Diary of a back office intern: We have been given tips on how to avoid banker bashing
After countless applications, telephone interviews, competency questions, strength-based interviews, group exercises, presentations, and assessment centres, I landed an internship at one of the world’s top financial services organisations.
I’m feeling very privileged; it has never been more competitive for students to get opportunities like these, and it's becoming increasingly common for aspiring interns to have to find alternative fillers for the summer to help them gain a competitive advantage for the following year. I have every intention of making the most of it.
Leading up to day one, aside from the usual vigorous background vetting (which included long-winded attempts to verify voluntary activity from over half a decade ago), we had a meet and greet day - complete with a treasure hunt around the City and brief contact with assigned ‘buddies’ and managers.
The internship programme here really fits into three main streams – Equity Research, Sales and Marketing, and my area: Business Management and Operations. Each had its own quite different assessment centre, ranging from foreign language interviews and sit down exams, to presentations and group exercises (as was the case for my stream). However, we all started together on day one with our induction at the head office – a day of training given by an external training provider, and a brief lecture on how to deal with criticism from friends for entering financial services in light of all the bad press in recent years (clarifying the differences between 'sell side' and 'buy side'/ investment banking and investment management...and hence how we’re really not the people to blame for the meltdown).
With an intake of fewer than 20 interns, the demographic is noticeably 'elite', with more than 50% coming from an Oxbridge/ Imperial/ Ivy league education, and with a reasonably balanced spread of undergrads, masters students and MBAs. Nonetheless, the environment is enormously friendly and even as an undergrad from a less well-known institution I felt very welcome. I would note though, that the kids from less elite backgrounds are here for a reason – every one of them has quite an extraordinary story and in some cases it's hard not to feel humbled hearing about their long and difficult journey to break into an industry perceived to be associated with privilege and heavy competition.
On day two we headed over to another external training provider to try and bring everyone up to the same basic level of financial services understanding. After this we split, and the equity folk stayed on for two more days of training while the rest of us joined our respective teams. I’m writing this after my second day out of training, so am limited by how much I can share at this point, but so far it's every bit as exciting (and challenging) as I’d hoped it would be. I have a rapidly growing pile of information to assimilate and digest, but am lucky enough to be working on something I find really fascinating – so we’ll see how it goes!