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How to get an Investment Banking summer internship

by Alex Anton October 01, 2018
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​If you’re in the middle of applying for summer internships while juggling assignments at the start of a brand new term, then you’ll know how stressful it can be to get a spot at one of the highly competitive banking internships.

For those who have just discovered investment banking and are weighing up the pros and cons of a long-term career in this field, summer internships are excellent opportunities to “test drive” the role of an Analyst before committing to the real thing. It goes without saying that while this profession is intellectually challenging, fast-paced and incredibly rewarding on both a developmental and financial level, it’s also hard work. As such, it is in your best interest to take advantage of opportunities that will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the profession and to help determine whether it is the right choice for you.

As an intern, you can spend several weeks working alongside other Analysts, Associates and Partners, contributing to real transactions and getting a feel for the day-to-day roles of the job. On the flipside, some of the most competitive M&A boutiques hire their full-time Analysts exclusively from their intern pool – so, as much as this is a chance for you to understand if this is the right career path to pursue, it’s also a means for the banks to spot talent and identify the candidates who could mature into successful bankers.

The process of obtaining a place on a summer internship is fairly similar across banks, typically involving a resume and cover letter screening, telephone interviews and assessment centres. If you’ve submitted several applications across the board and have several telephone interviews and online tests lined up, things can feel a little overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of what each of these processes is trying to reveal to the evaluators about applicants.

Banking is inherently quantitative but what many forget is how important it is to be a structured, articulate and emotionally intelligent communicator because once you’ve passed the Analyst years, you will responsible for building and nurturing longstanding client relationships. Summer internship application processes aim to spot whether you are good with numbers, analytical, capable of solving complex problems, commercially aware and an apt, tactful communicator. This sounds like a lot and in order to avoid spreading yourself too thinly, it’s essential that you do your research and apply to the places that you’re genuinely excited about!

On a resume level, more and more investment banks look for well-rounded, entrepreneurially-minded candidates who can demonstrate a consistent academic track record in addition to being actively involved in extra-curricular activities, student societies or sports. What you need to remember is that your approach should be quality over quantity, and rather than being involved on a minimal level in dozens of different things, it’s far more valuable to have a couple of things alongside your course where you’ve had a real impact, demonstrated leadership qualities and initiative. 

Your motivations will be thoroughly tested throughout the application process so it’s essential that you put thought into why the company that you’re applying for is a stand-out to you, why you feel the career would be rewarding and what you could gain from the internship, as well as why you would make a good fit for the team. When submitting an application, don’t underestimate the importance of a well-written cover letter. Watch out for errors; tailor it to the firm you’re applying for and strike a balance between well-researched and concise.  In terms of your research, do not limit yourself to inserting the value of transactions completed by the bank, the number of offices and total revenue – focus on what truly sets them apart from their competitors. It can be the culture, the unique training programme, the opportunity to work across industries or, on the contrary, the chance to specialise early on.

During telephone interviews or assessment centres, interviewers will want to see enthusiasm, professionalism and commercial acumen on top of ensuring that you have the analytical ability to do well in the job. For the commercial awareness piece, stay on top of industry news and get into the habit of reading around about different deals. If you’re worried about being tested on technical knowledge, especially if you don’t come from a finance-related degree background, brush up on some basic concepts and try to understand what their real-life applicability is in the job of an Analyst.

The process involved in securing an Investment banking summer internship might seem daunting at first but gaining a place can set you up for the future in your Investment banking career and is an opportunity that is really worth pursuing. 

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