that you become something of a social pariah – I’ve cancelled so many plans to meet up with friends that I’ve just stopped bothering trying to arrange anything.
I don’t want to appear to be an ungrateful whinger, though. Far from it, I love the pace of working for an investment bank and the whole experience has exceeded my expectations. You’ll hear ‘steep learning curve’ bandied around by junior bankers, and this is very true. I’ve ascended a steep hill in three weeks and now analysts and associates expect you to be part of the well-oiled machine.
This is fine, but as an intern you have to juggle. Analysts and associates are our main point of contact, but we also get handed work by managing directors. Juniors want speed and accuracy, while MDs want to see some evidence that you have the nous to become a full-time employee.
What’s more, banks don’t just hire finance or economics students, but as an engineering major I do think they have the edge. I can tackle the tasks given to me as well as my peers, but I sometimes find it hard to follow my analysts’ ‘bigger picture’ view of the market because I don’t have the financial knowledge. Questions are welcomed, but really you don’t want to be the guy always asking for clarification.
Finally, one of the great things about being here is the exposure. I’ve worked closely with the equity and debt capital markets teams, leveraged finance and also had contact with bankers in New York, Tokyo and Dubai. This is what it’s all about.
James Roberts, an pseudonym, is a summer intern on an M&A desk at a bulge bracket bank in London. He’ll be writing about his internship here every week.
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