Banking & Markets
Private Banking, Financial Markets and Investment Banking.
Courtesy of Abraham Lopez - Former Banking & Markets Intern
Discuss some of the internships you’ve done
I have had two or three main internships that I‘ve done. One of those was in Geneva for Leonteq Securities AG in a sales role within their structured products department. It’s [Leonteq] basically a spin-off of European Financial Group (EFG) - a Swiss private bank.
EFG manages a large number of assets for several private clients while Leonteq executes, organises and creates structured products for these clients that are interested in different strategies and products. One of those is structured products, an asset class that is growing in popularity year after year especially in Switzerland. One of the reasons being that it allows flexibility for clients to decide how much exposure they want to certain markets i.e. where they want to invest. Another reason is that it’s good for the asset manager, private bank, family office or client because the capital gains from structured products aren’t highly taxed.
We were eight in total in the Geneva office, five in the front office and three in the back office providing support with trade execution. My main role was producing reports, helping with clients from time to time and occasionally discussing new potential products we could offer clients.
As well as working in a city and country I had never been to before, having that level of involvement and responsibility with clients is what I loved the most about the internship. Geneva is very popular for private banking and it was so interesting to see this different dimension of financial services being offered. Plus, culturally, people are very positive - they are very business-minded but flexible in their approach. As such, that was a 10/10 experience for me!
One of the ones that didn’t meet the same level of satisfaction was a recent internship at Standard Chartered Bank in their sales and trading division. The main reason for my dissatisfaction lies in the level of responsibility given to interns. Interns are given a lot of work to do, but unfortunately a lot of the bad work. I’ve interned at another bulge bracket where the work I was given and submitted was highly valued by managers and received a lot more feedback. My superiors at that firm were very supportive, but, in all honesty, I felt completely lost and by myself in the recent role.
Plus, employee relationships were not strong. The fact that the internship was virtual doesn’t necessarily mean that one should feel isolated, as colleagues in other firms doing similar internships have still managed to feel as part of the group.
I’ve done a few different internships because I wanted to compare and contrast experiences in different sized firms and product departments within finance. From investment banking to private banking to sales to back office, I’ve managed to get a taste of as many different types of desks that I can get my hands on.
How do you prepare effectively for interviews & assessment centres?
I focus on research on the organisation and recent news. I always try to include research that would differentiate myself from other candidates. Anyone can read the news and study the organisation, so what can I do to differentiate myself from other candidates? It could be an investment opportunity I’ve been following or new business ideas for that department backed by research I’ve previously done.
Another thing I do during interviews is I smile a lot and have a very good body language, looking straight into the eyes of the interviewer and understand what they place importance on so I can hit them with the research that differentiates myself from other candidates. I also speak in a confident tone which gives one strength as a candidate.
What did you learn about yourself during these experiences?
The Barclays experiences were at the very beginning of my career - first and second year of university. I learnt that I was very resilient. You make mistakes when you’re doing things that you’re not used to doing regularly. I didn’t know how to use the requisite computer tools effectively. I learnt how to recover from mistakes with management. A simple email acknowledging my mistake and creating an action plan to resolve it is where the resilience kicks in - realising you can redeem yourself from a mistake and actually provide them with value.
Something else I’ve learnt is how to deal with clients and colleagues in a very professional way. Although you might spend a lot of time with a client and your team, you always have to keep that element of professionalism. Showing that level of maturity is something positive that people will always talk about in the future.
How have your experiences shaped your career interest in finance?
Taking positives and negatives, the way forward is to work in private banking or private wealth management. Working in a boutique shop will avail me with more responsibility. These experiences have shown me what I like and what I don’t like and demonstrated to me that, by far, what I would like to be is a private banker.
What advice would you give students looking for and/or going into an internship?
Getting an internship is a game of numbers i.e. how many applications you submit. If you get rejected by one firm, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate. You hear about individuals who get accepted by the most prestigious firms and rejected by those a tier or two below. The more you apply to, the better chance you have of getting into one. Secondly, don’t get discouraged by rejections because life is too LONG to just be discouraged about not getting a job in the first application cycle. Professional lives usually span over four decades, so getting discouraged after applying to two internships in six months doesn’t necessarily show you’re committed to wanting to work in a specific industry. Everyone’s graduating and applying to jobs, so it’s a very competitive environment. It’s not possible to hire everybody straight away, so maintain a positive attitude about the future.
For those who have already secured an internship, in order to not lose one or two weeks, prepare in advance by learning how to use the Microsoft Office tools. The first important tool would be Microsoft Excel because it is used a lot by interns and entry-level finance professionals. The second would be Outlook. Financial institutions where I’ve worked have always used Outlook. Although easy to use, it is good to get acquainted with it as it would be used throughout your internship and professional experience. I would also say get in touch with your contact in the relevant department before starting, so you can hit the ground running as soon as you start work.
Abraham Lopez - Former Markets & Banking Intern