Harrison Careers

Spring into Finance!

It won’t come as a surprise to you to discover that getting a job is really pretty hard right now – especially in the investment banks. Finance jobs have always been fiercely competitive, but consolidation, regulatory pressure, a weak economy, a global pandemic and a potential no-deal Brexit are causing additional worries in the sector – which is having a knock-on effect on hiring.

Getting your foot in the door, however, can be a little easier if you’re lucky enough to get into an early “insight program” or similar initiative, before you try to tackle the summer internship applications.

In London, banks offer “spring internships”, which are essentially 1-2 week long internships that take place during your spring break. On top of that, some banks even offer A-level insight programs and other initiatives such as Goldman’s “Women’s Trader Academy”. In the US, many banks offer sophomore programs, some of which (e.g. JP Morgan’s Sophomore Edge) are targeted at historically underrepresented populations (specifically Black, Hispanic and Native American students). The types of initiative differ from bank to bank, so it’s best is to check their websites and click around. They all fall under the category of “insight internships”.

Such “pre-internship” programs are much easier to land than a formal, penultimate year internship, and they act as a primary funnel into proper internships, and ultimately full-time positions, at the banks. In order to be eligible to apply for a spring internship, typically students must be in their first year of a 3-year bachelor or second year of a 4-year bachelor, or in the first year of a masters program.

There are a number of reasons as to why this route is much easier than applying to summer internships. Firstly, the number of applicants for spring weeks is much lower than that for summer internships. Secondly, women and minority candidates have a much better chance of landing their appropriately targeted programs, because there are far fewer applicants for such programs than summer internships, although similar quotas exist for both. Thirdly, spring internship interviews are much easier, because the programs are meant for students who have never worked in finance before. Therefore, you will not have to prepare for the grueling technical interviews that investment banks are famous for. And finally, the applicant pool is much less competitive – you will primarily be competing against 18-20 year-olds in their first year of university.

If you’re lucky enough to get a spring internship, you can expect 1-2 weeks of networking across multiple divisions, with small projects assigned to assess your work. For example, a typical 2-week spring internship in the front-office (IBD & GM) of a BB bank would look something like this:

  • Day 1: orientation and networking with fellow interns. You’ll attend presentations by leaders of the firm and your assigned division, and complete all associated on-boarding errands.
  • Day 2-4: training & networking. You will attend workshops and presentations by professionals with fellow interns in your division, and be taught the basics of finance.
  • The remaining 10-days will be spent doing rotations with professionals from different desks, where you’ll get to know more about their business. The desks will give you small tasks so they can assess your work.
  • Final day – you’ll complete the assessment center and final presentation (e.g. at Goldman Sachs, candidates present a stock pitch), and then you’ll complete interviews in the hope of receiving the return offer for a formal summer internship. At this point, however, the decision is already ~75% made, since your entire spring internship is essentially a 2-week long interview.

The key takeaway here is start early – instead of applying to summer internships, apply to insight events in your first year, and work hard to convert these into a formal summer internship offer. Your odds of parlaying your spring experience into a summer internship, and ultimately into a full-time job, are much better!

As ever, thanks for reading, and get in touch with questions or comments at peter.harrison@harrisoncareers.com!