By the time they get through the door, investment banking interns will have endured numerical tests, numerous rounds of interviews and will have acquired an impressive enough CV to blow up to 17,000 other students competing for places out of the water.
To make it through the application process, you have to be tenacious, academically excellent and willing to put the work required to pique investment banks’ interest even before you start university. This means sporting prowess thrown in for the ever-important evidence of teamwork and competitive spirit, as well as studying a financial subject and getting involved in societies and clubs that can boost your employability.
Interns paid around £45k pro rata, or around £2,700 for each month they’re at the investment bank. Banks are not simply taking them on get an insight into the industry – they expect interns earn their corn, and this means working up to 80 hours a week.
The tragic death of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt, who was interning with Bank of America in London this summer, has not been pegged on working excessive hours, although rumours persist that he pulled eight all-nighters in two weeks, and three in a row. This is extreme, even for investment banking interns who are required to work long hours, something no doubt predicated on his admitted pressure to perform that he felt all his life.
Investment banking is incredibly competitive, and the interns who are striving for a full-time position against one another buy into this. The diet of summer interns plucked from a comparatively cushy university life into a world of working into the wee hours is Redbull, coffee and Proplus. In the wake of Erhardt’s death, other investment banks’ HR teams have reportedly sent out warnings not to work their interns too hard – although this is too little too late.
Working as an intern used to be full of perks – in 2006, J.P. Morgan reported took interns to trendy nightclub Butter in NoHo, New York in white hummer limousines, while Credit Suisse paid for its interns to take gourmet cooking classes. These days it’s more likely to be a drink in the local pub – if the workload allows it.
Interns are now treated as an additional element to the analyst pool, particularly after banks started recruiting fewer graduates and laying off employees further up the ranks. However, with competitiion intensifying for full-time offers, interns are required to work ever-harder to impress those making the hiring decisions – Erhardt was described as one of the “best interns” after leaving the office at 6am on three consecutive days.
Investment banks are trying to convince interns, who are increasingly sceptical of entering the industry, that they are the generation who can change this culture and shape their own future. The reality is, though, that by the time they make it to a level where they can exert any influence, they - like the senior bankers currently inflicting punishing hours – will have already earned their stripes working late into the night and will do the same to the junior they manage. It’s a vicious circle that shows no sign of stopping.