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Feedback for Investment Banking Summer Analysts

Summer Interns – Returns Offers Handed Out, What Did You Think?

A lot of my contacts still slaving away on the sell side have seen summer interns come in and go while the new full time analysts and associates have started or are about to start.

As for how the summers did? They ranged from great to terrible.

You want to have a great review – a few bankers mentioned that certain summers came in with a broad understanding of corporate finance, presumably by reading this website on a regular basis, and grew as the summer passed. By the time they were finished, they could be trusted with LBO models – and not just changing inputs and being able to speak to them, but modifying operational models and building their own mini-models.

They had stronger capabilities than some of the full time hires by the time they were finished their summer.

No question they got return offers and some coddling to make sure that they were not shopping their offers around. Additionally, when they start full time on the job, this will be remembered and they will be put on attractive files right away that can be dropped onto a private equity focused resume. Major sell-side mandate? You are the junior on file!

No need to pull research or do data entry because you are now being paid to think instead of to do manual labor. Not as much, anyway. More time in Excel and less time in PowerPoint while the underperforming full-times are moving cartoony arrows and circles around.

Failing As A Summer Intern

But no one is really interested in talking about the good hires because it does not make for engrossing gossip. Everyone wants to talk about who sucked.

“So we had three summer students – one of them is really good. Great attention to detail, tries to understand conceptually what he is doing and why the bank is doing it, and already knows all of the database functions in Excel. Anyways, one of them absolutely sucks and we are not giving him an offer…”

Great segue into a 15 minute rant about how bad the other summer is.

If this is familiar to you, make sure you switch gears before you start your internship.

Maturity for the Office Workspace

Investment banks do like previous work experience in an office – preferably one with a good brand name. And not for the reasons that you would think. Someone who works at JP Morgan Private Wealth Management for 4 months is not going to be an expert in portfolio management nor is he going to have any real market exposure. But he has been derisked because he has already worked in an office environment with adults that expect a certain amount of professionalism. Professionalism is key – anyone who is unprofessional will anger coworkers and never be shown to clients.

So only office jobs matter – preferably brand names, as the bar for professionalism will be far higher at Citi Private Bank than the Walgreens head office. If you picked blueberries on a farm last summer, shows that you work hard but says nothing about how you can function in the office.

Wealth management is particularly good, because we assume that you have already had some interaction not just with posh relationship managers, but that you presumably have had to manage conversations with affluent clients – and eventually in investment banking you will be managing relationships with affluent clients.

There is no guidebook about what flies or does not fly in the office, and a sharp and socially aware kid can pick this up even if he has not worked in an office before. And the smart thing to do, and sure it is not the first time this sage piece of advice has been offered – keep your head down and work.

You never know what is an isn’t acceptable in the office environment until you feel it out over the space of a few months. Some things will fly in certain offices and some things will not – and some things will never fly in any office.

Don’t get me wrong, offices can be fun workspaces with coworkers that have great senses of humor but until you know where you stand, listen and respond – don’t stand out for anything else.

This way you are not the intern that:

Runs around in the office – no reason to run unless there is a taxi waiting outside, even walking too briskly may offend some people because your work is not important enough to justify a sprint

Tells inappropriate jokes – people cringe when an executive director spits out something lame or in questionable taste. This is magnified by 10 when an intern tries it. Even worse is when the intern does not pick up that nobody laughed not because they didn’t hear it but because the joke was so awful.

And don’t hit on people as an intern. This is a sensitive topic at large financial institutions right now and we have seen otherwise decent summer students get their offers yanked because they hit on the wrong girl and got a complaint – not aggressively either, just something trivial.

Shouts out their opinion – until being solicited for their opinion, interns should be seen and not heard – this is especially bad when they interrupt a conversation that they are not part of

Has unconventional conversations – it is ok and preferred to be boring when you first start. If an MD asks how your weekend was, say it was good and you did not have to work too hard even if you were here until 2AM every day. Catch some buddies for a beer, went to the driving range – whatever.

Do not tell them that you are a massive raver and went to an electronic dance music festival and consumed illicit substances. Just because whoever is talking to you is very outgoing at first, you should still have a very muted personality until you know what is going on and – people do not realize this – your work quality is good. If your work sucks, people will assume you are spending too much time socialising.

In time, as coworkers get to know you more personally, there will be a thaw – and eventually some coworkers become very good friends. From there, this rule loosens considerably, but you will know when you get there – but make sure to switch back to a very professional tone if you are speaking about a real project with deadlines.

Also never get too drunk at work events. If you do drink, do not show it the next day.

Don’t Raise Your Voice or Get Aggressive

Assigned work that an intern shouldn’t have to do? Barring something that is hazardous to your health, if it is somewhat related to the project you have to do it. What you should not have to do is file receipts for other analysts or make your MD’s lunch, but assuming you want a full time position sometimes better to do some undignified work and shop the offer around for a bank with a better culture.

But what you should never do, whether it is a personal conflict or a disagreement about the work (and maybe you are actually right but a VP is accusing you of being wrong), is to just speak through it in a soft-spoken and explanatory manner.

Raising your voice (and especially yelling) is a huge no-no – although superiors can shout down to subordinates, it is frowned upon in today’s modern Wall Street.

Obviously there are infinite other examples.

Check Your Work and Prepare for Mistakes

We already have an extensive article about checking your work. If your work is not flawless for basic things such as market updates, trading updates, refreshing stock slides and materials of this nature, you will never be assigned better work because no one trusts you.

A lot of the time, analysts realize that you are a terrible intern because for a simple slide refresh they have to circle the printed out page and make you redo it three or four times. Afterwards, they just stop assigning you work – so you have a diminished pool for who you can work for.

However, if you make mistakes when there is real time pressure on a deliverable, the repercussions of such actions are amplified.

At 2PM if you screw something up, you get a few red circles on a marked up slide on your chair when you come back from coffee. Not good. If you screw something up at 3AM for something that has to be done by 8AM tomorrow, you are going to get a verbal beatdown.

With any other job, when you are new – anyone can make a mistake – this is why there is a hierarchy in investment banking where associates check work and VPs gauge if the final product resembles what they need. It is ok to make mistakes if you thought something worked another way conceptually and you are able to explain. It is not ok to have sloppy errors like not replacing the client name in a pitch, having double periods and random spaces. Having a stock chart that actually is the price of gold.

These can be fixed by printing out work and scanning it over – as well as actually thinking about the work! Always think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

If you remember the company trading at $45.62 yesterday and you are getting a price chart that goes up to $1,500, you probably forgot to change the ticker for the data pull.

I remember vividly a few times when summer students came back (not their first time, which leads to this conversation) with slides I asked them to make.

“Are these done?”
“Is it vFinal?”
“Would you show it to a client.”
“Are you proud of your work?”

But yet they look on with a blank stare because they just want to be out of there.

Sure enough, weird spaces, spelling errors and other typos, the Excel backups for the charts are pulling from the wrong data – a different client file! So instead of pulling Abbvie we are pulling from Pfizer.

Everyone stays even later and now none of the work can be trusted – every cell has to be checked and everything has to be redone from scratch.

And the same questions are now answered with a lot of profanity added in – it’s ok, I worked before the no asshole policy now prevalent at most banks. I am a giant asshole.

“These are not ____ done. This is nowhere close to vFinal. It would compromise the firm’s professionalism if we showed this to a client and would be hugely detrimental to our reputation if you showed such [sloppy] work.”

If this were the early 00’s there would probably be a lot of attacks directed at the intern as well. If this were the 90’s the intern might be physically assaulted. Just kidding, probably not.

There are Sacrifices in Investment Banking – Be Available

Generally, analysts are respectful of intern time – they have lives too and they have lived it. So for trading updates that do not have to be done that day, or data that does not need to be immediately pulled, absolutely you can get off a little earlier on Thursday if it is slow and you want to catch up with some buddies for a drink.

But you are employed and earn a salary – you have to honor obligations when they become due. If there is a deadline and you are working on a real book, your plans go out the window. It does not matter that you promised someone x weeks ago unless you explicitly booked off time on vacation (and interns do not get vacations) and socialised that with the entire team and other stakeholders beforehand.

You have to cancel – this is what you signed up for.

We mentioned this elsewhere, but when you ask for work as a courtesy when you are leaving because there is nothing to do, this needs to be sincere. If someone is busy on something and you are halfway out the door when you say “ohhh is there anything I can help on, otherwise I am going to meet up with someone for drinks”. The associate looks at you and sees that you already have your coat on and your heart will not be in the work because you want to be deep in a conversation with Victoria at the bar.

So you can go, and don’t come back.

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ex investment banking associate

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