Internship At An Investment Bank – Nishant Shah From IIM Ahmedabad Shares His Experience

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”       

      – Steve Jobs

One of the most significant periods of any student’s b-school life is the time where he strives exceedingly, and at times inessentially hard to impress the set of recruiters for his summers. After all, all the years of dedication, hard work and money spent on education rightfully demand a return. It would have been fun, closely observing every student’s rituals change right before the placements. But I was one of them too. I had my own set of rituals to follow, those that had changed as I passed through all the CV reviews, Placement talks and Networking attempts.

For someone with absolutely nil work experience and an undergraduate Institute which was a Technological Institute of India but not quite the Indian Institute of Technology, I had my task cut out. Finance appeared fascinating with its wonderful combination of numbers, relevance and of course, the kind of money involved. While most of the candidates reflected an abundance of pride after their Consulting shortlists, I was a satisfied soul when few of the Investment Banks finally ‘filtered’ my CV for the next round.

It was only when Avendus Capital, an 18-year-old boutique Indian Investment Bank, offered me the Summer Internship that I finally realised what I would be getting into. The world of Investment Banking is notoriously famous for long working hours, people with over-stretched ambitions, and the amount of money you would be fortunate to find time to spend. No, I didn’t mind any of them. It would be an exciting experience, I hoped. The kind of experience you look back and feel content, and just appropriately lucky to have gone through it.

A week after I had finished spending the first year of the PGP course at IIM Ahmedabad, I found myself sitting with a dozen more IB Interns, in one large meeting room of the newly built office of Avendus. Usually, the first few moments at a new place with new faces around are always more intimidating than they are exciting. There were lesser such moments here as the orientation program kicked off with games instead of Banking and the collective nerves of all the interns settled down very rapidly.

One of the very first things that my mentor told me and the significance of which I realised during the course of my Internship was this:

We as an Investment Bank earn money by selling Finance and not so much by doing Finance.

While I felt extremely proud to have been tagged as an Investment Banking Summer Intern, the first few things that I did as a part of my job hardly involved any Finance. The work was full of Data hunting from Google and other sophisticated databases, compiling them in an Excel, presenting a story out of them through a PowerPoint, and finally running it through the Associates who were more or less doing the same, albeit at a brisker pace. The hours were manageable, a reason why Avendus is appreciated for its work-life balance. The work, not quite so. It was only when I would know the true significance of the seemingly mundane work that I was doing that I would start appreciating it better.

I was working with a small team looking after the Infrastructure and Real Assets Sector. While I was still figuring out the essence of my work and spending time on the Project I was assigned to, the team got a mandate to work for a deal in the Industry I was doing my project in. There are those little moments that define your entire experience and this was one such occasion. Not many things are more exciting than being a part of a small dedicated team working on a deal and I consider myself extremely fortunate for being at the right place at the right time. The usual Excel and PowerPoint work still remained, but it all started making more sense now. As one of the key deliverables initially, my task was to identify potential investors for some of the assets in the Hotel industry. The deliverables got extended, and the task now involved pitching to these investors the assets of a company we had signed a mandate with. All of a sudden, I was exposed to the set of things that the Director of the team himself was an in charge of. Every day was a challenge, and I would literally get cold feet before every Investor call that I would make.

This is where the realisation came. How it is all so easy working out numbers in an excel sheet and making an investment plan for the company, but a challenge of altogether a different level to talk these numbers with a fluency that exudes confidence and business acumen to someone who knows all that is to know about the industry. Everyone makes financial models, everyone makes fancy PowerPoints and everyone gets rich eventually, but not everyone is a successful and satisfied Investment Banker. Irrespective of what others say, to me this fluency is what makes an Investment Banker. Finance, after all, is not all about numbers. It is much evolved in the current businesses than being a simple work of Excel.

As it turned out, the experience at Avendus was a holistic one. The work eventually involved making Financial Models and Impactful PPTs, talking to some of the Top Management People of a number of Public and Private Companies of India and abroad, and of course the usual Data hunting. The work hours were pretty manageable once the work started becoming meaningful. Mondays never dampened my spirits. The greatest strength of any company, more so of Investment Banks, come from the kind of work culture they cultivate in the small floor space, among so many hyperactive bright minds. I can safely say that people at Avendus, irrespective of their positions, treated each other and all the interns with a clear sense of respect. One of those things that I would cherish is the kind of people I met at this place, all very talented in their own rights and yet taking no unnecessary pride in their talents.

It was the first time I worked in a corporate. It was the first time I worked with people from all the well-run b-schools of the country. And it was also the first time I got a pay cheque. Tell you what, that feeling is surreal!

To all those looking for a summer Internship in Investment Banking. No, it’s not your core finance skills that matter much here, irrespective of what the rumour is. Long working hours stop becoming exhausting once you find meaning in your work, and that is what, as an intern, you must always try to do. Deals are exciting and talking to the Top Management people for that, even more so. The money is more than enough and there is no limit to it. The sooner you start getting driven by something else, the better it will be.  

Good luck, everyone!

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