Banking internships: A complete guide to summer analyst programs
If you want a career in investment banking, you really need to land a banking internship first. Known by banks as 'summer analyst programs,' internships provide hands-on experience, training and an understanding of what jobs in banking really involve. They're also the pretty much the only way of securing a full-time position and launching your career in banking. But first you need to apply for - and land - the internship.
What is an investment banking internship?
Investment banks offer internship programs each year. They're typically filled with summer analysts in the second year of a bachelor’s degree and summer associates, studying MBAs. The internship programs are usually between 9 and 12 weeks in length, but they can vary.
Banks offer internships across all of their divisions. In the front office of an investment bank, this includes global markets, which comprises sales and trading (and research), as well as corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets. Internships are also available across everything from risk and quantitative finance to operations and compliance.
As well as offering these summer programmes for undergraduates or masters students, usually in their penultimate year of study, many banks also offer spring/sophomore internships (also called pre-internships or insight programmes) for first year undergraduates. These spring internships are a valuable way of getting early work experience and are often feeder programs for second year internships.
Do I really need a banking internship?
The likelihood you’ll get a graduate job in an investment bank without any internships on your CV is close to zero. A very large percentage of all graduate jobs in banks go to summer interns who the bank ‘converts’ into full time employees. If you don’t secure a job at a bank or some other relevant position over the summer, then your chances of getting a full-time offer when you graduate are definitely lower.
What are my chances of getting in?
Hilariously low. Goldman Sachs received 236,000 applications for 3,000 internships in 2022 – an acceptance rate of 1.27%. That’s easier to get into than the bank as a whole, which has 300 applicants for each open role. Other banks have similar statistics (1.7% for internships at JPMorgan).
Arun Nair, an accounting and finance student at the UK’s University of Kent, says he sent 750 emails before he landed an internship at a boutique investment bank. Nair is a BAME student from a British state school – and Kent is a non-target university. “This is the extreme I had to go to,” he says.
It also matters where and what you study. Although banks are increasingly interested in hiring from a wide group of universities, it still helps to be at a university with a history of placing people into banking, so that it can coach you on how to handle the internship. Last year 97% of students at HEC in Paris with a finance major and pupils on the master’s in international finance course received a job offer from their internships. "It really helps for them to have a conversation with people who went through the application process and had their first steps in the job previously. It also helps them to understand more about the bank, the culture, the teams,” said an HEC professor who previously worked for Barclays.
What can I expect from a banking internship?
Different banks structure their internships in different ways and offer different types of internships. JPMorgan’s summer internship, for instance, is nine weeks long, but the bank also offers longer and off-cycle internships depending on the region and business area.
The summer internships are typically for penultimate-year undergraduate students looking to gain work experience, with some postgraduate, usually MBA and PhD, level internships also available. JPMorgan’s investment banking internships, for instance, will involve working on live transactions within the bank’s industry or product groups and also provides access to mentors.
Summer internships typically start with one week of online and classroom training followed by hands-on work experience with a particular ‘desk’ or team. In some banks (such as Goldman Sachs), sales and trading internships will offer a ‘rotation’, where you work on different desks to gain broader experience. Goldman Sachs provides at least three rotations on its global markets (trading) program. This will give you a broader experience, but it can also be exhausting. One GS intern complained that she didn’t even get a desk during her three rotations and that interns were instead allocated a plastic stool. “The stools are a rite of passage,” says one GS trader. “At least one intern usually has it collapse under them.”
To have the best chance of landing an offer you’ll need to be in the office (rather than working remotely) and you need to be proactive. You’ll be expected to add value. If you’re starting a sales and trading internship, make sure you have a good knowledge of Excel, Python, and VBA.
Will I get paid for the internship?
Yes. Interns in investment banks are paid the same as full time junior analysts – although without bonuses – and intern salaries are pro-rated for the length of the internship.
Investment banks’ salaries keep increasing all the time, but you can expect to earn around $20k of mostly tax free income from a summer internship, although the money is not as important as the experience.
How do I apply for a banking internship?
You need to start applying for first year spring week internships around January or February of your first year at university. Applications for summer internships open at different types in different locations. In Europe, for example, you can usually start applying for summer internships in the summer between your first and second years of study. In the US, you applications can open a lot earlier - you might need to apply 18 months in advance!
The typical timeline is as follows: internship opportunities are posted in spring in the US, or in summer in the UK, followed by interviews. Applications close in November/December if not before. The internships usually start in late May or early June the following year.
Be sure to get your application in early – there are limited places. Bank of America warns that interviews often begin before the deadline, so it’s best to submit your application early; programs can (and do) close as positions are filled. It also allows you to only apply once each year – so don’t apply for multiple programs in the same year in the hope that the law of averages will prevail.
If the first stage of your application is successful, you can expect a barage of digital interviews and online tests, such as HireVue or HackerRank tests, which banks use to screen applicants before interviewing in person.
When it comes to the interview, one ex-MD with 20 years’ experience offers the following advice: “Think very carefully about what you are actually good at and passionate about, not what you think you should be good at and passionate about. Passion will get you the job. Ticking imagined boxes will not.”
How do I turn my internship into an analyst job?
How do you get a full-time job offer from an internship in an investment bank? The main answers are to work as many hours as you can, network like crazy, and show how much of a team player you are by helping out your colleagues. And getting the coffee.
If you’re worried about how to stand out from your peers, Morgan Stanley offers a guide to all the questions you want answers to but don’t dare to ask here. It covers questions such as whether you should go out for drinks with your colleagues (yes but one or two drinks, not 22) to the importance of networking.
There are some general pointers to help you navigate your internship: get familiar with Excel and PowerPoint before your internship starts, get ready to multi-task, be prepared to network, and go to the events that the bank puts on for interns. Also make sure you always respond to your emails and be swift but thorough when doing your job.
Don’t complain about the hours. Banks say they are keen to encourage a better work-life balance, but you’ll still be expected to answer a request for help at 7pm, even if you were planning to meet friends.
Do try to make yourself useful. One successful intern on a trading desk says you might not be given any actual work, and part of your role is therefore to find something to do without being annoying. “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.”
Don’t try to stand out too much – after all, these are training programmes aimed at determining if you’re the right fit. One technology graduate who worked at the same bank on multiple internships, but didn’t land a job, says: “They want loyal and good (but not great) coders. You can’t be too innovative, but they will reward you. If they like you, they’ll also give you a job for life.” Think about your appearance, too – fashion can help you blend in.
Doing all those things may well be a successful ploy, but you’ll be exhausted and possibly burnt out before you even start your careers- but there might be another way. One JPMorgan summer analyst says that he landed an offer precisely because he didn’t follow this route.
What happens if I don’t get a job offer after my internship?
One of the main reasons why people fail to get a job in investment banking is that they lack the relevant internships and experience on their CVs. If you’re coming to the end of your sophomore year and don’t have an internship, then you should try spicing it up.
If you fail to land that internship as an undergraduate than there are still other routes to try. Banks also offer internships to students studying a master’s in finance, especially if you’re interested in working in M&A. You could also apply after completing a PhD or accountancy qualification, or after spending some time working in consulting. In some cases, banks will also hire interns who have already graduated.
If you don’t want to go down the internship route and you aren’t yet at university, it’s worth noting that banks also offer apprenticeships. Goldman Sachs offers a four-year degree apprenticeship in the UK, for example, which means you’ll already be in the firm whilst studying for degree in Applied Finance. And if these options aren’t available, what then? If you have zero experience, there’s still a chance you can get into finance, but you’ll have to show initiative, determination, and prove your passion for the industry. Show that you’re successful trading on your own account or draw on your experience in other fields like sports to show your suitability.
Finally, it's worth noting that you can still apply for internships even as you go into your final year. It's becoming increasingly common for students to complete internships during the summer after they graduate. "My intern group is pretty much split between penultimate and final year students," said one Goldman Sachs intern last summer.
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