by Brian DeChesare Comments (56)

How Investment Banking Summer Internship Recruiting Has Changed in 2016

Investment Banking Summer Internships 2016 Changes

“Wait, what? Summer recruiting? But this summer isn’t even over yet!”

Yup, exactly.

Banks like to recruit earlier and earlier each year, so I felt we had to cover trends in summer internship recruiting.

If you’re recruiting for internships, this obviously affects you, but even if you’re not, these trends tell you where the finance industry is heading (hint: nowhere good).

Here’s what’s changed, how it affects you, how to prepare differently, and why banks have decided to change their tactics:

The Main Changes: Accelerated Recruiting… Everywhere?

First and foremost, banks are starting the recruiting process earlier than ever before.

A long time ago, summer internship interviews began in December, continued through January, and then wrapped up in February.

That still happens at some banks and some schools, but many banks now run “accelerated” processes for summer interns with significantly earlier deadlines.

First-round interviews and Superdays now take place in October and wrap up by November, if not even earlier than that.

Here are a few examples of banks and schools with earlier deadlines that have been publicly disclosed:

Note that these are just the deadlines: Applications open far in advance (Goldman’s applications opened on July 1st this year for summer internships the next year).

In theory, you can apply any time before the deadline.

In reality, you should apply as soon as possible because so many spots get filled early on.

These changes have pushed up almost everything else, including SEO and diversity recruiting.

But the timing is confusing because school-specific deadlines and processes also exist.

For example, at least one bulge-bracket bank was still conducting Superday interviews in late January/early February of this year, mostly for students at target schools.

But then other banks had Superdays for summer internships in November, awarded offers around then, and didn’t do much recruiting after that.

But What About Interviews Themselves?

I’m not sure that much about interview questions has changed.

Yes, the technical rigor has increased, but that isn’t a recent development: expectations have been rising for the past ~10 years.

Case studies have also become more common, but that’s a longer-term trend as well.

One difference is that previous internships no longer impress as much as they used to; they’re more of a “requirement” than anything else.

As a result, bankers sometimes focus more on “interesting” items that make you different from all the other candidates.

Think: a study-abroad experience in Qatar, your tango-dancing competitions, or your fishing expeditions in Iceland.

Another difference is that banks seem to be looking for students with more of a “long-term commitment” to the field, i.e. they don’t want people who will just leave for PE in 1-2 years.

So even if you are planning to leave as soon as possible, you need to sound more committed in your story.

Banks “Embrace Diversity” and Broaden Their Applicant Pool… Maybe?

I didn’t think much else would change this year, but then Goldman Sachs announced plans to skip traditional first-round interviews on campus and ask candidates for pre-recorded video interviews instead.

GS claims this change will let them “eliminate bias” in the hiring process, hire a more diverse workforce, and go beyond the traditional target schools.

Some banks are also trying to attract a broader set of candidates with “Junior Analyst” programs, such as the one offered by JP Morgan.

These aren’t technically summer internships, but they are related because you get a 1-year contract for a “trial period” to see if you can handle the work.

Your base salary is slightly less than what Analysts earn (e.g., $80K vs. $85-95K), and your bonus is also discounted.

The application process is still competitive, with multiple phone interviews, Superdays, and a matching process where you rank your top three groups.

But it’s targeted more at “non-traditional candidates.”

Caveats, Exceptions, and Fine Print

These changes haven’t happened everywhere in the world.

For example, the timing has always been different in EMEA, and that seems to have continued this year (example for Evercore – internship applications open on September 26th and close on November 18th).

Similarly, the candidate pool in EMEA has always been broader, so banks may not feel the need to expand it even further.

And since off-cycle recruiting has always been more of an option there, a “Junior Analyst” program won’t make as big of a difference.

I doubt that boutique banks will implement everything above: it’s too much work, and they don’t have the resources to manage everything.

Why Are Banks Changing So Much?

So now to the fun part: Why are banks making all these changes?

The bulge brackets spin it by saying it’s about “diversity” and “attracting people who are committed to the firm for the long haul” (just read some of the quotes here).

I do not buy that reasoning at all.

For one thing, it makes no sense: even with video interviews, there’s still human bias because other people are watching and judging the interviews.

In fact, pre-recorded video interviews might be even more biased because less time will be spent on each interview.

Super-early deadlines also seem to increase human bias because bankers have less time to interview people and less work experience to go on.

Finally, I don’t think banks seriously expect to find “more committed candidates” with any of these changes.

People leave for private equity, hedge funds, and other exit opportunities because the work is more interesting and offers higher pay.

Banks cannot compete in either of those areas because of the nature of their business (client service) and because of regulations like Basel III, Dodd-Frank, and CRD IV, all of which limit compensation.

So I think these changes are due to the following points instead:

  1. The pressure to cut costs and spend less time and money on recruiting.
  2. Desperation/paranoia over losing students to other companies and industries.

 

Got Cost Cuts?

This graph shows large U.S. banks’ Return on Equity from 1995 to 2015:

(Source: Statista).

Return on Equity (ROE), defined as Net Income / Average Equity, is the key metric for determining banks’ “efficiency” and their valuations.

If a bank’s ROE equals its Cost of Equity, it “should” trade at a Price to Book Value (P/BV) multiple of around 1x (I’m simplifying; see the full explanation in this video).

If a bank’s ROE is below its Cost of Equity, its P/BV will be less than 1x, which is why banks like Citi and BoAML currently trade at P/BV multiples of around 0.5x.

If a bank wants a higher multiple and, therefore, a higher share price, it has to improve its Return on Equity.

In this environment, the easiest way to do that is by cutting costs, which will boost a bank’s Net Income and therefore increase its ROE.

I couldn’t find exact numbers on how much banks spend on recruiting, but I saw estimates as high as $100,000 per final hire (Source: The Recruiting Guide to Investment Banking).

And that book is quite old, so costs have likely risen significantly since then.

If a bank like Goldman Sachs hires between 5,000 and 10,000 candidates per year, that’s $500 million – $1 billion per year spent on recruiting.

Not all candidates cost $100,000 to recruit, so that estimate may be on the high side.

However, total recruiting costs of at least $100 – $200 million per year seem plausible for a bank with nearly 40,000 employees.

Goldman’s Net Income in its most recent 12 months was $5.1 billion, so the firm could make a significant impact on its Net Income, ROE, and share price by reducing its recruiting costs.

Not sending revenue-generating senior bankers to school campuses accomplishes this, but so do the early deadlines.

It’s much easier to move from full-time recruiting right into summer recruiting than it is to shut down the process for a few months and then start it up all over again.

Grabbing students early on also reduces costs because bankers don’t have to spend as much time persuading candidates to accept offers or wooing them away from competitors.

Got Desperation and Paranoia?

Finally, finance jobs have lost much of their luster over the years.

It’s tough to make an argument for working 80 hours per week in investment banking when you could go to Google and get much better hours, better perks, and a nice work environment where people don’t want to kill you.

Maybe you’ll be paid less, but entry-level engineers at the big tech companies might earn around $150K / year (or more) if you include stock and bonuses.

You won’t progress up the pay scale as quickly as you will in finance, but you may not even stick around long enough in banking to see those gains.

Banks can’t improve compensation or the quality of the work by a whole lot, so they’re trying to lock in students earlier on.

So How Should You Prepare Differently?

Ironically, these changes don’t affect the past summer internship recruiting advice on this site in a huge way.

I would summarize the main differences as follows:

Change #1: Start Early… and Then Start Even Earlier

You need to be far more vigilant in checking deadlines since the entire process starts a few months earlier than it did in the past.

It’s less feasible to conduct weekend trips with early deadlines, so you may have to do more networking via the phone and email.

But you’ve always had to start long in advance of the “official” recruiting season, particularly if you’re at a non-target school, and that hasn’t changed.

Change #2: Your Story Has to Be More Concise, More Interesting, and More Committed

I’m going to write a separate article on how to tell your story differently, but here’s the short version:

  1. It has to be more concise – we recommend a 100-150-word outline for an actual length of 200-300 words (1-2 minutes at normal speed).
  2. If you’re an undergraduate or recent graduate, you really need something interesting in the first parts of your story (The Beginning and the Spark).
  3. You should indicate more of a commitment to certain deal types or industries in the last part of your story. Saying, “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing 20 years in the future” is not a great conclusion.

For the second point, you can use one of the strategies outlined in this article to spin something insignificant into sounding bigger than it was.

On the third point, even a vague commitment is better than leaving your plans open-ended:

“And I’m here today because I want to combine what I’ve learned in strategy consulting with what you do in banking, and advise companies on their expansion plans, M&A transactions, and financing strategies.”

That’s not exactly “memorable,” but at least it doesn’t sound like you’ll leave for another industry right away.

Change #3: Don’t Focus on Last-Minute Recruiting; Focus on Lateral and Off-Cycle Recruiting

Finally, we’ve published many stories of “last-minute recruiting success” over the years.

With early deadlines, it will become much harder to go through a mammoth cold-calling or cold-emailing effort and win internships against all odds.

So if you do get a late start, it might just be easier to work in another field first and then move into banking as a lateral hire.

After all, banks might be able to offer “protected weekends,” faster promotions, and better perks.

But they can’t stop team members from quitting in the middle of the year when they realize the job is not for them.

And that’s where many of the opportunities will lie – especially if you missed the recruiting train the first time around.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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Comments

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  1. Hi Brian,

    I became interested in IB later last year. My resume is good (leadership role in a club, TA position for introductory business class, internships in PWM, and PE, and a 3.7+ GPA at a target business school), but I missed out on some of the banks’ on campus recruiting events. There’s still the start of the year banking recruiting event for my school, but does my not attending prior events this put me behind the 8 ball (ie: should I just focus on say, Asset Management and hope to lateral in next year?)

    1. If you have time to network, you should start doing so ASAP because 2018 summer internship is taking place right now at many places or will start soon. It always helps to start earlier, but you still have a shot if you can move quickly and you’re aiming for internships next year.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I am a 21-years old guy and I hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration (3years in France) from a non-target school. I have been interested about finance during the last year of my studies. My profile:
    – 1 long-internship in a small-VC fund in China
    – I started my own business at 17 to finance my studies (online retail shop)
    – 3 years in the French Marin’s corps
    – CFA level I candidate (June 2017)
    – One semester abroad in Taiwan
    – UNICEF volunteer for 1 year

    My questions:
    1) I am going to apply for a Master in Finance for 2018-intake either in UK or USA. Is it easier to break into IB in UK or USA?

    2) My internship is almost over and I have to come back to France. However, I probably can’t get a job in front-office (I need a master’s for a top-3 french BS for sure), what do you suggest? Big4? Middle-office? Volunteering? I have 1-yer left before my master’s degree. I want to use this time properly and maximize this experience in order to be accepted in a top-tier MIF and then a BB if possible.

    thank you for your help =)

    1. 1) If you need a work visa for the US, it’s probably easier to win a job in the UK.

      2) Big 4 is probably your best bet. There are some other tips here (at least if you want to work in France – not recommended):

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/france-investment-banking/

  3. Brian,

    What are your thoughts on how formal to dress for weekend face-to-face meetings? Should it be suit & tie all the time? Or more casual if you are just meeting for coffee/beer or going up to their office when it is less busy during the weekend?

    1. I think business casual is fine for the weekend, since you’ll most likely be meeting junior bankers anyway.

  4. Hi Brian,

    I realize this is an old article, but I just received a link to it in my inbox, so I hope you’re still answering questions.

    My question is, if your chances of getting an internship are less if you graduate winter instead of summer? I have the option to do so (and get some more work experience instead), but I’m unsure if it’ll hurt my chances of getting an internship if there’s only half a year of studying left after my internship. This is mainly regarding Europe (London).

    1. This article is about 9 months old, so I’m not sure that’s really “old” when a lot of content on this site was published 10 years ago. But to answer your question, your chances are still OK as long as you get the all-important summer internship and convert it into a full-time offer. If you haven’t done that yet, you can still win an off-cycle internship, but it’s still better to win summer internships if you can do so.

      1. Hi Brian,
        Thanks for the reply.

        I’m only in my second year of study so there’s still at least a year left before I’d apply for the summer internship (doing a Masters as well as I’m in Europe), but the question was more if they’re less inclined to offer me the summer internship if I graduate winter.

        1. No, I don’t think so, as long as you complete the internship and then have one additional term before you graduate.

  5. Hey Brian,

    Have a slightly off topic question but I recently received a SA offer from a bank which I am more than excited to take. Unfortunately, I had been suspended for one semester in the past, which is noted on my transcript. I was never asked about my past disciplinary record by interviewers, on my application nor asked to disclose it in my offer letter. How should I approach this situation, should I just put my best foot forward and be honest if it comes up? Background- Past experience as SA at BB, top 10 school. Good GPA and extracurricular activities.

    1. Yes, just be honest if it comes up. There’s no reason to disclose it voluntarily, and it sounds very minor anyway.

      1. Okay even though its on my transcript which will eventually be sent to HR. Its best to address it only if it even comes up? Thanks!

        1. I think it’s a minor point, so yes. If you have a good GPA otherwise, they may not even notice.

  6. Hi Brian,

    I don’t see a lot of BB are recruiting their ft investment banking analysts now for the incoming recruit season in the US, both from school’s career site and their websites. Does that mean they don’t have a lot of readouts for the FT analysts and might now recruit at all?

    1. Deal activity was down by a lot this year, so yes, fewer banks are actually recruiting for full-time roles. Some groups might still do it, but less so than in past years.

  7. Hey Brian. Many thanks for reminding my I should probably start applying.
    One question though.

    I will start studying European Masters program on a target school and banks’ recruiting events start early in September / October. Isn’t it better to wait with the application for campus events? I feel that then my application could be stronger as I can drop names and gain some edge. But on the other hand, I would be applying little bit later on.

    What is your take on this?

    Cheers

    1. Don’t wait till October and apply as early as possible. Applying early is key in EMEA. Getting some names will not make huge difference if you have good CV. You can still use those contacts in interviews.

  8. Hi Brian,

    I have an interview tomorrow for investor relations role in infrastructure PE fund. I don’t know how to tell my story to show that I am interested in investor relations role, but not in investment analyst role. I have read your articles in this website already, they were extremely useful. Could you give me some more tips for my interview? Thanks in advance for your help.

    P.S. I am one of those always inspired by your website and keep trying to getting in this industry.

    1. Well… what is your background? I would probably say that you got interested in infrastructure or PE a while ago because of an activity, class, or other work experience, and you’ve always liked communicating and getting the real story across. You’ve had several other finance internships, and you enjoy the communication aspect more than analysis, so IR at an infrastructure PE fund is a natural fit for you. But that’s the best I can say without know your work experience.

      1. Thanks a lot Brian for your response.

        I have one internship and 2 years FT experience in accounting. I am now finishing my master in target EU Business School. Only thing I did related to Infrastructure was a recent course during my master and project finance certificate that I did during my bachelor. I don’t know how to spin it in a way that this project finance certificate got me interested in, but I still worked in accounting.

        Thanks a lot Brian for your help.

        1. Maybe say that you had an interest in PF/Infrastructure going back to that certificate in your degree, but at the time you weren’t sure if you wanted to do that or pursue accounting. You did accounting to learn a skill set that would be broadly applicable, but you wanted something that was more forward-looking and that let you use accounting to communicate a company’s vision to investors. So IR is exactly what you want since it combines your interest in infrastructure with your accounting/finance skills and interest in telling the stories of companies.

          1. Great, thanks a lot Brian

  9. Hi Brian,

    I am a Canadian student who has also transferred to a target school in Canada from a non-target, known for its business program taking place in third and fourth year of university (2+2 format). Because of this I do not have any grades from my new school and I will only have the grades from the previous university I was at when fall recruitment begins. I have 2 years of PWM internship experience and also some involvement in finance related clubs at my previous schools.

    Do you think I would have a chance of landing an internship at a reputable investment bank for the summer of 2017 if summer recruiting is done as early as you say it is.

    1. Yes, you can probably still get a summer internship. I’m not sure if the Canadian banks are following this faster timeline or not. I doubt they’re doing it to the same extent as US and European banks.

      1. Would I have a shot at any of the elite boutiques or BBs in the United States, they do recruit at my school.

        1. Well, you should apply and find out. That’s the only way to tell. If they recruit at your school and you have decent experience, you have as good a chance as anyone else there.

  10. Marcos Milanes

    Can I get a non financial job at an investment banking firm and then move to analyst. And what kind of non financial jobs can I apply for at an investment banking firm.

    Greetings from Cuba.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, though it can be challenging without the relevant deal experience! I’d refer to http://www.goldmansachs.com/careers/why-goldman-sachs/our-divisions/

      1. Marcos Milanes

        thanks for the answer, but what I mean is a job as janitor or likewise inside an investment banking division, and once inside the bank make my way through analyst, is it posible?

        great blog, by the way, you are the best

        1. A janitor?! No, no way, I’m afraid. Even if you work in the back office in IT or something involving computers, your chances are pretty low.

  11. Hi Brian,

    Just wondering what your thoughts are on the accelerated process at MS. I have an interview with an MS office coming up in the next few weeks.

    How prepared do you think candidates will be/what will the interviewers be looking for given that it’s the first interview for most applicants, and how many students do you think they’ll take for SA 2017 from this group?

    1. I would suggest not worrying about other candidates, and instead focusing on how you can make yourself the best candidate possible. First-round interviews may be fit-focused, but they could also be technical since most banks do the opposite in first rounds and later rounds.

      Most banks hire a few hundred summer interns across all offices.

      Most people obsess over technical questions and walk in without a good story. If you spend 1 hour on coming up with a better story, you’ll get far better results with less time and energy.

  12. Hi Brian, thank you for the great article! It would be great to do a summer internship in IB. I have a bachelor degree from an University of Applied Sciences (Europe) and now working for a pensionfund. Next summer I want to do an internship between my pre-msc and msc programme (at the RUG, Dutch Academic University). But then I will be 25 years. Do you think banks or other financial institutions would hire interns from this age?

    Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, while you maybe a bit older than most, you are still 25 so there are interns at your age.

  13. Hi Brian,

    Good article indeed. Could you fix the “Coaching & Resume Editing Contact Page”? I tried several times to questions to Nicole but none of them succeed. The page says “Failed to send your message. Please try later or contact the administrator by another method.”

    Thank you.

    1. I just looked at the page and sent a test message, and it seemed to go through.

      If it is still not working for you, please contact us at coaching AT mergersandinquisitions.com

  14. Hi Brian,
    First of all I’d like to say that this is a very useful article. Moreover, do you think that Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin – Madison has a good reputation among investment banks? Is it a target school?
    Thank you

    1. Banks know about it, but I wouldn’t call it a “target school” exactly. Maybe more like a semi-target. There is some recruiting on-campus, but more for regional positions (Chicago) and at smaller firms. I don’t think the bulge brackets have a huge presence there, at least for NY-based recruiting.

  15. Thank you so much for this great article, Brian. I am a junior at a semi-target, and my school’s career center has been circulating a couple emails regarding early deadlines for banks (Evercore, Morgan Stanley) and my contact at MS HK also told me they are doing accelerated interview as well. The junior analyst program at JP Morgan sounds interesting… but I would rather choose a full-time analyst at somewhere else which might not be a top-tier bank if I were given those two options… Seriously what do they think they are doing??

    1. Yeah, it has all become a bit ridiculous. Like I said, the best option might be to go for a lateral role after graduation so you can give yourself more time to firm up your plans. If you can win a full-time role at any other bank, that’s probably better than a 1-year “internship” at JPM.

  16. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for this insightful post. Really interesting!

    Can you expand on EMEA recruiting? I’m a recent graduate (just graduated last month) and am considering off-cycle internship/Junior Analyst programs, since I’ve no prior IB experience.
    My previous work experience has been at a startup and Risk Management at a bank, and I really want to get into the IB/Front Office.

    Any tips in general?

    1. The best thing you can do is gain experience at a smaller bank, PE firm, or consulting firm, and then leverage that experience into an off-cycle role at a larger bank. It may be tough to do that with only startup and risk management experience.

      This is the classic story I recommend to everyone for off-cycle recruiting in the UK:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-to-investment-banking-networking/

      He cold emailed aggressively, worked at a small PE firm, and then joined a bulge bracket bank after getting that experience (despite having no real internships or work experience before graduation).

  17. Hey Brain,

    Thanks for the article, it was informative and relevant as usual.

    I was just wondering if you think I would be eligible to apply to some of this internships as i’m going into my 3rd year of university but 2nd year of my program and wont be graduating before June 2018 (a requirement most of these banks stated), but in June 2019. However, the only reason I am a year behind is because i transferred from a smaller college, to a top Canadian business school that usually attracts most of the Canadian and US big banks for internships and full time positions. I do have experience working the retail side of a big bank, and i’m currently doing an internship at a PWM firm along with extensive community and business volunteer experience.

    Just wanted to get your quick two cents,

    Thanks!

    1. If your graduation is 3 years away, you may not be able to apply to the traditional internships for 3rd-year students. But these days, everything is moving up so much earlier that banks might start offering programs for even younger students. If you have the experience and have done some networking, it’s worth a shot to at least ask people if anything is available.

  18. Hey Brian, thanks for the helpful post. Are there any expected changes for HK/other Asia offices such as even earlier interviews or an accelerated timeline? It seems the deadlines for 2017 internship positions are similar to those last year.

    1. I don’t think much in Asia has changed. Deadlines seem to be the same as last year, but it’s possible that banks may still do some type of accelerated recruiting for certain candidates.

  19. Hey Brian, does this apply to summer associate interns from MBA programs as well? I would assume “no” as students aren’t even on campus yet. My program (Booth) doesn’t even require our draft resumes to be submitted to career services until August 19th but I am curious as to your perspective on this.

    1. Yeah, that is a good point, this doesn’t really apply as much at the MBA level, at least if you’re at a target school (which Booth is). So I would go by school-specific deadlines there. They can’t really move up deadlines any earlier for MBA interns because it would be ridiculous to accept applications before the school year even begins.

  20. Brian,

    Thanks for the great article and all the other great info on your site.

    I will be a junior in the fall, and am set on pursuing a job in IB. I have a question that perhaps other people on this site can relate to. When trying to make myself seem “interesting,” is there a line of personal information that should not be crossed in order to maintain professionalism? I ask because my general background is not abnormally unique, but I do have personal experiences/family background and challenges I have overcome that I believe set me apart from other candidates. What is your advice on the nature of personal information it is acceptable to share.

    1. I think it’s really tough to answer that question without knowing what the specific information is. If it’s something related to illegal activity, drugs/porn etc., you should not mention it. But if it’s about something like a family problem creating challenges for you, perhaps you can mention it. Feel free to send an email if you want to check and you don’t want to list the information here.

      1. What is the best email to reach you at? I don’t think my situation poses any legal issues, but I would like your opinion, if possible.

    2. a_poor_chap

      Depends on the background of you’re talking to. Not everyone thinks well of poor chaps without pedigrees.

  21. This is totally on point. Morgan Stanley closed their application a few days ago and I’m still left in shock. Soon we will be recruiting for banks at preschools.

    1. Yeah, it’s getting ridiculous. Maybe banks will start genetically testing babies to start accelerated interviews for 2-year olds…

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