Read this diary of my operations internship in an investment bank and you will understand why I am determined to work in the front office

eFC logo

This summer, I spent 12 weeks working as an intern at a leading investment bank in London. I wasn’t in M&A. Nor was I in sales or trading. I was in operations. What’s operations? Read the condensed version of my internship below.

Is operations an appealing job? That’s for you to find out. Personally, however,  I will be doing my best to ensure I work in either sales or trading when I graduate.

Week 1:

• A crash course on financial markets

• A lot of talks from HR and people in compliance about being a good banker and representing the firm

• Some networking events with interns and mid-ranking managers

Week 2:

• Introduction to the teams you’ll actually be working with

• An explanation of what those teams do and how they fit into the ‘complex lifecycle of a trade’

• Attempts to ask traders what they really do. Traders seem to stall for fear of jeopardising their own jobs.

• Work shadowing staff to get a feel of how a trade flows (from sales to trading to the back office).

• I am often left alone and use this time to browse the, ‘educational centre.’

Week 3:

• Massive social event.

• Lot of repetitive redundant excel tasks

• Handed a project aimed at streamlining trading and making more money for the bank

Week 4:

• Finish first project (way ahead of schedule), handed a 2nd. This one very, ‘complex and customer-orientated.’

• Use all spare moments on the online training courses provided by the firm.

• Fully familiarise myself with the Bloomberg machine and became the office Bloomberg guy. Everyone learns I love the Bloomberg machine and asks me to deal with anything requiring it. I love the BBG machine because I want to be a trader. They don’t know this.

Week 5:

• Massive responsibility. Handed a lot of the work for handling trades as they pass through my desk. I am now doing the job of a full time desk assistant.

• Exhausted. Keep falling asleep.

• VP meets with us interns and asks us to analyse 6 months’ of raw data to highlight system improvements. This is dubbed "the intern project"

Week 6:

• Try to make a start on the intern project but daily tasks are extremely time consuming

• Due to sickness and resignations the team was struggling so all the work load falls onto me

• Other interns doing the same projects are making progress on their main projects. I haven’t even started.

Week 7:

• Try to meet with manager to ask for less daily tasks so I can work on the project. Given 3 hours every alternate day

• Start attending office wide meetings to get a feel for the company culture; very welcoming and warm

• Go along to a volunteering event to promote the firm to a few local charities and spend the day having a laugh with the other interns

• I have started leaving the office a few hours after all the other interns

• I am really close to finish the ‘intern project’ when I am told the VP wants a reproducible Excel template to carry out all my analysis in the future

• As the daily tasks are not going to stop,  I start studying the process instead of just doing them blindly and pick out bits that could be automated

• By the end of the week I have implemented a few small basic Macros in the excel sheets which reduced my work load by 20%, letting me finish the daily tasks faster and get back to the intern project

Week 8:

• Start learning how to write Macros and use VBA in Excel

• I break down the process in which I analyse the data and write a Macro

• I’m still spending 6 hours or more a day on daily tasks

• I arrive in the office around 8am and leave around 9pm

• The cleaners are my friends and make fun of the fact that they leave work before I do!!

• I speak to my VP and ask if I could possibly have a wander around the trading floor just to get some exposure to it

Week 9:

• We cancel our presentation as not all the interns can make it to present to all the MD's & VP's in the department

• Associates go over my Powerpoint slides and tell me to redo everything, from the beginning

• I negotiate my daily tasks down to 3 hours per day so that I have more time to spend on ‘the intern project’

• I am doing other bits and pieces of projects here and there

Week 10:

• I manage to redo everything and rewrite the presentation to the specification of the associates

• I decide to call over my MD and ask his opinion. He makes me redo the analysis for a 3rd time based on business need. Most of the analysis the associates have suggested is redundant as it’s not beneficial to the firm.

• Meanwhile, my formulas and codes for daily tasks have become so complex that trying to debug them has become a nightmare! I signed up for banking not programming

• Other associates from other departments hear how fast I have finished some of the tasks and they urge my manager to make me do their work as well since they were all similar

• I am angry that other departments are giving their interns free space to run around while I am not only doing some of the team’s work and my own projects, but other projects that should have been handed to other interns

Week 11:

• Finally finish "the intern project" and stop doing the daily tasks as new staff  join the team and sickness has decreased overall

• My VP is very impressed with what I found out about the department in my analysis and sees this as an opportunity to develop the weaknesses I highlighted to further improve the efficiency of the department overall

• The other interns have gone down the "discussion" root and just speak about existing problems they have heard about by talking to other people, yet I have actually carried out some in depth analysis of my own and my conclusions are not influenced by pre-existing problems in the process or anyone else’s perception of the issues

• Seeing I’ve managed to write a macro and develop a new report for the department, all the other MD's start conditioning their raw data so they can use it and get the same analysis carried out in their department

• Once I have some free time to breath, I start staying behind after hours and get my BBG certificates

• I manage to go through most of the online education material too

• Due to my exposure to the daily tasks,  I start networking with other staff in FO and MO, email them for advice on how to succeed in their department and how to deal with HR

Week 12:

• After a week of relaxing, the associates realise I will be leaving by the end of the week to go back to university

• Pressure is high from my associates to finish their projects. 3 different people asking for different things at the same time can get really stressful when you can’t say no to any of them.

• I meet with the associates and give them some realistic targets so that no one thinks I’m underperforming. They’ve  benchmarked me against earlier in the internship when I finished projects very fast, and this could be a problem.

• On Tuesday my VP calls me into his office and said he will arrange for me to visit the trading floor for a quick tour, but i wouldn't be paid for it so I need to take a holiday

• By Thursday night, I make sure everything is done and taken care of, say all my goodbyes to everyone and hand in my badge, looking forward to Friday morning when I get to see the trading floor

• I start preparing questions for people I will meet on Friday

• The experience is priceless and I make sure all my questions are answered within those few hours!!

• Now I'm doing everything i can within my power to make sure I secure a front office role ASAP

In conclusion, the internship taught me that neither networking alone nor excelling at your daily task will get you under the spotlight. It’s a combination of the two, and you have to make sure you get the right balance. When you do, doors will open.