What to expect during your IB summer internship and how to secure the full-time offer

I have just left my role as an Associate at a top bulge-bracket bank and with intern season around the corner, I thought I would give back to the community with a guide for Summer Analysts on how to convert your internship, and secure the full-time offer.


Needless to say I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the last few years, and have been involved in the decision-making process for full-time offers a number of times, so here’s my take on what to expect and how to succeed.


What to expect during your internship


Back when I was in undergrad, eagerly anticipating the start of my internship, I had all the visions in the world about running live deals, going to client meetings, becoming a modelling genius and generally being an all-round baller.


Let’s just say that the reality was quite a bit different from my expectations, not just because my internship was disrupted by Covid, but because as an intern you are at the bottom of the ladder and need to build up trust before you get to do the “cool” stuff. That means mostly grunt work, i.e. the work that the Analysts don’t want to do and have been putting off until you arrive.


So what does that mean exactly? Well, it depends a lot what team you are in and whether you are in a sector or product group. Generally speaking though, you should expect to spend a good chunk of your time doing company profiles, market mappings and internal work such as updating creds and teams pages.


You will also be doing a lot of marketing, which often involves coming up with equity stories (how to position a company to investors or an acquiror) and some basic technical work (e.g. comps, DCF, LBO etc). This is where you will learn the most as you start to get exposure to “proper” banking work. This is where you will realise that in the real world, every company has its own financial anomalies that need to be taken into account, and it’s not just as simple as your classes at university. You might even feel underwater as though you know nothing, but that’s ok as this is a job where you learn through practice as opposed to reading from a text book.


If you are lucky, and likely only after a couple of weeks once you have shown some basic competence, you might be put on a live deal – the holy grail of banking! As an intern however, don’t expect to be running the show here. Why is that? Because these days deals take a lot longer to get across the line and clients want continuity in who they are working with. You’re not going to hold the pen on the model because you will be gone in 2 months, whereas the deal might last half a year. It also goes without saying that the stakes are much higher in an execution, so why would the team let the big tasks rest on someone who has been on the desk for a few weeks? Instead, expect to generally support your Analyst / Associate on ad hoc tasks from sending out call invites and taking notes, to preparing the odd page here or there or doing small pieces of side analysis.


Aside from the work, summer is the time of year when everyone is thinking about going on holiday, so people are generally in a good mood. The weather is (hopefully) beautiful so expect team summer parties and evening drinks on Thursdays. Your HR department will also be throwing a lot of events for interns to network with each other and across the bank.


A few thoughts on technical skills


Most people come in with the misconception that they are expected to know everything re technicals. This is false. In fact, an intern on their first day probably knows about 1% of what a good Analyst knows after their first full year, regardless of how much finance you have studied. As I mentioned before, finance courses can only help you so much, but beyond that it takes practice and repetition.


For that reason, you should expect to make mistakes – a lot of them. That’s why banks have layers of hierarchy to review work before it ultimately gets sent out to a client. What matters is not about whether you make a mistake, it’s about how you deal with them. Nearly 100% of the time from my experience, no matter the size of the mistake, it’ll get found eventually and the longer you leave it, the more problematic it becomes. Therefore you should focus on checking your work carefully before sending it to anyone (printing out your work always makes it easier to spot stuff), and raising with your Analyst anything you are not sure about. If you do make a mistake, don’t get flustered or try to cover it up – that just shows you cannot deal with stress – instead try to understand what went wrong and learn how to avoid that mistake going forward. It sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised by how many people get it wrong.


On a similar note, try not to rush your work. When I joined banking, I thought everything had to be done in 5 minutes. In reality, you’ll often spend half a day working for what ends up being a few numbers on one slide in a 30 page deck. Quality comes first over speed and always discuss with your project team the appropriate deadlines and expected time to complete a given task.


With that being said, technical skills are not the most important factor – anyone can learn this. Instead your attitude, ability to learn and interpersonal skills matter a lot more – these are much harder to teach.


Attitude and ability to learn


So how do you stand out as having a good attitude?


The first aspect is humility – understanding that you are here to learn as opposed to coming in as the expert. You are not an expert yet, so don’t pretend you are one. Asking questions and showing genuine interest and intellectual curiosity is also important.


Equally you must be willing to work hard. It’s no secret that bankers work long hours and have high volumes of work. In a lot of cases it’s avoidable (caused by inefficient management or senior team members not doing a good job at pushing back on crazy client requests), but sometimes you just gotta get it done. The best interns are there for their team at those critical moments – if you can take even a little bit of pressure off your Analyst, it will go a long way. It’s not easy either as 9 times out of 10 the Analyst could save more time by doing the work themselves vs explaining it to you, waiting for you to do it and then reviewing.


Having said that, unless you are in a particularly horrible team, “face time” isn’t as much of a thing any more. If you have some down time, take a break – go for a walk, grab coffee with someone etc – it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and those who don’t teak breaks burn out quickly. My point is, don’t be chained to your desk 24/7 – it’ll only hurt you and working until 4am every night just suggests you cannot handle the workload as opposed to being a super hard worker.


Another aspect is just generally practicing good communication. Keep your Analyst / Associate updated on progress, let them know if you need more time etc. It’s much better to ask for more time or for help on something rather than spending 2 days with no idea what to do, and reaching the deadline having made no progress. You don’t have to respond to everything in 30 seconds but generally being responsive is also important.


Inevitably there will be stressful moments, as is the case in any career. Some handle it well, others don’t. When things get tough, try to keep a cool head and think logically about the best way to get across the line. The worst kind of people are those who let the stress get to them and then take it out on others.


Finally, present yourself well. Make sure you are smart and wear proper fitting clothes. Make sure you are well groomed. You don’t need to look perfect, but if you come into the office looking scruffy, it will be noticed.


Interpersonal skills


Interpersonal skills are massively important. Firstly, you will spend more time with your colleagues than your friends, family, or partner, so people want to be around others that are at least somewhat interesting. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but at least be a nice person to others and be able to hold a good conversation.


Another reason why interpersonal skills are important is because as you become a more senior banker, more of your role shifts towards speaking to clients and building relationships etc. Showing that you can hold yourself well in this regard will therefore signal your long-term potential.


A sidenote on this – don’t be a suck up to seniors. It’s blatantly obvious to everyone around you and never goes down well. In the majority of banks, seniors don’t make the decision as to who gets a return offer, the juniors do – so if anything it’s the juniors you want to impress the most.


In this regard, networking is also super important. An internship is short and unless you have a really small team, you will not work with everyone over the course of a couple of months. If you can have 2-3 people really vouch for you come decision time, that goes a long way, but it’s even better if you have the whole team saying they like you (even if they haven’t actually worked with you). Make sure you try and get to know everyone in your team, as well as people across other teams (it will come in handy as different teams often work together) – just reach out and ask to grab a coffee, or ask an Analyst to make intros.


Preparation ahead of your internship


The only real area that you can prepare for ahead of your internship is on the technical side, but again I would not spend all day every day practicing your comps, DCFs etc. Just make sure you understand the basics of the 3 financial statements and basic valuation methodologies – the rest you will learn on the job.


If you don’t have any background in finance at all, don’t worry – many interns don’t. It’s not rocket science and it’s not difficult to learn. Banks understand that people start at different points, so again, your attitude and interpersonal skills will matter more. If you do have some time, there are plenty of free resources out there for the basics (e.g. WSO, Wall Street Prep etc).


Final remarks


There is no secret sauce to converting your internship. In fact, it’s really quite simple – but you will be surprised how many people get the basics wrong.


During the internship itself, don’t get too caught up in thinking about “am I on track for a return offer”. Ask for regular feedback from those you work closely with and adjust accordingly, but for the most part focus on what you can control which is working hard, learning as much as you can, and building relationships with people.


As a final note, make sure you take the time to enjoy your internship. It will feel tiring, yes, but equally there is an end in sight (a great luxury compared to when you work full-time and you only have the weekends and a few holidays each year to look forward to). Banking is a great way to start your career – you build confidence and learn the soft and technical skills for any career in business / finance, so make the most of it.


With that being said, good luck for your internships this summer. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them down below.

 

SB from me. This is such solid advice and I'll be referring to it as I start my internship soon. Thanks!

 

Awesome write up! I think attitude is paramount. Someone who’s willing to do anything and everything (regardless of whether your analyst / associate takes you up on it) is definitely noticed and goes a long way vs. someone who is less proactive and needs to be actively managed. It’s candidly a crucial quality once a full-time analyst too (and probably beyond)!

Not to pile on the pressure, but your reputation as a summer analyst definitely carries over to when you hit the desk full-time to some extent, so relatively important to lay down the groundwork as a summer.

 
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The only thing I'd disagree with is your paragraph below "Preparation ahead of your internship". I am currently mentoring a handful of college students from my college club (some sophomores, mainly juniors and seniors), and I can tell you that these kids are already preparing for PE interviews, meaning they're already capable of building a dynamic 3-statement LBO model in 60-90 minutes. This is a step up vs. simply knowing how to do a basic DCF

Another thing I'd suggest to incoming interns is to make sure you keep in touch with folks you've built relationships with at other firms during the SA recruiting process. Banks tend to poach interns from other banks, and if you're fresh on their minds, you'll probably receive an email in early July or so about the FT recruiting process. It's a good way to (1) hedge in case you don't get a return offer for whatever reason and (2) "upgrade" your bank.

 

I’m going to be an intern this summer and I’ve been thinking ahead. How should I prepare in case I want to move to another bank for FT? What resources do you recommend because I’ve heard FT interviews are harder?

 

I actually think FT Analyst interviews are easier - you've already proven your interest in banking, now you just have to articulate why you want to switch firms. From a technical question standpoint, as long as you can talk about your summer experience coherently and can answer every question in the M&I/WSO guides, you should be fine.

 

This is very very true. Interned at CVP/EVR/LAZ last summer. After getting the offer and prior to starting, I asked people I’d been networking with beforehand if I should be working on my modelling etc. They were like “no just chill. Don’t do anything”. When we started, all the other kids were WAY more proficient than me - that massively put me on the back-foot

 

What’s PF? I shared the actual model tests and case studies I got back when I was doing PE recruiting. Every bank/group has their own PE prep materials - just ask your seniors.

 

Psst! Have you heard about the secret intern float test? The Managing Directors are known for their eccentricities, and this year's intern evaluation is no exception! Apparently, there's a pool filled with a concoction of water, vinegar, and sparkling ale. Interns are expected to float in this bizarre brine to prove their... buoyancy? Don't worry, this is all just a rumor (we think). But hey, if you see a group of interns practicing levitation in the break room, you'll know what's up. wink wink Just be yourself and focus on your amazing contributions. That's the key to success around here.

 

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