Carving out a path into asset management.
Courtesy of Temilade Onafowokan - Equity Index Products Intern
How did you prepare for your internship experience?
What helped me were all the experiences that I got stuck into at university. They helped build up the knowledge and skills that I needed within this role. For example, just doing [Microsoft] Excel training within my course (International Business) at university was key. At university, there are also extra classes on this which I also attended because a lot of what I am doing at the moment is [Microsoft] Excel work - VLOOKUPs, Pivot tables etc.
Also, while I’ve been at university, I’ve got involved in insight days with different investment banks such as Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan to get a feel of different divisions but more particularly, asset management. Networking with individuals there helped me get a gist of what the division is, what’s important and what the key themes are currently within the industry.
I was lucky to participate in a mentorship programme with Citi and State Street Global Advisors which was centred around asset management for me. I was mentored by a senior-level asset manager at State Street Global Advisors, and she gave me a crash course on asset management because at the time I had no clue about what it was.
How much of a role has mentorship played in helping you achieve your current position?
The mentorship programme I was involved in lasted for the whole of summer last year, but I still speak to my mentor currently. Prior to that programme, I actually didn’t know anything about finance. I attended insight days, but I didn’t really understand what the people there did at the time. I was just doing a lot of stuff to build up my CV. When I participated in the mentoring programme, we [mentor and Temi] met up about seven times, and I remember the first meeting being quite embarrassing. She was asking me technical questions about the financial industry, and I didn’t know what she was saying. That was why it was so good for me. It was a safe space where she understood that I didn’t know anything, and it was ok for me to ask the so-called ‘dumb’ questions. That’s why I always recommend getting a mentor of a sort, someone behind the scenes to help you with your ‘dumb’ questions.
By the time I finished the mentoring programme, me being the person that started with zero knowledge about asset management now had quite a good understanding of it. Thus, the asset management industry wasn’t a shock to me.
How do you prepare for your interviews?
I do the typical networking with individuals at insight days, get their contact details and speak to them afterwards. I also reach out to more people within the firm on LinkedIn as well to ask them how they found the application process to that particular firm, any tips that they can give me, what their roles involve, how each of their day-to-day looks like etc. Key information like that is so important because when you have these interviews, they [interviewers] love the fact that you’ve spoken to someone that works at their firm. After all, it shows that you’re determined to work there so much so that you went the extra mile. Networking is really important, especially if they give you key information that isn’t necessarily stated on the website because you can mention it during the interview in order to stand out.
Also, I tend to study the firm - doing a lot of in-depth research on what the firm does, what their offerings are, what they are involved in outside of their core services etc. I read the entire website and try to remember key facts because it’s really important to show that you want to work there and actually know what they do.
Also, whenever I apply to internships, I always save the job descriptions in a word document along with questions from previous interviews. That includes key asset management information to know such as types of asset classes and the difference between active or passive management.
Any advice for students looking for an internship in finance?
This isn’t spoken about a lot, but I believe students need to grab any experiences that come their way - be it internships, extracurricular activities or short-term experiences. Another piece of advice would be to ensure that you getting familiar with the application process of the firms you want to apply to. The reason why I say that is because I had the opportunity of having a placement year in my degree, meaning that I had to apply to various firms which led to me getting familiar with the application processes of all these firms. This led me to not only get used to the application process but to get some real interview experience from these firms. I strongly believe that the more you do interviews, the better you get at them so make sure you get as much as you can.
I know a lot of people, for example, who did a three-year degree and just jumped straight into applying to these bulge bracket banks for summer internships; however, they underestimated how hard it is to go through these application processes. This is because, for a lot of these people, this is their first time encountering the application process, so they aren’t familiar with how their CV is meant to be structured, what the firm looks for in their ideal candidate, how to do interviews, etc. That’s why I say it’s really important for students can get work experience or get used to the application processes as soon as possible.
Even if you’re not doing a summer internship, apply for a spring internship because the application processes are very similar. Or do a placement year before you jump into a summer internship because the more you do things, the more successful you’re going to be. After you go through the application process the first time, you’re probably going to get what you want the second time around.
Regarding examples of extracurricular activities you could get involved in, I took part in a society named ENACTUS which is all about setting up social enterprises. I was a project team leader of a team of six who put together a business plan on how to tackle homelessness. Not only did I get the opportunity to lead a team, but I was also able to participate in various business pitches in front of investors. That’s such a unique experience that I can mention in my interviews or on my CV. Everyone’s part of a finance society or going to insight days, so you need something to differentiate yourself.
Temilade Onafowokan - Equity Index Products Intern