Why is an internship so important in banking?

A Credit Suisse graduate recruiter and three students tell Hannah Langworth why doing an internship is so important
Investment banking

If you think you want to work in banking, doing a spring week or summer internship is the single best way to get your career started. Here we speak to a campus recruiter at Credit Suisse about the programmes this global investment bank can offer, and hear from three students about their experiences as interns here.

The graduate recruiter

Laura Pearman is EMEA Head of Campus Recruitment at Credit Suisse. Here she discusses the advantages of doing an internship, gives some tips for securing one, and explains why it's important to get your application in early.

Why is doing an internship so important if you're interested in a career in banking?

Banking is a very challenging career, and doing an internship allows you to see whether working here is right for you, and we try to help students with this decision.

As with other banks, most of the places in our full-time graduate programmes go to students who've done internships with us because we can learn so much more about you during a 10-week internship than in a 30-minute interview, especially in regards to important qualities that we look for such as teamwork and leadership.

We try to get the best out of our interns by giving them plenty of experience on real deals and projects, and we also provide guidance and mentoring. We find that most of our interns blossom, grow, and show their true potential during their time with us.

What are the advantages of doing an internship at Credit Suisse in particular?

One of the great aspects of our Spring Insight Week is the way in which it gives students in-depth information about all our different divisions. When you apply, you don't have to know exactly what area of banking you want to work in - the programme will give you the chance to learn about a few divisions and find the best fit for you.

I think we're particularly good at providing interns with close support from a number of different sources. You will receive guidance and support from our campus recruitment team, be partnered with an analyst buddy who was in your position just a couple of years ago, and will also be assigned to work with a very senior mentor - our head of investment banking has even mentored interns before. When you receive access to help and advice from such a wide range of people, you can really learn a lot and grow.

When should students apply for your programmes?

The application system for our internship programmes opens in late August. It's a good idea to meet some Credit Suisse people at campus events early in the academic year to get some personal insights and make sure we're suited to you. Then, we encourage you to get your application in as soon as possible after that.

The application process starts a little later for the Spring Insight Week, but I'd advise first years to get their applications in by November.

Why is it a good idea to apply early?

There's a lot of competition for internships in banking, and recruiters will look at applications and start filling places from an early stage of the application season.

How long should a spring week or internship application take?

Keep your CV updated on an ongoing basis. The information in your CV is a big part of a spring week or internship application so having one prepared will speed up the process. If your CV is ready, the rest of the application shouldn't take very long.

However, ensure that you spend enough time on your application to make sure that it addresses everything asked for thoroughly and that there aren't any silly mistakes in it. This will take perhaps an evening or two of focused work.

What makes the best spring week or internship applications stand out?

The applications that really stand out are the ones where I can see that someone took the time to write an excellent and thoughtful application that shows what's special about them compared to their peers.

For example, I recently read an application from someone who'd been the captain of their university's team in an unusual sport. I liked that he'd shown he could balance training with his academic work and lead a team, and that he'd done something a bit out of the ordinary.

Another example would be an applicant who's achieved something in challenging circumstances - for example, perhaps you've worked hard at a part-time job in order to fund yourself through studying or travelling abroad.

Do you have any other advice for students applying for spring weeks or internships in banking?

Getting a spring week or internship place, and being successful during it is about demonstrating that you're a driven, committed individual who wants to achieve things, and that you can be versatile in an industry that's constantly evolving.

You need to have some fundamental qualities in place already, such as the ability to work well in a team, an aptitude for leadership, and good judgement.

But you also need to be willing to learn and develop, and be ready to make the most of all the teaching and support we'll offer you. People who show a real appetite for new knowledge and skills are the ones who do very well at Credit Suisse.

The spring week student

Dhruv Patel is in his third year of studying chemical engineering at the University of Cambridge. He took part in Credit Suisse's Spring Insight Week in 2013 and will undertake a summer internship at the bank later this year.

"I didn't know much about banking when I applied for Spring Insight Week, but had heard that it was a good idea to get my application in quickly so I applied before term had even started. I got invited to a phone interview in early December, which I was fast-tracked for because I'd attended lots of Credit Suisse campus events - I went to as many of these as I could because I wanted to get a feel for what the bank was like and meet people working there.

During Spring Insight Week we found out about all the different areas within the bank and got lots of opportunities to ask people at all levels about their work. There were also networking events.

After Spring Insight Week, I knew that I was interested in equity research, as I liked the idea of looking at political and economic events and advising clients on how these might affect share prices. I got fast-tracked again into the 2014 summer internship application process, and was offered a place in October.

Credit Suisse has kept in touch with me - I've been invited to events to meet other students who will be interning with me and I'm going to go into the office soon to meet my team.

I'll be working in equity research, but my aim is to talk to people from lots of different desks and get as broad an experience as possible. Everyone at Credit Suisse has been welcoming, happy to answer questions, down-to-earth and open - and that makes the bank somewhere I'd really like to work."

The summer intern

Ollie Bristowe is in his final year studying physics at the University of Oxford. He took part in Spring Insight Week at Credit Suisse in 2012, did an internship last summer, and will join the bank as an analyst later this year.

"I've really enjoyed my physics degree but I've realised that I want to work somewhere with a faster pace than a science laboratory, which is how I became interested in banking. I found out that my chances of getting a job would be greatly increased by doing an internship and I was successful in getting a place on Credit Suisse's Spring Insight Week.

The programme helped me identify the kinds of banking I was interested in, and I was offered an internship place for summer 2013 shortly afterwards - it was great to have it sorted out so early!

My internship was in fixed income trading, working with corporate or government debt products. I particularly loved interest rate swap trading - it's very technical and really exciting, and luckily this team were looking for a graduate to join them and I was offered a place there.

The decision as to whether or not the firm will make you a graduate offer is made carefully over the course of the whole internship. You have to make sure you get a sense of what you want to do, talk to people in the areas you're interested in, find out what's available, and put yourself forward. I built up a rapport with one of the team members on the interest rate swap desk, and he gave me plenty of good advice and guidance.

My immediate career plan is to be successful as a trader, but I'm open to change paths later on, as things are always developing in banking. I love what I've seen so far of Credit Suisse and, whatever happens in the industry, I'll be in a good position there."

The autumn intern

Alexander Asher studied classics at the University of Oxford and did a master's degree in finance at the London School of Economics. He then interned at Credit Suisse, and will join the bank as an analyst this autumn.

"Before my Credit Suisse internship I'd worked at a hedge fund and found finance to be interesting. I'd also spent time at a start-up and enjoyed the intensity of the atmosphere. I decided that I should try banking as it seemed to combine what I liked most.

I applied successfully for the Autumn Internship Program and was placed on the coverage team for the consumer and retail industries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The team works closely with clients in these areas on a range of deals. I was involved in mergers and acquisitions, equity financing, debt financing, and other types of work.

I found one of the biggest changes from being a student was going from a set workload with regular deadlines to multiple projects with various deadlines, all concurrent and changing. But I really enjoyed what I was doing, and am excited that I'll be going back to the same team when I join the bank as an analyst in the autumn.

The intense lifestyle that's a part of working in banking is not for everyone, but for some people it really fits the way they like to do things. Doing an internship helps you to work out whether it's for you. I find the way you work in banking means you learn very quickly, and the more you learn at an early stage of your career, the more options open up for you.

In the short term, I want to get established in my role at Credit Suisse and continue to challenge myself. In the future, I'd like to work elsewhere in the world, and at a global bank like Credit Suisse I can do so."

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