Securing a Summer internship in Investment Banking: What You Need to Know

14 min de lecture

Looking for a summer internship? We delve deep into the subject, shining a spotlight on the essentials required to secure a summer analyst role in investment banking.

Let’s start with an unequivocal fact: the application process for a summer internship is very competitive. The statistics shared by banks speak volumes about the intensity of the competition and challenge faced by candidates. Consider, for instance, the application and admission numbers from banks such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. The former received, in 2022, more than 200,000 applications globally for a mere 3,000 positions: effectively a 1.5% acceptance rate. This was roughly twice the acceptance rate for J.P. Morgan, where 54,000 candidates applied for 480 openings in the investment banking division: just 0.9% of them received offers.

Securing an offer is therefore hard. These figures underscore the importance of proper preparation. Success on this application journey is by no means a result of pure chance; rather, it is achieved through a blend of skills, knowledge, and strategic prowess. In this article, we break down what it takes to obtain a dream role as a summer intern in an investment bank, providing you with insights that will transform the seemingly insurmountable odds into a distinctly attainable opportunity.

  1. Let’s start with the basics: What are summer internships?

Summer internships are 8 to 10 week-long programmes offered by investment banks principally in Anglophone geographies (i.e. the UK, the US, Hong Kong and Singapore). They offer interns, viewed as future hires, an invaluable glimpse into the inner workings of the bank and the broader industry. In general, especially for the bigger banks, an intern will be attached to a specific team for the duration of the internship, unlike during the more introductory Spring internships, where interns shadow bankers across a variety of teams. Thus, as a summer intern, you might be working in the ECM or DCM team, or indeed a particular sector team within the bank’s investment banking division (e.g. the Global Industrial Group in Morgan Stanley, or the TMT team at Barclays). (We will talk more about how you select your sector team – or how one picks you – in a forthcoming article)

Summer internships are thus an immersive opportunity enabling you to discover the bank and sector. Indeed, as an intern you will be considered a full member of the team – with all the exposure and responsibilities that that entails. Banks also use the programme to assess the suitability of the interns for a full-time position with them; high performing interns will be offered a full-time offer at the end of their internships.

Indeed, herein lies a key difference between the recruitment process for an investment bank in Anglophone geographies and continental Europe. For the former, the summer internship programme is the main route through which banks recruit their pool of full-time analysts. In contrast, summer internships are comparatively rare in continental Europe (though notable exceptions do exist, for example Goldman Sachs offering a summer internship programme in Paris); banks tend to offer off-cycle internship programmes lasting 6 months, from which most of their full-time analysts are recruited.

  1. What do summer interns in investment banking do?

Broadly, what you will do as a summer intern will consist of 2 things:

Work: As a full member of the team, you will be involved in the execution or origination of mandates by helping to assist in coordinating various aspects of the deal process, such as scheduling meetings and tracking progress. You also will ensure that all parties involved are aligned and informed, by communicating with clients, legal teams, and other stakeholders to gather information, provide them with updates, and address any questions or concerns. Apart from the (essential) logistical and administrative process of deals, you will also work on market research and the preparation of documents – either pitches in the context of origination, or marketing documents for live deals (Teasers, Information Memorandums, Management Presentations etc). Depending on your facility with Excel, you may also be asked to help with financial modelling.

Network: Networking – the building of professional relationships with colleagues across the bank – is a crucial aspect of a summer internship. It is best to consider the summer internship as an extended interview spanning 8-10 weeks, during which you will have the chance to showcase, beyond your capacity for good work – your interpersonal skills, motivation, and fit within the team and the bank’s culture.

Banks are also proactive in facilitating the networking of their summer interns throughout the programme, by organising events (breakfasts, fireside chats, afterwork drinks) allowing interns to connect with their colleagues throughout the bank. It is crucial, as a summer intern, to actively make the most of these occasions. Effective networking can lead to strong advocates who can vouch for your performance and contribute to your chances of receiving a job offer after the internship concludes.

  1. Why apply for a summer internship?

Summer internships offer benefits that extend far beyond an introduction – important in itself – to the world of investment banking:

Skill development: A summer internship programme is an accelerated learning experience offering the chance for significant professional and personal growth. You will be working on live transactions, honing the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom under the guidance of industry professionals with significant levels of experience. More than the hard skills in financial analysis and modelling, you will also refine your soft skills – your ability to communicate clearly and effectively (with colleagues and clients), rigour in all that you do, and the ability to remain calm under pressure

Enhanced career pathways: The summer internship offers the possibility of securing a full-time offer. However, if you do decide to pursue other opportunities outside the bank after your internship, the sheer fact of having obtained a summer position in investment banking – after a highly competitive process – is a mark of excellence on your CV, and will open doors in terms of future career options. As a signal of your potential, it therefore increases your employability

Financial rewards: Summer internships often come with more than competitive salaries. For the duration of the internship, you will be considered as a full time analyst and be compensated accordingly. At the time of writing, Glassdoor notes that the average summer analyst base salary in London is around £60,000/year, meaning that you will get the prorated amount for your 8 to 10 weeks stay.

  1. When should you apply for summer internships?

It is crucial to plan ahead because the recruitment process for analyst summer internships begin 6 months to one year in advance of the start date. (Thus: applications for a summer internship in 2024 typically open from August 2023)

Banks open these positions for students in their penultimate (i.e. second last) year of university, meaning that the internship will take place in the summer before your final year. And if you successfully secure a return offer, you will begin work as a full-time analyst immediately after your studies (thus avoiding the stress of applying for jobs post-graduation).

You should be keenly aware of the opening application dates across the different banks. Given that most of banks and boutiques hire on a rolling basis, it is crucial to make out your application as soon as possible since banks close the recruitment process once they fill up their internship spots. In order not to miss out on any application, follow all the deadlines in our dedicated Spring and Summer internship tracker

  1. The application process

The application process for positions in the banking sector generally comprises 4 main steps. Each step evaluates different aspects of your qualifications and suitability for the role. We outline these steps in detail below.

  • Online application:
    The first step involves applying through the bank’s official website. Basic personal information and your CV are typically required. Some banks might also request a cover letter or responses to specific written questions (typically competency-based questions, or questions assessing your level of motivation and knowledge of the sector).
  • Online tests and Hirevue interview:
    The second step commonly entails online tests, a critical stage where many candidates are screened (and eliminated). The nature of these tests can vary among banks but generally includes logical reasoning, verbal reasoning, personality profiling, and situational judgment assessments.Some banks may also use a HireVue interview at this point. In a HireVue interview, you record video responses to several questions (again, either competency-based or motivation-based questions). You’re given around 30 seconds to prepare and 90 seconds to deliver your response. Prior preparation is therefore crucial.
  • First round phone/video interview(s):
    Upon successfully passing the online tests, you will progress to the next stage, which often involves video or phone interviews with bank recruiters. These interviews serve as an opportunity for recruiters to learn more about your motivations for applying. You can anticipate questions related to your fit for the role, competency-based inquiries, and strengths-based assessments. These interviews are particularly important in assessing your alignment with the bank’s values and culture.We note that the recruitment process for investment banking summer internships in Anglophone geographies tend to be slightly less technical than that of off-cycle internships (since they are open to individuals without any prior background in finance). However, this does also depend on the profile of the individual candidate: if you have indicated knowledge and or experience in Corporate Finance on your CV, fully expect to be tested by the recruiter, who would be seeking to assess the extent of the knowledge that you have acquired.
  • Assessment center:
    The final step in the application process is the assessment centre. Here, you will participate in various activities that give the bank deeper insights into your abilities and qualifications. These characteristically consists of a case study (often done in group, though it can at times be assigned on an individual basis), a series of one-on-one interviews with bankers, and a retaking of the online tests (only at times and for certain candidates).It is at the assessment centre where a bank has the opportunity to extensively evaluate your competencies and overall suitability for the position.(We will be publishing imminently an in-depth piece on the Assessment Center)

While the application process described above is relatively consistent across banks, there can be differences from one institution to another that candidates should take note of. (Not to mention the fact that the process within banks can evolve over time.) For instance, the Morgan Stanley summer application process in 2022 included the submission of a CV and cover letter, an online test, a telephone interview, a video interview, and finally, an assessment centre. In comparison, Evercore’s process comprised a CV and cover letter submission, a HireVue test, 2 telephone interviews, and then an assessment centre.

It is worth highlighting again the distinction between the recruitment process for summer internships and that of off-cycle internships. For summer internships, the focus tends to lean more towards fit and behavioural aspects rather than technical expertise, with an emphasis on competency-based questions. Recruiters aim to understand you as an individual and your alignment with the bank’s values. In contrast, interviews for off-cycle internships (in Anglophone geographies and continental Europe) will carry a higher technical component.

  1. How to prepare for summer internships?

  • Optimising your CV and cover letter:
    You will need to tailor your CV to highlight relevant experiences, skills, and achievements as well as quantify, to the extent possible, your accomplishments with specific numbers and data. Be results-driven: showcase the impact of your actions and the results.You should also emphasise your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and any related coursework. Consider what skills and attributes the banks are looking for in a candidate and highlight them. Your CV should match the company and role that you are applying for, so, use specific keywords and tailor your CV accordingly.Craft a compelling cover letter that demonstrates your motivation, alignment with the bank’s values, and a clear understanding of the industry. It will not do to simply restate what has already been written on your CV, and to give generic reasons for wanting to work in the company that could apply to basically any firm. Show that you know exactly why you want to join the firm and why you will be a good fit with the company and its culture. (Here, stand out by citing conversations that you have had with employees that have reaffirmed your motivation for joining the company)
  • Preparing for online tests:
    The key to succeeding in online tests is familiarising yourself with the types of tests used by the bank as well as the test provider. Most banks will require you to take a numerical, verbal and logical test. Some may also include, within the battery of online assessments, a situational test and even a Pymetrics test.Not only do you need to respect the time limit imposed on each test, the threshold for passing on to the next round is also high. Given that the number of applicants typically far exceeds the number of places available, banks can afford to select only the very best-performing candidates (in which case, 15/20 on a numerical reasoning test, while an entirely respectable score, may not suffice to pass on to the next round).Practice is thus vital. To gain an insight into the different types of psychometric tests and to hone your skills on them, consult the Summer Pack where you have a dedicated module delving into the battery of psychometric tests set by investment banks, as well as a bank of more than 200 test questions with full explanations provided for each of them.
  • Preparing for Competency-Based Questions (spoken and written):
    To succeed at this stage you will need to understand the core competencies the bank is looking for and tailor your answers accordingly: be smart. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your thoughts and answers: be sharp. You should be able to provide specific examples that showcase your skills, experiences, and values that you might or might not mention in your CV and cover letter: be prepared. Prepare stories that highlight teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability: be a master of storytelling.
  • Revising your Technicals:
    While the summer internship application process is in general less technical than the off-cycle internship process, you should be equipped with a good working technical knowledge (especially if you have indicated prior experience in corporate finance on your CV). For roles in investment banking, you will need to be fluent in accounting, the EV-EQ bridge, valuation methods, merger analysis and LBO.Do note that being conversant and knowledgeable about industry trends is also important – to demonstrate that your motivation for working in the sector is genuine. Thus, if you are interviewing with the ECM team, it is important to be up to date with the latest IPO trends and deals. If you are interviewing with the M&A team, make sure that you are able to discuss recent deals, especially those that the bank advised on.
  • Acing the Assessment Center:
    As mentioned, the Assessment Center, the final step in the recruitment process, is an extended exercise consisting of, among other things, interviews and group activities (very often a case study). You will need to showcase effective communication and a strong capacity for collaboration during group activities. For individual case studies, focus on structured problem-solving and a clear presentation of your analysis. Demonstrate your ability to work under pressure, adapt to changing situations, and provide well-reasoned solutions.Keep in mind that different investment banks may place varying degrees of emphasis on each step. It is therefore essential to research each bank’s specific requirements and values to tailor your approach accordingly. Dedicate time to thorough preparation, stay updated on industry news, and engage in networking opportunities to enhance your chances of securing a summer internship in the competitive world of investment banking. And above all be bright, bold, presentable and show that you have a genuine interest for the job you are applying to.

Looking to ace your summer applications?

A summer internship guarantees three things: a steep learning curve, building a professional network within the bank, and above all, the almost certainty of interesting opportunities. Adding this experience to your CV significantly enhances your profile.

Securing a summer is indeed challenging but far from impossible – if you are motivated and put in the right preparation. To get an edge in your application, take up our Summer Pack, which provides you with actionable insight and guidance on every step of the recruitment process. It is a programme with a single objective: to help you secure the internship of your dreams!

Discover the Summer Preparation Pack 

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