Investment banking internships: what you need to know

Investment banking internships advice for your application, your assessment day and your first day in the office
Investment banking

Investment banking internships are an essential step on the path to a career in the finance world, with 75 per cent of graduate roles at investment banks given to former interns.

As a result it's vital you impress and stand out from the crowd at every stage of the process. To help you do this, we asked recent graduates working in finance to share their advice on how to make the most of your internship opportunity.

5 things to know before applying

Spring week students don't need to re-apply

If you want a head start over other applicants, doing a spring week in the first year of your degree can offer exactly that, as many employers will offer internship places to spring week students before applications are open to everyone else.

You will still be expected to go through some form of selection procedure, but it's unlikely to be as extensive as it would be if you were an external applicant.

Apply as early as possible

As the above point suggests, roles at an investment bank are filled on a rolling basis so begin working on your application as soon as you see a placement listed.

Endlessly refining and revising your personal statement and only sending it hours before the deadline will leave you with a minimal chance of getting a place. While you obviously shouldn't rush your applications, make sure you don't dawdle.

There's a wide variety of banks

This may seem like an obvious point, but time should be spent considering the type of bank you want to work for. The City offers a wide range of employers, from bulge bracket to boutique, and each comes with its own workplace culture.

Applying for all the biggest, most notable names might seem like the best way to go, especially as their internship schemes usually offer more places, but smaller employers might be a better fit for your own interests.

Not all intern roles are the same

Some banks will offer a range of internship opportunities so it's important to make sure you're applying for the one which closely matches your own interests.

If you're hoping to join the bank as a trader, doing an internship in technology or operations won't necessarily be that helpful (though it's definitely better than nothing!) Make sure the role you apply for matches your own career ambitions.

Focus on quality, not quantity

Don't overdo the number of applications to banks. Taking a scattergun approach and applying for as many as possible might seem like the best way to improve your odds of getting an internship but it also means you'll be spending less time on each one.

Fine-tuning an investment banking application can be a time-consuming process so it's important not to rush through them.

5 things to know before your assessment day

You will face a combination of assessment methods

Although interviews with senior bank members are the focal point of your assessment day, you should be prepared to be given a wide range of other tasks to complete.

Each bank will structure their assessment process slightly differently, but most will include a combination of written tests, group work, competency questions and presentations.

Practice tests are ideal preparation

Finding practice tests and assessment exercises online is a fairly straightforward process and they can be a great way to mentally prepare yourself for the assessment day.

While you're at it, see if you can rope in a friend or family member to give you a mock interview using some typical interview questions.

It helps to read the news from a banker's perspective

Commercial awareness may seem like an over-used term, but it's for good reason; it's vital if you want to impress your interviewers.

Knowing where to start can be tricky but a great first step (besides from reading The Gateway of course) is to look up any recent news stories involving the bank and to read around those subjects. Also, try to approach news stories about the banking industry from the mindset of an analyst and assess the ways it could affect the bank.

Relish the opportunity

Assessment days are designed to be intellectually challenging, not stressful and intimidating, so do your best to enjoy the experience.

Be relaxed and talkative, rather than nervous and uptight, and you're bound to make a more positive impression on your assessors, who will be taking into account whether you'll be a good fit for the workplace culture.

Talk about people you've met from the bank

Attending careers events at university is a great way to learn more about particular employers within an industry, but their usefulness doesn't end there.

Remember the names of the bank representatives you speak to, and talk about them and what they told you in your interview. When you're asked why you want to work for a particular bank, being able to refer to a real person and their experiences makes for a better answer than waffling on about how much you've "always wanted to work for such a prestigious bank".

5 things to know before your first day as an intern

Be prepared for online exercises

Some banks will send you online exercises, to be completed before you start your internship.

These aren't designed to test your aptitude and see if you pass or fail, but to familiarise you with key concepts and tools you'll need once you arrive at the bank.

Reach out to people in the industry

If you know anyone currently working at the bank, or have a friend who has done an investment banking internship, it's a good idea to get in touch and find out what you should expect.

Check if your parents and wider family know anyone too - even if all you get is the email address of a senior banker you've never met before, it's nice to have a contact within the bank before you actually start.

Relevant reading will help you prepare

Take some time to go over any relevant notes and textbooks from your studies in the weeks before you start your internship. It's also a good idea to read up about the bank you'll be working at and any recent developments in the industry, for instance in the Financial Times.

Don't feel you need to cram lots of information into your head though, as that will just be counter-productive.

Take a notepad

Over the course of your internship, you will talk to a lot of people, sometimes about a specific piece of work, sometimes about more general topics.

While you might feel you can remember all the important things, carrying a notepad at all times means you can take notes of anything you learn and any advice you're given. If you don't, it's likely to reflect poorly on you when you keep needing to ask for help with the same thing.

Get to know the other interns

Banks tend to split their interns up across their various desks and departments so you won't spend a lot of time working alongside other students.

Make the effort to get to know them outside of work and at bank-organised social events though, as having a network of available contacts across the bank will make some of the work you're given much easier. Swapping your experiences with each other will also help you get an idea of how the wider bank functions.

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