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Most people interested in Finance will have heard of the so-called “Spring weeks”; the mystical and elusive ‘internships’ for first years. I got accepted for three internships: Rothschild and HSBC, which I managed to attend, and UBS, which I was unfortunately not able to attend due to a clash with Rothschild. So, what I am going to try and do is demystify what actually went on there, what the future now looks like for someone who has completed them and the value in doing them.
Before I begin I want to clarify a misconception that I think a lot of aspiring bankers have: only a JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley will do. Maybe, a Deutsche Bank as well. But one will be dammed to go to somewhere like Barclays, they only did current accounts anyway right? There are several harsh truths: a lot of us would not actually want to work at the institutions based on the culture, a lot of us are simply not good enough to get in and that we would be significantly happier in a different environment. Although this seems unnecessarily harsh, it is an unfortunate truth. This was one of the main issues I realised after talking to some of the other participants
Getting onto the actual content of the week. Both weeks had an overview of what the actual banks did. Without going into too much detail, both banks fascinated me in this regard. I was fortunate enough to see both ends of the size spectrum with an advisory-only bank in Rothschild and a behemoth in the universal bank of HSBC. The banks also both put emphasis on connecting us with their company culture. This is what differentiates the banks. Something that everyone kept telling us is that “Banking is a people’s business”. What that didn’t mean is that you had to be a social butterfly and have Robert Downey JR levels of confidence and charisma. But a basic understanding of tact and small-talk was imperative. In the end, if you have to converse with clients, you need to be able to have a conversation with them.
The content itself, although extremely interesting, was second to conversing with the employees. Rothschild in particular gave us access to everyone from Managing Directors to 1st year Analysts. This is where the experience moves from insightful to eye-opening. Seeing how one can progress, where the differences lie and where the learning happens to enable promotions will be key in the future. The one thing that I did take away, without wanting to repeat myself from both weeks is that they value their people. Having people work for one employer for 15+ years in our current gig-economy where every banker is swamped with offers, reveals something substantial about the bank. Rothschild especially stressed its commitment to its senior management.
Lastly, the other spring inters that I met were some of the most fascinating people. Especially at HSBC, the breadth of the individuals which had been selected were incredible. From 1st year PhD students, to French aerospace engineers. Most of them knew how to present themselves, and could tell extremely engaging stories. If you study a finance related degree like me, then it was nirvana to have such high-level conversations with people on the same level as you. They also round off your experience and give you an insight into other banks. You may only go to one, but the guy next to you might have completed three with one being at Goldman. So, you can get a sort of ‘sneak’ insight about the company by talking to him. This is what made the spring-weeks so extraordinary.
I am not going to lie. The Spring Weeks were incredible and will most likely increase my chances of prestigious summer internships. Not just because I am in the system for several banks now, but mostly because of the unique insight I have. However, don’t be dismayed if you did not manage to secure an internship. A lot of summer interns did not do a spring week. So chin up and focus on the next hurdle.
Note: I do not know why I was given the offers for the internship, but if anyone is interested in my experiences there, feel free to meet me for coffee any time. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tim Knickmann