COMMENT: My encounter with a lazy banking summer intern

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With the temperature increasing across Europe and Spring at full speed, students are either battling for the very last summer internship spots in banking, or fantasising about their upcoming one.

For the lucky ones there will be £8k - £11k ($10.5k to $14.4k) of mostly tax-free income to be earned in 10 weeks. That time will be largely about desk shadowing, sitting in conference rooms and sipping wine and beer at networking events. Once in a while, however, there will be an all-nighter. And this is a problem. 

Banking pays well and it offers good job prospects. But the young people I encounter today seem to care less about this than previous generations. Working long hours is a lot less appealing than it used to be.

As a senior banker, I've interviewed a lot of millennials for jobs in banking. Time and time again, they've told me that they don't want to work late. I've also experienced this attitude on the job, and believe me - it does not make you look good.

Last year I was on a business trip and in need of urgent assistance at 7pm London time. I asked an intern for help. All that was required were a few corrections to a presentation and that he send it around internally. It was another 30 minutes of hard work, give or take. And he declined to do it.

 After listening to my request for help, he informed me: “Before I picked up the phone I was actually on my way out of the office. I have a date tonight and I can't be late. Can this wait until tomorrow?” No, it could not.

Call me old school, but I was in shock. Why work hard to get a job in banking only to jeopardize it all for a potential one night stand?

Banks partly have themselves to blame. In order to attract young talent they've created short 'spring week' programs where students don't have to do do any sort of actual work. These can last one day or a full week. Most applicants have done them, so that when I look at students' CVs I struggle to make sense of their apparent 'work experience.'

Not long ago I interviewed a student from Imperial College in London. On his resume he listed internship experiences at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, without providing a duration for either one. When I asked him, he eventually admitted that both lasted less than 10 hours each. 

Thanks to these short internships, even students from the best universities seem to have little idea what working in banking is really like. They study economics, finance and sometimes even complex financial engineering.  They can mention countless networking events and quote very senior managers talking about market trends and banking careers, but they think this is sufficient and expect to work nine hour days. They also fail to prepare adequately for assessment centres and interviews. The moment their opinions are challenged, they are lost.  

The attitude from today's interns seems to be that banks should want them and persuade them to work in banking rather than the other way around. You need to address this if you're part of the intern class of  2019: it won't get you a job.

Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a senior banker in London

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