Why you need an investment bank internship. And what to do if you don't have one
If you're applying for a job in an investment bank, you really need to land a summer internship. As someone who interned in the sales and trading business of a major bank last year and received an offer to return full time this summer, I know that internships are critical.
The bank I interned with has a good reputation for converting its interns into full time hires. However, last year's conversions seemed lower than normal at no more than 50-60% of the total. The internships were hybrid, with a lot of the interns working from home on virtual programs and this seemed to have a big impact on the conversion rate - the people who were at home were a lot less likely to get invited back.
Despite this, I know that most of the full time places have gone to the interns. My bank hires around 40 graduates into its sales and trading team in EMEA and only around five of them are people who haven't interned there previously. Those five people will mostly have interned at another bank. - The likelihood that you'll get a graduate job in an investment bank without any internships on your CV is close to zero.
This is why my friends who are in their final year and who don't have a graduate job lined-up have still been applying for banking internships that will take place after their course finishes. - They know that internships are the way into banking. You can still complete an internship the summer after graduation and receive a job offer to start off-cycle, typically in January. - If you don't have an internship, you therefore need to keep on applying.
When you get a banking internship, I'd caution against blowing it by working remotely. Not everyone has the option to go into the office - if your team is struck by COVID, you'll have to work from home. But if you can work from the office, you'll be much better placed to get the offer. This is because when you have a sales and trading internship at an American bank, you're expected to be proactive and to add value. - You can't keep asking how you can help or what you can do. The traders won't have much time for you, particularly before 4pm, so you need to listen to what they're doing and establish what you can do to help. You simply can't do this when you're sitting at home.
Before you start a sales and trading internship, I'd also suggest that you make sure you know quite a bit about Excel, Python and VBA. - Those three things will really make a difference to your ability to do real work.
You also need to network. I spent a long time building connections with other students and with people already working for the banks I applied to. I had two internship offers from big U.S. banks, and one before one of the interviews I was able to talk to someone who'd been through the same process three days earlier. He gave me all the questions he was asked. That's the power of networking, and of luck.
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