Week 10: An offer!
It's over! Even after six days of doing nothing at all on a Spanish beach I'm absolutely shattered. It had been five months since I'd enjoyed anything resembling a holiday, and I've discovered just how much the internship took out of me. The exhaustion is not (just) down to the work - it's more the constant need to impress and to be on one's guard.
In light of this I made a grave error during the deciding week of the internship. Having spent a quiet evening relaxing at home, my heart dropped as I woke an hour after I'm usually at my desk! Not a great move by anyone's standards, though I was quite pleased to have made it out of the door in just 15 mins: showered, shaven and looking only slightly scrumpled! I've not been following the advice of my graduate buddy regarding working hours (see Week 1) but this was taking things to an extreme!
The last week of work was filled with much intrigue, as rumour after rumour spread amongst the interns as to just how many jobs were on offer. You couldn't grab a drink without bumping into a huddle of whispering interns round the coffee machine, and come Thursday clumps of panicked faces regularly formed out in the middle of the trading floor.
My 'exit meeting' was scheduled for Friday, and despite Alan Sugar's absence I did manage to get a job offer. It was a really great moment. After all my exertions this summer, I felt that (accidental lie-ins excluded) I'd worked for it. Earlier on, I've talked about my ambivalence to a job offer and whilst this has slowly developed into a keen interest, I believe that that initial mindset helped. Right up until Week 10 I've kept my options as wide open as possible and so I think I've approached every day with a proper sense of perspective.
But immediately coming back to the trading floor was odd - it was not a year for high-fives. An analyst remarked that throughout the day there'd usually be a few crying interns moping around the trading floor as they missed out on coveted job offers. These are not usual times and this year there were no tears: so few got jobs that there was nothing to feel left out of.
It turned out that other areas had given more offers, but after a quick drink I slipped away from the communal intern celebrations/commiserations on Friday night. I think I felt a bit awkward with a job offer sitting in the bag on my back. I still have a decision to make; some empty-handed interns had made no secret of the fact that this was the one offer they really were banking on. It seems playing hard to get worked a lot better than appearing desperate.
I guess that in the end the senior business managers were true to their word: "Good people will always get jobs." That said, there are quite a few people who can count themselves very unlucky as they now start their search for an alternative. Others were more fortunate: even with the lack of headcount for next year, the bank had worked very hard to engineer spaces for graduates. A lucky few were offered longer-term internships with the implicit hope of a future offer.
Glancing back at my initial thoughts I've come to the conclusion that everything I experienced this summer was above par. Well, not quite everything. The girl I've been trying to woo all summer just won't get her act in gear. That's a bit of a sore point as I leave London for a year.
But back to the successes: I've eaten well and thoroughly enjoyed the finer aspects of life. Having had a small taste, I've decided that the London buzz is something I want more of. As for the stereotypical life of a City banker: well, there's a reason why the word stereotype exists. From what I've seen of the traders I've met, I think the job is one I'll find personally rewarding. To an outsider, the mood in the City was not dire. People realise we're watching some quite monumental changes take place, but on my successful desks there was little fear of any impending axe.
As I write here, read about what happened to Lehman and worry what is to follow in the months ahead, I content myself with one thought: should the sky fall down before I sit at my desk next September I can recall what we were told on day one: "It's only a job."
Week 9: Presentations, presentations, presentations
If the often-quoted saying is true, then this summer I must have been having some serious fun, because time has truly been flying by: the last nine weeks have barely felt like three! And I guess I have been having a lot of fun: I've been stretched and stressed at times, but there have been no nights dreading the next day's work, and each week has ended with a contented smile as the free beer is handed around the trading floor on a Friday night.
Last week was notable for the delivery of the final intern presentations. I had to stick quite strictly to my bullet-pointed notes as I had a lot to say and not enough time, so couldn't afford to get diverted. I think it went pretty well - I reckon I was OK at handling most of the questions asked, and there was a good turnout of managers and other employees. Some other interns had managers missing and a complete lack of questions - probably not a good sign unless of course they had delivered a blinding presentation that left no room for query!
When it comes to presentations, I'm fortunate that English is my mother tongue. In our first week's training, each intern had about 15 minutes to put together a five-minute presentation. I rattled one off about 'egg care', and my favourite egg-based recipes. But I had a lot of respect for those interns who were presenting in their second or even third tongue after only two days immersed in the language. This last week they've all had to present again, no matter what their business area - from ops to IT or trading to IBD. They're doing so in a language they often struggle to master, in order to get a job offer. It can't be easy.
Less favourable was the fact that I developed a severe case of man flu the weekend before the presentation. I got in to work after the Bank Holiday and was promptly told (in a friendly but firm manner) that the bank doesn't want 'heroes' trying to be in work whilst ill and making everyone else unwell in the process. As a non-revenue-generating intern, it wouldn't be a great move for me to take out half a desk for a week.
Someone asked me to mention how much time we spend in contact with ops. As an intern, the simple answer is none at all. Now that most of the operations function has been outsourced to India, most liaison takes the form of brief emails, or exchanges via the internal chat system.
A definite highlight of the week was the End of Internship Event. Despite our expectations of some credit-crunch cost-cutting, no expense had been spared in securing a top location in central London, with a free bar and (I'm all about the food!) some fantastic canapés. There were a few green faces on Friday morning after the night's entertainment had moved on to a club....
So, all of a sudden, I find that I'm just five days away from the end of the 10-week internship. At an ominously titled 'Exit Meeting' on Friday I'll find out if the bank wants to employ me as a full-time graduate.
This sounds like the kind of meeting that might have me sitting at a vast board table opposite Sir Alan Sugar, with a stern look on his face and a James-Bond-esque button for a trapdoor under his finger. I'm assured this isn't the case, but am not 100% convinced.
Will I get an offer, and can I accept it? If you're a third year wanting to play the odds I'd guess there aren't many chances if you plan on a straight application for a grad scheme starting next year. Though our bank says it plans on making a significant number of offers, these will almost exclusively be to interns, and not to any external third-year applicants. It just goes to underline the importance of that penultimate-year effort to get onto one of these schemes.
If my bank is anything to go by, and I think it is, there's not much chance of an offer from elsewhere. Rumours from other banks that came into conversations this week seem to confirm that some banks have drastically cut back on job offers to interns.
At the start of the summer, I thought I might like a deferred job offer as I had a plan for a year of political work experience after graduating next summer. Now I'm thinking I may also do a year-long master's after my third year. Should my plans remain such it means that I wouldn't be free to start any graduate scheme until September 2011. Regrettably, I think that's a bit far ahead for the bank's recruitment plans - maybe they'll keep me on record and allow me to make a fast-track application in future?
Week 8: Understanding the basics of sales and uncovering some secret romances
Social conversation at the various weekly seminars put on for interns was this week dominated by 'presentation chat'. Every intern was given an end-of-internship presentation deadline, and so there was only one thing people wanted to know about. It was all a bit manic towards the deadline, but along with just about everyone else, I e-mailed my slides in with about five seconds to spare!
Aside from that pressure, this week was a pretty run-of-the-mill affair. On one evening there was a networking event for this year's class of interns, as well as some prospective summer 2009 interns who we had been asked to invite. A few of the current crop of interns are quite prolific networkers, and it's always slightly intimidating realising that there's someone asking your current line manager far more intelligent questions than you could ever think of.
The prospect of a job offer looms ever closer and people's behaviour patterns are changing all the more as the day of reckoning approaches. For some people this means being super-glued to their desks all day in order to finish their work, and then staying on for another two hours for no real reason. Others are taking a different approach, visiting different desks in the hope of making a good impression in an afternoon and getting an offer from another manager on impulse.
It has recently struck me how strange it will be now going back to university having spent a summer working in London. Life will seem a lot quieter - perhaps just as busy, but now I'll notice just how small a town (well, it's a city but you'd never know) it is I'm in! I've also made such a good bunch of friends here and hope that I'll be catching up with some of them if I move back to London in a year's time.
Another aspect of the internship heading towards its natural conclusion is that all the intern romances are doing the same - first coming out into the open, and then many of them are ending too. Little did I know there were quite so many clandestine liaisons that began way back in week one and have been continuing on snatched lunch breaks, dinner dates and weekend trips.
Anyway, on to the actual job! On the following subject I'm no expert - I can only report what I've seen. On the desks next to me sit salespeople. Their job is to get clients wanting to trade our products. There are two subtle parts to the job there: winning the clients and making them want to trade!
They're always shouting across at the traders for price updates and in the morning are wanting to know the traders' axes - does a particular trader ideally want to buy or sell a particular product today (if he's wanting to sell, then trying to sell to him will not get a good price, but buying from him is a good idea, etc.).
The salespeople are constantly on the phone to various institutional investors (pension funds, investment managers, and the like) and other clients, building relationships and working out what products we should be offering to them. Salespeople are in early, but often leave just after 5 - a lot better hours than I've seen anywhere else in the bank.
It can be difficult for them - they're stuck between traders and clients and in one sense they don't have much power - but in reality they're a vital cog in the machine and without them there'd be no business for traders at all.
Salespeople have to know a lot about the products - they often go out and explain to clients what exactly it is that they're buying from us - so presentation skills are also key. Salespeople are much more likely to be wearing a tie than anyone else on the trading floor - a sure sign that a client meeting or nice lunch is coming up!
Last week I got involved in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) event. We spent half a day in a really run-down area of the East End, doing some tidying up, painting and playing football with some local kids.
I really enjoyed the day, and it certainly had a good teamwork element to it, but I've got to admit I'm not 100% convinced that the bank wouldn't be doing the charity more of a favour by keeping us in the office for the afternoon and sending extra money instead. That said, the day was certainly eye-opening - all the more so for some of the people on the internship who have never seen such deprived areas close-up.
In the week ahead I'm looking forward to actually delivering my presentation - I'll let you know how it goes. The summer of work is also beginning to take its toll on me - I've spent the weekend in bed. Come December, after a term at university, I'm sure I'll have noticed the lack of relaxing time I had all summer. I expect by next week I'll be looking forward all the more to the holiday in Spain that I've recently booked!
Week 7: Watching the gold rush and quaffing fine wine...if only every week were like this
I've had a fantastic week of work - one of the best so far, but before I begin I've got to make a confession: I have spent a very large chunk of this week watching the Olympics in work. But then so has everyone on my desk. And quite possibly everyone everywhere else too.
There were few signs of life from customers, rivals or salespeople this week - it's been a quiet, quiet week. The areas that I've seen so far this summer have been enjoying unusually brisk trade. This week I've at last experienced more of a standard August week.
For my desk I'm doing some statistical research, something I've never really done before. I'm learning a lot, and having to do so quite fast. I'm realising more and more that my degree hasn't offered much support in terms of doing such practical tasks.
Sometimes I feel quite woefully unprepared compared to other interns who've done placements and coursework, or who are doing degrees and/or modules in Applied Finance or something. However, in defence of my degree I'm thinking that perhaps it has improved my analytical mindset, and enabled me to tackle completely unfamiliar problems from new angles.
I've used the phone on my desk more times this week than the previous six weeks combined: conference calls, whole floor meetings/briefings and then a few bits of my own work too. There are more buttons on the machine than you could know - and each time I have to 'dial in' to a conference call an analyst inevitably has to re-programme the whole device to make it work!
The trading game ended this week, and a last gasp death-or-glory gamble on oil prices spectacularly failed to win us the game! It's incredible how oil has plummeted in price over the last few weeks - even with the conflict in the Caucasus causing supply issues nothing seemed able to make it move upwards. All the teams made their money from oil - it has been so volatile recently that each week there were rich pickings from a well-timed bet.
I've also been sitting with some real market-makers this week and had a glimpse into their hectic working day. One of the traders had been forced into taking a big position from an important client and I gave him some extra room as the market turned quite sour. It must be difficult putting big losses out of your mind for the weekend, but he's hoping things will look more rosy on Monday.
I had my first broker dinner this week. Other interns have ended up arriving three hours late the next day after bad broker dinner experiences, so I was a little apprehensive. In the end, there was nothing to worry about at all. We went to a fantastic oriental restaurant and spent the evening enjoying fine food. Vintage wines made relaxed conversation flow all the easier. Best of all was the fact that it was all at the broker's expense!
Brokers are the people we do all our trades through, but there are several firms and so they compete for our business: they take a very small margin on each deal we do. They find themselves in the interesting situation where they can afford to take desks out to dinner once a month or to send in free lunches, and they can't afford not to!
In the days that have followed the dinner I've found it a lot easier to take part in the desk 'banter' - the team are really working hard at making me feel a welcome part, as opposed to the four-week addition that I actually am.
Week 6: Escaping the unhelpful MD
This week will go down in my memory as the week when it sunk in that there is a potential job offer at the end of this internship, and how valuable that might be to some people.
It was a difficult week in many ways. In an informal meeting, a young MD I've recently been working with made plain to me that he didn't rate me at all, and that I'd failed to capitalise on the opportunities facing me.
This was obviously a disappointment, but I can't say it was totally unexpected. He'd been incredibly cold and unhelpful to me since the morning a week before when I'd started a mini-project for him. In fact I was quite relieved when he said I exhibited none of the traits he'd want to see in an employee on his desk. He made the life of his previous intern pretty terrible - he's not a bully, but just a bit of a misery guts and a demotivator!
One of his accusations was true, however: that I hadn't got stuck in on the desk. This was largely because only one of the analysts tore himself away from the Bloomberg screens and discussions of last night's gossip to help me learn anything! I was so frustrated that I went and spent some time learning from the next desk along.
The next day I arrived at a meeting to hear an unscheduled announcement. An MD was sternly telling the intern class to not listen to any rumours about a recruitment freeze in the bank. The trouble was that I hadn't heard these rumours until they were being denied, so that then caused me an immediate worry, especially given the meeting I'd just had with my ex-manager.
Trying to be optimistic, I reasoned that we'd all seen rows of empty desks on the trading floor, and that people must be needed to fill those seats. And anyway - jobs are being cut in poorly performing areas, whilst profitable desks are now able to expand. That's my hope anyway. If it suits the bank, I'd also appreciate a deferred place if it were offered - I have plans for a year before taking up the job should I be offered a graduate place.
At a networking lunch a few days later someone asked an MD whether or not, even though our coming job offers might be largely secure, the senior management would still be there in 12 months time. The MD wasn't best impressed by the question and fired off an answer that, more than providing any reassurance, suggested it was a significant worry for him too.
At the end of the week, I moved to a different desk and realised immediately this change would improve my job satisfaction no end. The manager seems kind and fair. His team are loyal and hard-working, and great fun to be with! He's given me a couple of projects that will hopefully be both fun and self-educating. For the first time this internship I think my work might make a real and positive difference to the work of the desk - with a discernable impact on the team's PnL. Hopefully that job offer is not quite out of reach!
Week 5: Pricing 'The Greeks'
I'm now halfway through my internship. So far it's been really good fun! I've learnt lots about the financial world and also about what I like and don't like doing in a 'proper' job. It's been a tiring few weeks, and having action-packed weekends to make up for the early nights during the week doesn't help! (NB I've been trying and failing to get to bed early on weeknights. However, some of my younger intern friends, who unlike me aren't staying with family, are managing to keep up an incredible social diary throughout the week!)
This Friday we had a top night out at a Latin American themed restaurant/club in Central London - there was some brilliant live music and good food, too. Along with a bunch of friends I stayed at someone's house outside London on Saturday night - it was refreshing to meet up outside of work hours and work clothes. On the bus back home I really enjoyed reading the paper - for once, I got to read something a bit more stimulating than the free London papers which make up my usual journalistic fodder.
So what's an average day like for me? On my previous desk I was in just after 7.30am, a lot later than the flow traders, who'd mostly be in by 7am. During the day, the desk deals with requests from clients, which come through the sales team.
We then work out a price for them using some powerful computer models. Some products are quite formulaic; some are anything but, and can take weeks and whole new approaches to price. My guys pride themselves on the fact that they can (accurately) 'price anything'.
Having come up with a price (which is only valid for that day's market state), they then do the deal, though this can sometimes take weeks or months and special trips to meet the client and discuss their specific needs.
There's also a desk in Tokyo and in New York, but they report to us in London as we're the 'daddy desk' (so to speak) in this area of business.
Underpinning all this work is a hefty risk management infrastructure. Every price we quote is made up of the cost to us of managing the risks of a given product. Because of this, knowing about those risks is critical. The more complex a product is, the more risks we need to take into account (look up 'The Greeks' online for starters).
The firm's risk team keeps a close watch on what is going on - a few weeks ago we had a hedging position on which a number of desks at other banks had taken the opposite view. Apparently, these desks no longer exist, and for us the hedge became a nice little money-earner!
However, we can't just rely on the risk department. Some of the deals we do require some pretty complex strategies to even begin hedging them, and so there are a couple of PhD-level guys who develop our risk-minimising positions each day. The risk computers are then left to run overnight, and the desk is almost empty by 8pm (a 12-hour day is pretty standard for the trading floor).
Sorry that this all seems a bit vague - on an OTC product desk what we do is entirely determined by the client! But do let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know. This week I have a change of rotation which I'm really looking forward to - details to come next time.
Week 4: Learning the lingo and confusing the family
I'm currently reading 'The Great Crash, 1929' by JK Galbraith, and finding his insights a real eye opener. Although I'm only at the start of the book, as he sketches out the economic situation in early 1929 there are disconcertingly many similarities with the edge of the precipice that we may well now be sitting on.
The book was a recommendation from someone high up in the company and it's incredibly interesting and easily accessible to non-experts. I hope for the sake of the world's financial health that a copy of the book ends up on the bedside table of every banker, from analyst to CEO, in London, New York and Tokyo. I can't wait for next weekend - the time I can get further into the book!
Lunch for me is a 10 minute trip to grab a jacket potato or some sandwiches to bring back to the desk, and maybe make a phone call or two.
Time is of the essence these days and it's rare that I can do anything after work - I just want to get home and into bed to get some rest before the next day's work. At the moment I'm working on a desk that puts in some pretty lengthy hours and so there's not much time for socialising. Roll on the weekend.
I've become a bit of a geek. I always was, but now I've added a new string to my geek bow. It's City speak. To family and friends I describe my work in terms of ISAs: mum knows what they are, so far so good. But having dinner with some accountants last week I realised that even these 'business-minded folk' couldn't tell my all my IBDs from my MDs and my PnLs from my OTCs.
This week I've been learning more theory about options and within five minutes I went from asking what TV and ITM meant to using them like an old pro (or so I thought). FSA, CEO, TfL and DLR are a few more business/London terms that can cause confusion when I throw them into conversations outside of the M25!
I think learning a little bit about options and other derivatives is a great idea for anyone who's contemplating an internship or full-time position in banking. It's not just traders who need to understand them - a good friend working in risk for the summer needs to know more about the products she's helping to risk manage. A basic knowledge of options and what affects their prices would be handy to bring up in any interview.
Next week I'll try and give you a rundown of a typical day on the trading floor - it varies from person to person, especially on the desks I've seen more of which deal with 'structured products'. On desks with 'flow' traders there is a more regular pattern to the day, with work clearly fitting around the market opening hours, but those selling OTC (over-the-counter) products can trade products at any time they like.
The trading game went better this week - after a bad call on an oil trade some last minute dollar strengthening improved our PnL (profit and loss figure) no end! We're quite far behind the wealthiest teams but hoping that what with the volatility of gold and oil we could be laughing our way to the top of the leader board in just a week with a couple of canny trades.
Week 3: I can't execute trades and there isn't any mindless data inputting to be done. I can't even answer the phone.
Previous weekend commitments meant that Friday was my first night out in London. We hit the West End where someone had sorted a guest list at a club. The naivety of my rural ways (and errors with reading bus numbers) meant I ended up getting lost both on the way and the way back. Only my phone's map service helped me get to the club and then back home.
I almost had a fit at the price of the drinks, but I guess my pay packet is designed to cover the fact that I'm living in the world's second most expensive city (after Moscow).
Coming from a small town, I'm loving living in London. I still get excited by how alive London is at night. At home things wind down in the evenings, but in London there are a million and one things to do every night. And a fantastic public transport system means that I can go anywhere at any time of day or night, all for the fixed monthly price of a travelcard.
My boss is fully aware that there isn't too much for me to do: I can't execute trades and there isn't any mindless data inputting to be done. I can't even answer the phone - if it's a client, a broker or a salesperson on the other end, I'm not authorised to speak to them.
Instead, my colleagues are interactively teaching me about their jobs. It's not just dry reading (though John Hull's Options, Futures, and other Derivatives is a very helpful handbook), but tasks that are quite fun and involve me developing an intuition for how things like caps and floors, or discount factors and deltas, affect prices of products.
One task I was given this week was to design an exotic derivative structure. From there, I've been adjusting it using the desk's pricing software, and this week I'll hopefully be preparing a sales pitch on it.
Socially, the desk is still good fun and I feel I'm getting to know more of the guys better. In fact, on that note I must say that my desk is largely a man's world, more so than any of the other trading desks.
I think that's perhaps because it's a very mathsy desk, and certainly in my experience there just aren't so many female mathematicians around. (Believe me, I wish there were more: for one thing it'd make lectures much more fun!)
This doesn't mean there isn't some good fun to be had at work: on Thursday I went out for a quick drink with the team after we'd finished. It was great to socialise with them and I was able to relax -it didn't feel like I was being constantly 'watched'. I fully expect that in fact I was, but I think they just want to know who I really am. So I didn't just stick to the orange juice, but I did make sure I was sensible (and most definitely sober) in what I said and did throughout!
I'm pretty pleased with the spreadsheet I've made for the trading game but less so with the trading advice I've given the rest of the team this week. I went to a rates meeting last Tuesday and on what I'd heard there I bought a fair few Bunds (10-year German government bonds) in the trading game. It was to be a long term and profitable position and at first they rallied, but at the moment it looks to be quite an expensive error!
Over the summer there are lots of absences due to holidays, and this next week is no exception - two more people are off as two more have just returned. It could be distracting but at least it means I have a desk to sit at! An internship is an intense summer job and we're not meant to claim holidays but there was no trouble, only encouragement, as I asked to take the end of this week off for a family wedding at the weekend.
Week 2: I'm really enjoying the intellectual challenge of the job and also its humbling effect.
I almost did a Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae on Friday (the intern equivalent of a share price plummet) when my alarm had a serious case of non-functioning. Waking over an hour late I somehow managed to get into the office as my boss did - have I been waking too early?
It has been a tiring week - trying to take advantage of the great social scene on offer whilst also having to feel fresh and alert for early starts and long days. On application I'd toyed with the thought of applying for an IBD role but as they seem to be finishing at 1am I'm rather glad I thought better of it!
I'm really enjoying the intellectual challenge of the job and also its humbling effect. For example, until this week I'd always thought I was pretty well qualified in the area of Microsoft Excel. No longer will I make such foolish claims. I'm now using the program in ways I'd never thought possible! The mathematical content and concepts in my role are pretty taxing, and for anyone without a highly technical degree they'd be nigh-on impossible. That said, I've heard there is the odd arts student about, especially in more sales-orientated positions.
Something that I'm really enjoying is the seminars we have dotted across our diaries. Not just a quick jaunt out of the office - they can be quite long and complex - they are a great way of learning more about market conditions from some impressively well-qualified people. They have also been enlightening about some business areas to which one wouldn't normally get any exposure in a trading role.
The view from my desk isn't the most inspiring, but it greatly improved on Thursday when the TVs which show 24hr business news switched to the cricket! Unfortunately there were too many bewildered Europeans and not enough South Africans to get any good mileage from England's massive first innings score!
After a week on the trading floor I've got a much better understanding of the work done. It isn't just traders and brokers sending money in circles, but trading products to the specification of and for the benefit of clients: be they corporations, pension funds or hedge funds. I know I won't learn about everything that goes on here in my 10-week stint, but I'm hoping to get a good working knowledge of the systems, products and roles. And getting to know my colleagues will be key to seeing if this is where I want to work.
The intern trading game began this week, and apart from having to combat my team's desire to do some insider trading via the delay in our Reuters feed, it's been a profitable experience. Watching as other teams had shorted commodities, we were particularly pleased as the oil price soared! (When I get home and try and fill up my car my views on the market movements may well have changed.) I'll keep you posted on how our team progresses.
A big difference between university life and an internship is that though I'm working hard during the week, work does not go home and so weekends are completely free. At uni my bedroom is my study is my living room. It's nice to get a better work-life separation in a job than I enjoy during term-time.
Week 1: I'm not at all sure if this is something I can see myself doing.
Being quite numerate and quite competitive, back in January the application process for my summer internship was something fun (!) to do. Only on the train to London did the reality of what was to come hit me hard. Ten weeks working in a large investment bank is not something one can do half-heartedly. Even with a healthy pay packet, the long hours and high stress levels will more than likely finish me off.
In all honesty, I'm going into this internship as quite a sceptic. I'm not at all sure if the (stereotyped) life of a City trader is something I can see myself enjoying, and what with market conditions, the City could be a pretty dire place to spend the long summer vacation! But at least the job will look good on my CV, pays better than my usual summer job, and will help me to decide if the London life is something I want.
On day one of the internship we were left in no doubt as to the seriousness of the state of the economy: "Not for a generation", said the bank's regional CEO, "has the world's economy been in such a bad way". Apparently, any sort of recovery inside two years is not on the cards. His reassurance that working in banking is "only a job" might offer a healthy perspective in other years, but this year it gives no sense of security to anyone clinging to the hope of a job offer come September.
However, for me it was only at this point on the first morning of my internship that I realised that I might just enjoy it. Given my ambivalence about receiving a job offer, I decided that the whole experience should prove less stressful than for anyone hell bent on pursuing a trading career. Nevertheless, I'm not as relaxed as one fellow intern, who arrived thinking business casual included hoodies!
Towards the start of the week, my buddy gave me a little pep talk: "Be the first on your desk in the morning, last off it at night." If I take this seriously I'm liable to never leave as all the traders on my desk work very differing hours.
By the end of the week, my impressions of banking were changing. Having overcome the initial surrealness of the trading floor, I'm now reliant on the screens in front of me. The traders are civilised and professional - one called me over to his screen seconds after an announcement on Bloomberg (which he had predicted three days earlier), and I watched his smile grow as the market visibly and significantly reacted just as he knew it would.
I may just be lucky - another friend is on a desk where he's not particularly enjoying being publicly asked to comment on the private lives of his colleagues and their various after-hours conquests.
Sitting on the train home, I'm left to process the events of the past few days. Probably my biggest regret is last night's curry with some of the fellow interns. Walking back to the tube we moaned bitterly about how the proprietor of a Brick Lane restaurant had managed to promise quite so much and yet deliver quite so little. We rounded on the native Londoner (and our chief bargainer) for not getting us a good deal. In reality, our smart suits had probably cost us a good 20% mark-up, a lesson learnt for the next foray outside of the Square Mile!
Much was made of opportunities for 'networking' during the 10 weeks, a phrase that I really don't like. But one week in and my 'network' is growing fast - not just with contact names and phone numbers but with real friends. Less than a week ago, we were in different parts of the world and knew nothing about each other. Now we will be friends for life.