Banking Internships:Not Quite Extinct
We ask how much they pay, and why and how to get one
Burning the midnight oil in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and other financial centres around the world, there's a breed of 20-something-year-old interns, donned in suits, sucking up to their bosses, diligently fiddling around with spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, and always looking keen.
They're prepared for the late nights from their student lifestyle, but probably not so prepared for the early mornings. Fiercely ambitious, acutely aware of the competitive job market, these are boom-time teenagers who grew up hearing stories of obscene city bonuses.
But alas the Gen Ys are unlikely to cash in like the Gen Xs. Most people expect European governments to push harder this year on capping bonuses for top earners.
And yet finance is still the Holy Grail for many students. Yes, maybe the pay levels won't be as towering as they once were (millions). But they're still big (hundreds of thousands). And starting salaries remain higher than in other industries.
I called a few banks to ask about internship pay. As with all press enquiries about pay they recoiled in terror and refused to comment. Fortunately a quick phone around to friends confirmed the following figures for London-based internships: £800 a week at HSBC and BarCap, £700 at Citi and £500 at BNP Paribas. These salaries apply for the analyst level - typically for undergrad and masters students.
There are occasionally internship opportunities for more qualified people - for example MBA students - but to give a sense of numbers, last year Citi hired 100 analyst interns and only 6 interns at the higher 'associate' level.
Try before you buy
It's clear that internships are a great way - for the interns as well as companies - to 'try before they buy', explaining why universities are very supportive.
Cana Witt, MBA Career Development Manager at
Antony Esposito, a student at Aston business School, is about to finish a 14-month internship at UBS Global Asset Management. Esposito, who has never worked in a bank, believes the internship has "equipped him with important experience and knowledge for my future career" and this seems universally true.
Clearly the best way to understand if you want to work in a bank is to try working in a bank. It's the same for any industry.
A hiring manager is also more likely to choose a candidate who's already demonstrated their skills during an internship. Citigroup reportedly offers 70 to 80% of their interns full time roles.
The application process
Most interviews take the form of an online test followed by an assessment centre. The process is almost as gruelling as getting a permanent position, reflecting the importance that banks now place on their internship pipeline.
Interview questions are diverse - I remember from my days as a hiring manager at BNP Paribas asking questions ranging from "how do you price an option?" to "how many individual cubes in a rubic cube?".
The best advice for getting hired as an intern seems fairly consistent: lots of practice and lots of applications - the more you apply for, the better your chances are.
Any final tips?
Alise Capkovska, another Aston business school student, gives these top tips after internships at Nomura and Morgan Stanley: "While you're there you have a great chance to see what other areas of the bank are doing - just be proactive and arrange a couple of hours to sit with someone working on another desk. Learn from your colleagues and just make the most of the experience. And before you ask any questions think if it is an appropriate question!"