My path of entry.
Courtesy of Tara Pain - Incoming Investment Banking Intern
Why Investment Banking?
Before attending university, I had a gap year where I was fortunate enough to undertake a year-long internship within the Investment Directorate of the UK’s largest pension fund, The National Employment Savings Trust. During this experience, I interned within different sub-teams of the directorate, of which 8 months were spent working as an ESG Analyst. I learnt from this experience that I was particularly interested in financial markets and could see myself working in the corporate world. The industry appealed to me due to its wide range of intellectually demanding roles, built on long-term client relationships which require very strong interpersonal skills.
During my gap year, I learnt a lot about the banking recruitment pipeline through research I undertook into the industry. Reading about the opportunities available to first-year university students in the form of Spring Internships, I went to university knowing exactly what I wanted to get out of my first year. I applied to a diverse range of different finance-related roles because I wasn’t entirely sure which area of finance I was most interested in and suited to. After extensive application processes, I secured Spring Internships in investment banking, sales and trading, private equity and asset management.
After those experiences, I decided investment banking was definitely for me! The reason being that, through undertaking the various internships, I realised that I’m interested in financial markets less so from an intra-day trading perspective i.e., looking at minute details such as how a specific index or asset has moved overnight and what that would mean for clients' trading that day, and more so from a long-term thematic perspective. This aligned well with my natural tendency to think in a long-term and strategic manner. This way of thinking and project-based work marries well with what an M&A banking role entails where analysts will often undertake cash flow projections and understand, as a financial advisor, how best to advise clients on methods to achieve their medium to long-term strategic objectives.
How would you describe the importance of networking?
Having moved from Australia and not knowing anyone with a career in finance, networking was incredibly important. Reaching out to people is something that’s really helped me. LinkedIn’s almost sole purpose is to facilitate networking and help people find out more about different industries, so definitely make the most of it! I realised from researching the plethora of different roles within the financial services industry that there’s only so much I could learn about a specific job from reading online resources. Quite frankly, speaking to multiple people undertaking the jobs that I had researched was what truly allowed me to understand more about what each role entailed on a daily basis, each person’s career journey to date and what it was that kept them motivated to continue. Only after extensively networking with professionals was I able to begin piecing together what it was that I wanted from my career and what role within finance would fulfil that.
How did you go about learning the ins and outs of the companies you applied to?
Being aware of how competitive the process is, there were many steps.
Speaking to the different firms’ employees was essential. Through this, I heard lots of different standpoints on why each individual chose to join either a boutique investment bank or a bulge bracket as well as what convinced them during their internship that the firm was the company they really wanted to work for. I also spoke to students both at my university and other universities that had undertaken finance internships to find out what they enjoyed the most about them, why they accepted the return offer and any tips they had to help me best prepare.
I also attended some campus recruiting events at university hosted by a range of different companies where I was able to meet employees and ask any questions I had. Surrounding yourself with people that have been through exactly what it is you’re embarking on is really helpful.
How did you combine your university work and application process?
Going into the first year of university, I had begun to realise the importance of securing a Spring Internship to a career in finance. That led me to prioritise my applications over my university work for a significant number of weeks during the academic term. This was a small sacrifice I was willing to make considering the first year of my degree has a zero per cent weighting on my overall degree classification. It wasn’t to say that I didn’t do any of my academic work - I managed to get an overall first-class score in my first year. However, it meant that at times when perhaps I had an upcoming test, I wasn’t able to spend as many hours preparing for it as I would have liked to. On the other hand, I recognised that if I could get a Spring Internship in my first year and convert it to a Summer Internship, I could focus more of my time on university work during second year, which counts towards my final grade. Thankfully my plan came to fruition.
How did you prepare for Spring Week interviews?
I spent a lot of time reading about the industry as a whole and keeping up to date with the market. I also looked at recent deals the firms had undertaken and made sure to understand the deal rationale. I learnt from networking that it’s really important in the interview to let your personality show, demonstrate that you have a wide range of interests outside of finance as well as a genuine interest in the industry. I made sure to keep this in mind when preparing for my interviews and also to remember that the interview is a two-way process where both parties have the opportunity to assess whether you’d be a good cultural fit and vice versa.
I also created question banks for the three main types of questions that interviews are generally based upon: core competencies, motivational and situational based questions. With each question listed, I made sure I had thought about how I would respond if asked. I also reviewed my CV to ensure I was able to speak confidently about every single experience and in detail if requested.
The final thing I did to prepare for my interviews was read reports, often published by consulting companies, on thematic trends or specific sectors to augment my understanding of certain topics beyond what is covered in an FT article for example. It’s very difficult to stand out in the application process if you haven’t taken the time to research in-depth the company you’re applying to, what it is that you’re after in the job and what you find interesting within financial markets.
Any advice for those applying for internships?
You really need to give it your all! Do a lot of reading and commit time to researching in-depth whether this is a company that you can see yourself working for. Read every single detail on each firm’s website because you want to know as much as you can in preparation for the interview. Know which areas of their business are doing well from reading the quarterly and annual reports as well as the latest news on sectors you’re interested in. I spent a lot of time reading about things that interest me and finding deals that particularly stood out to me. For example, a company may have had an operation in Australia nearby to where I used to live. By reading about things which you genuinely find interesting, you put yourself in a good position to stand out in your application.
There’s no downplaying how competitive the industry is and the sacrifice it can require early on. It’s better to go into the process with eyes wide open, knowing that rejections are inevitable no matter how good you are or how many people you’ve spoken to. Always remember that a rejection is just a redirection to another opportunity.
I found the application process a great chance to discover whether I was truly as interested in the industry as I had initially thought. By spending a lot of time reading and researching, something I highly recommend, you will begin the process of understanding which career path is best suited to you.
Tara Pain - Incoming Investment Banking Intern