Q&A: Here’s what it’s really like being an intern

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We spoke with Andrew Gale, who completed a nine-week internship at UBS in February and has been offered a graduate position in the firm’s 2013 intake.

What were your first impressions of the internship?

An internship at UBS is structured and fast-paced. You are expected to develop your capabilities as an analyst quickly, with the support of the bankers you’re working with. Often this development comes from observing and absorbing information from the work you’re given and the people around you. Sometimes you will need to ask questions and clarify directions to ensure that what you are producing is going to be useful. There was a wealth of information available from the people I was working with, and everyone was willing to make time to explain concepts or show me how to do something.

During my first day on the floor I was given a mix of ongoing projects and urgent tasks to be completed that evening. Throughout the first week, the work I was tasked with was primarily research-based, including profiling companies and industries. Very quickly these tasks were subsumed by work for clients. At the end of my first week, I was given pitch-book and modeling tasks to complete for a presentation the following week. I was given initial guidance on what to include and how to set it up, but beyond that I had room to attempt to complete the presentation on my own.

Throughout the internship, I was given similar tasks, with varying degrees of size, direction and urgency. It was daunting the first time I was tasked with completing work that was going to go almost directly to a client. However, those pieces of work were the ones in which I learned the most and could point to at the end of the internship as something I created.

You participated in an investment banking challenge at UBS prior to your internship. Was this a true reflection of what it’s like to work in an i-bank?

The IB challenge is a terrific way to cut your teeth on the M&A process from start to finish. You are able to develop an understanding of M&A, strategy and valuation fundamentals at multiple stages of a deal, with the knowledge of what actually transpired during the transaction. In addition, the challenge skips important but lengthy processes involved in deal execution, including due diligence, valuation assumption auditing and multi-party negotiation.

The most striking difference between the challenge and actual execution is that you don’t have the same visibility on deal pricing or structure to help guide your advice. Accordingly in practice, deal experience and financial analysis are your primary guides to ensuring your advice leads to a successful deal. There is also a lot of daily interaction between the investment bankers and clients to assist in discovering information that might assist in either completing a more rigorous valuation or structuring a deal. All of the relevant details don’t come in a single document like they do in the challenge.

What is your biggest take away from completing nine weeks within IBD?

One of the things I took away from the internship was the speed at which things can happen. The pace of the working environment is something that you have to experience to appreciate. I was involved in one transaction from origination to announcement. There was a tremendous amount of work to be completed and managed during that period, which meant a lot of quick responses and time on the phone to advisors, clients and third parties. Working to tight deadlines meant that everyone had to be up to speed with what was going on and what needed to be done. It’s an exciting environment to work in.

During an internship, you will be given a lot of responsibility and exposure very early on. There are also a lot of people who can and are more than willing to guide you and help your development. There’s a lot to learn in IBD, and I expect to learn a lot more as a graduate at UBS in 2013.

What advice can you give anyone thinking about a career in investment banking?

If you are interested in learning about M&A and investment banking, do the IB challenge – it’s a terrific first step to take if you are interested in a career in investment banking. It’s the best thing you can do during college to give you a direct insight into the work done in an investment bank, and it will help you develop the skills you need to succeed as an intern.

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