If you're a student applying for analyst or summer internship positions with investment banks, now's the time. The application process at most banks has been open since at least 1 September. It typically closes in late October/early November for graduate jobs and early January for internships. But what if you apply and most of the places have gone already?
You need an internship
Banks don't discuss the availability (or not) of places on their analyst programs, but it's become fairly standard for places on the most popular analyst classes to be entirely taken by the previous summer's interns. Morgan Stanley, for example, is only looking for full time analysts in the investment banking division (IBD) in London, having seemingly filled positions in sales and trading already.
Recruiting full time graduates through summer internships is nothing new in investment banking. Research company High Fliers said investment banks were the biggest recruiters of interns in the UK in 2015. However, as competition for top students increases, banks are handing allocating places on their graduate recruitment programs earlier and earlier - and putting the most desirable people through 'accelerated processes.'
"Banks have been pushing their recruitment earlier and earlier for the past decade," says Matan Feldman at Wall Street Prep, a company which prepares US students for the finance application process. "There's a good reason for this - they are facing more and more competition and finding it harder and harder to attract top talent."
You need a 'spring week' or 'sophomore internship'
Getting a place on an investment bank's full time analyst program is no longer just about the summer internship, however. Banks are starting their recruitment processes earlier and earlier, and those who are in from the start are getting offers before latecomers even apply.
This year, for example, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse all allocated places on their London 2016 summer internship programs before the official application processes even opened. Who did these places go to? To so-called 'spring interns' - or first year university students (freshmen) who spent a week with the bank in the Easter of 2014.
If you want to be in with a chance of getting a front office job when you graduate in London, you therefore need to start the process in your first year at university. One student, who spent his summer interning in IBD at a big bank in London said 60%-70% of his class had done spring internships previously and that around 80% of them received offers to return full time when they graduate in 2016: "It seemed there were very few places left open for people applying for full time analyst jobs - especially in IBD."
Freshman and sophomore internships are proliferating in the US too. Barclays Investment Bank has begun running a specific sophomore program, and J.P. Morgan is now advertising its summer analyst program to 'exceptional college freshmen and sophomores.' The bank, which didn't immediately respond to a request to comment for this article, is also said to have run an accelerated interview cycle for 2016 US summer internships in July 2015 - well before applications were officially open.
You need to attend banks' online events
Spring weeks and sophomore internships aren't the only way of getting onto the accelerated interview cycle in an investment bank. Last year, Goldman Sachs ran a series of live webinars and fast-tracked impressive participants through accelerated interviews for summer internships. Watch for something similar this year.
You need to attend banks' offline events
Accelerated interviews are also bandied around at offline events run by investment banks - especially during summer internship season when it's common for top banks to try luring rivals' interns. "There were lots of networking events, often breakfasts and/or weekends," says the IBD intern. "Usually you'll receive a Linkedin invitation, followed by an invitation to the event sometimes preceded by requests for CVs or phone interviews."
It's not just summer interns who can get accelerated interviews at rival firms by attending networking events though - students who impress on campus can also find themselves fast tracked when they apply. Remember to take business cards to campus events for this reason.
You need to go to the parties thrown by boutiques
Finally, watch out for the boutiques. - They don't recruit many students, but they're often prepared to act fast and will throw good parties. Centerview Partners is said to have invited some IBD interns at investment banks in London to a brunch at the Ritz this summer, and then fast tracked through its interview process later.
Emily Gill at recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners, which runs the graduate application processes for several smaller firms in London, said a few boutique firms opened applications early this year: "One of our clients ran assessment days back in August, but they were only for one or two accelerated places offered to this year's interns. Most of our firms still have places and are still hiring now."