Diary of a banking intern: "Sad goodbyes to interns who didn't get an offer"

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It’s over, and I made it – I received an offer to join my investment bank, which finally means I can swap Red Bull and coffee for a little champagne.

If the defining image of the financial crisis is bankers trudging out of Lehman Brothers’ offices with their possessions in a cardboard box, the process for choosing intern conversions is a little less dramatic.

Those with offers are given an envelope and walk around the office holding this with a big grin on their face. Those who didn’t make the cut simply left the office immediately with no ceremony whatsoever. This is sad – of course the bank doesn’t owe us anything, but it’s still a bit strange to spend the summer with a group of people, consider them your friends and then not even have a chance to say goodbye. Like clearing for university, these guys are now going to try to leverage their experience this summer to secure a job at another bank. Good luck to them, but it's not a position I'd like to be in.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve struggled with the long hours and never making it out of the office before 2am, but this isn’t the case for every bank. Bank of America Merrill Lynch requires its interns to leave the office before midnight and not to work at all during the weekend. This is a policy adopted after the death of BAML intern Moritz Erhardt in 2013. He died of natural causes, but worries were raised that he was working too hard after pulling consecutive all-nighters.

Apart from anything else, this made me wonder how their interns managed to get all their work done and do the necessary networking to secure an offer. The past few weeks have been a carefully orchestrated campaign of setting up coffees with senior bankers and working hard to show those on my desk that I’m worth hiring.

There are a few reasons why I believe certain interns didn’t make it. Firstly, I'd say it’s not down to business conditions – the bank could have hired all the interns if it wanted to, but chose to cut a few loose.

It's also not all about networking. Yes, you need advocates in various business lines to give you the thumbs up, but you can spend too long cultivating contacts. Interns here spent loads of time setting up little dates with senior bankers to butter them up and impress them, but they let their work slip and this is just not acceptable.

If you want an offer, I think you need to be humble and competent. Personally, I’ve learned a lot about Excel and PowerPoint here, but a lot of interns came in thinking they know it all. The result was that they had ‘their’ way of doing things and kind of refused to learn the necessary hoops the bank requires you to jump through. Nothing pisses an analyst off more than having to redo an intern’s work, and then have them refuse to change.

For the past few weeks, a bunch of us have been working on a merger simulation case study based on a recent deal the bank completed. Essentially, we’ve been creating pitchbooks, pulling apart the financial aspects of the deal and presenting our rationale for taking the deal forward in a certain way. It’s been great to use our brains on this project, as a lot of the work you’re given as an intern can be quite basic.

This feeds into the bank’s decision to hire you – that and how you demonstrate softer factors like an ability to work in a team – so don’t underestimate it.

It’s weird, I have an offer on the table from a big investment bank and still a year left at university. For the past two years, I’ve combined my studies with a single-minded goal of getting into an investment bank after graduation. Now I have that job, I’m looking forward to taking it easier before the hard work really starts next September.

James Roberts, an pseudonym, is a summer intern on an M&A desk at a bulge bracket bank in London. He’ll be writing about his experience here. 

Photo: Getty Images

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