If you are a finance student without a summer internship offer in your pocket, you're most definitely "behind the eight ball" today, says a career coach and former campus recruiter.
Banks are increasingly hiring most, if not all, of their full-time analysts from their pool of summer interns, rather than going back on campus to hire additional recruits in the fall, Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio of New York-based Six Figure Start told eFinancialCareers.
In fact, one major bulge-bracket bank told her its entire full-time class will come from its pool of summer interns, said Thanasoulis-Cerrachio.
Fewer opportunities this fall
Thus, while undergraduate and graduate students seeking positions in investment banking, sales and trading, and other capital markets slots may find a few opportunities available this fall, without a summer internship, they'll be at a major disadvantage.
The good news is major banks have made almost no changes in their campus recruiting levels for the current season.
"Banks will avoid that at all costs," says Thanasoulis-Cerrachio. In a difficult economy like this one, some institutions might pull back just slightly, scheduling perhaps "10 percent less on-campus interview schedules-but they still will have a strong presence on campus."
Banks are maintaining relationships with key universities
But such changes have been marginal, as financial institutions know better than to sever important relationships with key universities and business schools, fearing that such a move could erode their brand and their businesses. That was the case even when Thanasoulis-Cerrachio was a Citibank recruiter during the real estate crisis of the early 1990s. Later on she was head of Merrill Lynch Asset Management campus recruiting.
The "huge change" now, she says, is that today, as many as 95 to 98 percent of full-time recruits will be students whose skills were vetted during the summer. It used to be that a firm with the goal of hiring 100 analysts would often seek as many as 20 percent of them on-campus in the fall. That's shifted.
Full-timers coming from summer internships
"Full-time analysts and associates, more and more, are almost exclusively coming from the summer class," Thanasoulis-Cerrachio says, noting that this is becoming a trend "across the board"-one that is not only saving finance organizations time and money but is also giving them the opportunity to hire someone with a proven record.
A Bank of America official was recently quoted saying that its recruitment plans are consistent with 2010's and that BofA is not in the same situation as it was back in 2009 when some banks dialed back their on-campus hiring plans. Still, employers are choosier than ever.
"There are some phenomenal candidates out there," says Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, recalling one candidate she worked with this week who was about to graduate from Syracuse University with a finance degree-who has a total of four summer internships under his belt already, "two at a hedge fund, one at a buyside firm and one at a sell-side firm."
You really need two summer internships in your pocket to be competitive these days, she concludes.