Diary of a finance intern

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Week 9: The final countdown....

Into the last week and a final review session with the HR representative and the vice president was on the cards. It was strange that my VP came with me; the report he read out was not written by him and I had no daily contact with him at all.

I had always felt there was a barrier between us, but never found out the reason why that was the case. However, the relationship I had with the director of the team, who was more senior than the VP, was fantastic. We spoke daily and overall he was far more approachable and gave me great career advice, something that I am very grateful for.

At the review sessions I was given my assessment marks, which were calculated on a four point scale (1 = Weak, 2 = Marginal, 3 = Good, 4 = Outstanding). For my presentation I averaged 4, which I was delighted with, and in the manager's appraisal I gained an average of 3.5 - a mark of 4 in 4 categories and 3 in the other 4 sections.

After such a glowing review, I was expecting some good news on the graduate training programme. However, I was shocked to discover that the bank had NOT accepted me onto the graduate programme. I feel like a victim of the credit crunch.

The HR lady said that my skill set did not match that of the finance department, and gave me the usual HR rhetoric that I had become so used to when applying for internships. I was hoping for my future career to be within finance at this bank, but I guess it just wasn't to be.

When I went back to the office, visibly upset, my director came and spoke to me at length. At that time, he had not read my appraisal, but once he had he was also baffled at HR's decision to exclude me. He said to me that when I graduate next June, I should give him a call and if there were a vacant analyst job, I would be first in line. Therefore, I would be at the same level as the grads but not in the grad programme.

I was extremely upset with the result and very emotional. I wasn't angry at myself - the hard work and performance I had put in led to excellent marks - but apparently this was not enough to gain a graduate job. I was angry at other interns, not personally, but with the fact that they had done very menial, ad-hoc tasks for nine weeks, had not been given real responsibility, yet they received graduate offers. Absolutely ridiculous!

What now? Well, it's back on the long road of applying again for graduate roles at other top-tier investment banks. I fought extremely hard to get this internship; it was a miracle in some senses getting it as I had not come from a top university like the others. But I have always been the underdog and proving people wrong has become natural to me. I cannot let one bank's opinion deter me; it will be its loss and another bank's gain.

Thanks for reading my column over the summer.

I wish you all the luck in the world in your future endeavours...well, not too much, I need some myself!

Week 8: Pride and frustration

So into the final two weeks of the internship and the nerves started running through my body. I continued running the PnL for my trader and, to be honest, there were no giant moves during the last couple of weeks.

It was the usual pattern of one day he makes €200k, the next he loses €150k, and that continued until my final day. By the time I left, his year-to-date PnL was at a healthy €750k, having made some substantial gains which helped offset the large losses he made the previous week.

The office has been pretty dead over the last couple of weeks, but the HR programme itself has been a hive of activity.

This week I had to give a group presentation to five assistant vice presidents in the finance division, which was part of the internship's assessment process. I love presentations, because public speaking has always been my strongest suit, but this one was as part of a group.

Working with the other four interns was the most frustrating time of my life! The level of competency was absolutely ridiculous, and for six weeks we were barely able to agree on any ideas to put down on paper, which resulted in a stalemate.

There were two questions in the criteria that we had to address in the presentation, and while the rest of the group ran around unable to get answers and complicating the whole matter, I took it upon myself not only to design the PowerPoint slides, but also to set up meetings with managers to find the correct solutions.

Don't get me wrong: the other members did set up meetings, but they were absolutely useless. The managers in their meetings gave us a whole load of rubbish that led to the stalemate which lasted several weeks. I took control, and the group gave in as they were all heading in four separate directions with no real sense of what to do. I had never been so fired up before; I am usually a rather cool character but this really got me pumped up.

So, after being rather forceful as the team leader, I became proud of them. Yes, they were very frustrating to work with but, when pushed, they produced some outstanding work and the presentation was a complete success. In hindsight, all the group needed was leadership, someone to guide them and delegate, and I regretted not doing this from the start.

Weeks 6 & 7: A €1.9m loss in one day

By week six, I finally got some responsibility, in the form of running a PnL book for a senior trader. It gave me a degree of autonomy - I don't need to go to my manager and ask for work any more.

You hear a lot about arrogant, selfish traders but the one I'm working with is not one of them. He showed me all the systems that he uses to mark his curves on and whether he goes short or long on certain trades and companies. It was all pretty mind boggling. I thought my systems were complicated, but boy, his were on another level! I have two computer screens at my desk compared to his six, one screen just on a countdown to when trading closes for the day, what a waste of electricity, eh? I thought banks were taking global warming seriously....they'll probably offset their carbon footprints somehow (!)

By the Week 7, I was ready to stay at the bank and not go back to uni. I mean, who really wants to go back to being a student bumming around wasting taxpayers' money with a degree that has absolutely no relevance to a potential future career?

I like being paid: without a doubt it's the best part of the internship. Finally, my student account no longer has a 'D' next to it, which is more than enough to keep me coming in every day.

My trader doesn't seem to be having the same degree of financial success. On one day in the past two weeks he lost €1.9m. His Year-to-Date (YTD) PnL was at a healthy €2m before that day. The poor guy went long on a curve which widened, leading to a huge loss on just one company. Ironically, there will be a trader somewhere at another IB who went short on the company and made millions. That trader, whoever he or she is, must be pretty pleased, because their performance related bonus is going to be sky high!

Week 5: Wishing for a summer holiday gives way to a massive plateful of work

Wow, halfway through the internship and quite sadly midway through my forgotten summer holiday. How I yearn for holiday! The British weather hasn't disappointed this week, though it is slightly agonising having to look through a window at the sunshine.

Onwards and upwards, this week was the most important of the internship so far. I was finally given the responsibility of running a PnL book of a senior trader in the front office. For many weeks now I have been watching other colleagues run PnL books. I itched for greater responsibility, and my wish was finally granted.

My managers allowed to me shadow an associate for the first half of the week, and from Wednesday I started running a book. It was quite daunting at first, as I had no clue what I was doing and had to ask questions constantly at pretty much every stage.

But by doing this all my queries were laid to rest and the process instilled confidence. So for the rest of the week I did the PnL, which is the main role of an employee in my team. It's a relatively small book, so it's a nice gentle start, analysing the new deals and how the daily PnL was made up from the trader hedging on several companies with regard to currency and interest rate risk.

So the workload through the day has substantially increased and, truth be told, I'm absolutely loving it as I feel I am fully contributing to the team.

Week 4: Getting down and dirty giving back to the community

In the interests of educating us lowly interns on how the different divisions of the bank work together for the overall good, we're given weekly lectures by senior members of the bank. This week was corporate finance.

Tip, if you didn't know it already, working in this department will eat away your life. There's an M&A intern working in the bank this summer who was forced to work all through Saturday until 5am Sunday. In order to save fellow employees' nostrils, but clearly not the intern's health, he was told to go home and shower, then return at 9am.

Is this truly a life any sane human being would lead? Don't get me wrong, the pay packet employees are on in M&A are huge compared to other infrastructure function. However, when you have a family or a large network of friends, it's a hard sacrifice to make. You have to respect their decision to work in such a demanding division of the bank.

My week was spent mostly outside of the office. The bank organised three consecutive days demonstrating its charitable side. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of any investment bank; for too long the media has portrayed them as 'fat cats.'

Though this may be true, the media never represents how banks regenerate impoverished areas of London. For example, my team went to a school in East London and quite literally built a new playground. From painting to building monkey bars to planting flowers; the whole team of interns were dedicated in pretty hot weather to get the job done.

It was a bonus in two ways. Firstly, it felt good giving back to the community, which is only a stone throw's away from where I work. Secondly, I was able to meet more interns outside of my division from operations to traders, so it was an excellent team bonding exercise.

See you guys next week!

Week 3: A degree in Microsoft Excel would probably be the best qualification for this job

So the third week began, and ended rather quickly. Nothing extraordinary to note this week.

I continued with the project investigating trade ID linkages. This consisted of analysing why certain trade IDs were being booked into one of the bank's systems but not another. I used spreadsheets to process all the information, and now I'm thinking a degree in Microsoft Excel would probably be the best qualification to have for this job!

Over the week I did further bits and bobs task-wise, nothing too taxing. Furthermore, I attended my first staff meeting where the VP went through his agenda including the introduction of 'smart sourcing'. This involves bringing in offshore workers, and training them onshore for several months.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I ran the JPMorgan Chase Challenge on Wednesday evening. The conditions were horrendous; it rained throughout the entire race, the grass was muddy and my new trainers are now classified as definitely not new. But I completed the race and I have to admit that the feeling on passing the finish line was rather exhilarating.

Well, that's all, folks, hopefully I will have more exciting things to report next week.

Week 2: PnLs and lost weekends

Weekends. As a student, I always thought weekends were just another day. However, anyone living the corporate life will know differently. I have now realised their value and will in future clutch my weekends close to my bosom!

So, back to the drawing board after a much needed weekend break. As mentioned in week 1, my team are very outgoing and pleasant to talk to whenever I need help. The first half of the week followed on from last week as I continued to shadow an associate, who showed me how to work the various systems where trades are recorded.

It's a struggle to come to grips with all the new information, but I've been assured by the whole team that when they first joined the bank they too found it hard to interpret the multiple systems the team uses.

There are set daily tasks that employees in the finance division do every day. The first of these is looking at the 'touch deals' traders make. This usually takes up half the morning before the main task begins - the daily PnL (profit and loss sheets). Here, finance people look up the trades and give detailed accounts and financial reports to their traders. Once this is done the team examine certain adjustments, such as cash breaks which need to be accounted for on some trades. After all these tasks are completed, most of the team leave around 6.30-7 pm.

It's imperative to have a good relationship with traders, to stay in regular contact with them, and to work together for the good of the business.

My manager also gave me a piece of crucial advice with regard to having a successful career within a finance division: when working in finance, never believe that the trader is your boss. He or she may think this but you must remember that the trader is your client and nothing more.

In the second half of the week I was given a couple of projects to run individually. One was to examine whether all the touch deals had been accurately booked into our specific system correctly.

In summation, the second week was all about taking the first steps towards greater responsibility. Now that the majority of introductory learning has been completed, future tasks will be far more complex and I am ready to get stuck in!

Next week, I'm taking part in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, where the workers of corporate London will be running 5.6km in Battersea Park, so the weekend will be used up training for the event. Stay tuned for more!

Week 1: Training, training and more training

The following takes place between 23 June and 27 June. For those of you who watch the TV programme 24, appreciate the analogy; for those of you who don't, we'll move swiftly on.

First, I'll introduce my role: I will be interning in the finance division at a top-tier investment bank for the following two months. I was recruited in February, but by last Sunday evening any excitement had turned to trepidation.

The first week was as I had expected: training, training and more training. On Monday all 180 interns from the various divisions met for breakfast and after several introductory lectures in the morning we went straight into financial training in the afternoon.

I'm studying for an arts degree, so the financial training was completely alien to me. Nevertheless there were many others in the same position as we went through banking fundamentals such as bonds, equities, FX and more.

Training was from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Wednesday and it was pretty intensive. On the social side the bank's HR organised two events for the first week. The first was a networking event with all the interns at a City bar, while the second was when we all met our 'buddies'. The majority were 1st Year Analysts who were still in the graduate programme and had themselves interned at the bank two years ago.

Party-wise, all the interns were on their best behaviour. We all know there is just too much to lose with respect to future graduate jobs due to the banks firing workers in record numbers. Additionally, most of us did not want to make a bad first impression to fellow interns - though this might change in the coming weeks.

On Thursday I started my desk job and met my line manager, who is an assistant vice-president. He gave me a one-hour tutorial on what my business area entails. We then had a quick tour of the floor and an introduction to the team, most of whom fortunately appear approachable and outgoing. The rest of Thursday involved shadowing an associate while I tried to learn the daily tasks the division carries out.

As mentioned before, the team are very sociable and outgoing. They had organised a dinner for me on my first night and here I was able to meet the team in more informal surroundings.

Well that is that, the first week of my internship completed. I'll have more for you next week!

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