On Wall Street, Internships Are King

by Derek Loosvelt | July 07, 2011

In Vault's latest Banking Survey, which we've been administering during the past few months to professionals at the top 75 investment banks in North America, we're asking numerous questions about insiders' experiences and satisfaction on the job. So far, we've received varied answers on subjects like compensation (many say their pay is great, others say it stinks); treatment by managers (some say they're treated like kings and queens, others like serfs and peasants); diversity (reports range from "we hire anyone and everyone regardless of sex and race" to "white males are the rule and that rule is rarely broken"); hours ("100-hour weeks are standard and so I can't complain" to "I knew they were bad but never dreamed they could be like this -- I haven't had a day off in 10 months, I'm in hell"); etc.

ping pong in suit and tieHowever, there's one area -- no matter the firm, level, location, department, gender, race, or sexual orientation of the banker or trader taking the survey -- in which just about everyone agrees. And that area is summer internships.

Specifically, what employees (of Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, Moelis, Morgan Stanley, Citi, Centerview, Evercore, Jefferies, Houlihan Lokey, and others) say nearly uniformly about internships is that not only are they a great learning experience but they're also rather enjoyable, despite the very long hours and very hard work. Further, they say that during your internship you will be treated well by everyone from analysts and associates to VPs and MDs; you will work on real, live deals, and go to real, live, important meetings; you will learn an inordinate amount about economics, capital markets, and what investment bankers and/or traders do on a minute-by-minute basis; and that, if you work hard and learn quickly and believe that banking or trading is the industry for you, you'll be able to win a full-time job by the end of the summer.

In fact, not one respondent -- who either went on to work on a full-time basis for the bank at which they interned (one in four respondents have reported doing so) or who did not return and instead went on to work somewhere else -- has reported regretting their summers spent on Wall Street.

Which indeed is quite surprising, especially given that the past couple of years have been even more stressful than usual on Wall Street, with banks facing volatile deal markets and capital markets post-financial crisis; dealing with increased financial regulation and thus decreased revenues; and looking into the mouth of a possible double dip recession. And so, props should go out to the men and women at these banks who are running their internships programs -- it's obvious they're doing something incredibly right.

For a bit more summer color, here are some of the words and phrases respondents to Vault's Banking Survey commonly use to describe their internships: "rewarding," "amazing," "intellectually challenging," "great bonding experience," "not sugar coated," "treated as a first-year analyst," "very intense," "terrific," "learned a lot," "transitioned directly into a permanent job," "surprised to find out how cool and friendly people were," "everyone was extremely helpful and willing to take time to explain things," "excellent," "was given the opportunity to work on multiple industries with various partners and MDs and VPs," "accurately reflected the lifestyle and workload and expectations of an incoming associate," "entire sales and trading team made an effort to make the interns feel like a welcome part of the family," "a lot of fun combined with a lot of learning," "consistent exposure to all levels of employees," "very positive," "given responsibility immediately," "treated incredibly well," "worked on a blockbuster deal," "loved it enough to come back," "finished the summer with a good idea of what the job required and whether it was a good fit for me," and "simply a sensational program."

Sure, there are a few drawbacks to summers on the Street. As one respondent points out, "I was yelled at a lot." And as another notes, "You work somewhat long hours."

But aside from that, there's not much not to like. And, like some lucky interns, during your 10 weeks, you might even receive the added benefit of scoring an invitation out to an "MD's place on Shelter Island," or, better yet, an invite to "play table tennis with the CEO."

(Related: A Day in the Life of an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Houlihan Lokey)

Filed Under: Finance


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