I interned with the ‘Structured Credit Trading’ desk of Principal Funding and Investments group (yes, the name is fancy) in the Securities division of Goldman Sachs Bangalore. As I write this article, I am sitting in the comfort of my home, while most of my friends are having their last day of internship (my internship ended a week earlier - phew!).
I joined IIM Bangalore as a fresher with not even a single internship experience (most commerce graduates don’t have a mandatory 2-month internship before their final year). Hence, the summers were my first ever corporate exposure. I was given a lot of advice during these eight weeks (some of them were indeed useful). And I must say the learning curve was steep. Below is a summary of my key learnings from the internship. You can put these lessons under the head ‘How to crack a finance internship!’
How To Crack The Finance Internship
1. Every number has a story!
Most of my internship involved doing comprehensive credit research and fundamental analysis of companies incorporated in some other part of the world. So, I basically dealt with numbers (and lots of numbers). I realised that every number has a story attached to it – so, instead of saying, “this company has a revenue of $XXX Mn and an EBITDA margin of x%, hence it is a good company to invest”, one can say that “the revenue of this company is $XXX Mn and has been growing at a CAGR of X% because of these 3 reasons: a) the company is coming up with these many outlets every quarter, b) it is taking these marketing initiatives to boost sales, c) it made a successful acquisition recently; it’s EBITDA margins are X% which are relatively more (or less) as compared to its peers in the industry, making it a good (or bad) investment opportunity”. It creates an instant hook for the listener and it seems that the numbers are speaking for themselves.
2. Be ready with an elevator pitch
One thing that I realised was that it was crucial to be crisp while presenting my analysis and value the other person’s time. One of my team members who sits in Hong Kong gave me a valuable advice – “In financial services industry (as against academia), the conclusion from your analysis must be put up-front, as people don’t have much time, and then you can always delve deeper into details.” It’s like preparing a 5-minute executive summary of all your work (which might have taken you weeks to complete). Everyone values work that is concise.
3. It just takes one question to break the ice
Never shy away from asking questions. My manager made it clear on my very first day that since it was an internship and I was in the process of learning my team’s business, I could ask the silliest of the questions and still not be frowned upon. This does not mean that one should bug one’s team every time one has a doubt. One should collate all doubts together and ask if the team members are free to take out 2 minutes to answer your queries or if that is not possible, then schedule a meet-up session with one’s mentor/ buddy. Clearly, the best way to become a master in the ever so bright world of finance is to ask questions on a regular basis.
4. What are other team members doing?
In a finance internship, you would find that most people are super-busy in their day-to-day jobs (it is true for most internships indeed). Thus, the onus is on the intern to approach the team and ask what they are doing. I remember asking my buddy what deal/ trade he was currently working on. He saw that I was inquisitive to know more about the trade and hence spent the next half an hour explaining the dynamics of the trade, the participants, his role, etc. and I got a really good understanding of the trade. Truly, you cannot work in isolation in a finance job, no matter how busy you are with your project/ assignment, you must take out some time to engage with your team.
5. Keep updating your team
At an investment bank, it’s quite possible that you would be working in global (yet small) teams based out of, say, Hong Kong, London, New York etc. hence, you must be ready to pick up the line and call your team members and tell them about your project, ask them what they are working on, if they have any work for you (they will happily delegate you some work!) and so on. It is important to keep them in the loop and update them on your progress.
6. How to handle networking events?
Most organisations where you intern or get finally placed will surely have some kind of networking events with highly accomplished senior leaders in a flashy 5-star hotel with mouth-watering food and drinks (we were served mocktails ). These events are a great opportunity to connect with leaders. I had promised myself before the event that I would talk to every leader and it turned to be an insightful experience as I learned a lot of what people in the other divisions do and also got a good sense of the potential career growth opportunities in the organisation. Use these events to build stronger networks with senior leaders and fellow interns.
7. Talk to interns in other teams
In most investment banks, you would find interns in different teams working on different sectors across different asset classes and geographies. One must take time out to interact with other interns to know more about their work - it’s possible that the work they are doing may interest you and you might want to do that work in future (progress can be not just vertical but also horizontal!). Understanding the work of different divisions and teams also gives you better insights into the functioning of an investment bank. Moreover, the interns are the best network you can develop during your internship.
These were the insights that I gained from my 8-week internship with Goldman Sachs. I hope these were useful to the reader in some way or the other. Cheers!
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