Diary of an IBD intern: Analyst bonuses have gone through the roof, but there was no whooping

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Before I’ve even had a chance to blink, another week has flown by. From this week, one thing especially stands out. It was a momentary but awesome encounter. And it was one of those archetypal intern experiences.

Quite simply, I bumped into a FTSE 100 CEO in the lift on the way to their results presentation. And even better, my team’s MD was there accompanying him, and was nice enough to introduce me! My first thoughts were “Elevator pitch! Elevator pitch!” – but nothing came out. Still, we shook hands, I explained to him how wonderful a time I was having at the bank and then continued on my way. Although it's something I’ll remember and be able to brag about to the other interns, the encounter will mean little materially.

As well as trying to develop a strong reputation for the quality of my work over the past week, I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to increase the number of people who are actually aware of who I am within the bank, almost so as to give them a chance to learn about my reputation – basically, networking.

It’s the thing that you hear a lot about before joining the bank and also something you’re often told is really important to do by former interns. And I have to say, I’d never really understood its importance before. But when you’re inside the bank – a huge organisation with hundreds of IBD employees, but still, a very collegiate and interconnected environment – you realise just how many people each banker really does know across the bank and how valuable those connections are. Reputation is fundamentally the most precious commodity for individual employees, just as it is in many ways for banks within the industry’s competitive landscape.

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The longevity of many senior employees within the bank is really impressive. And, almost without exception, they have exemplary reputations. There are a significant number of Directors and Managing Directors who have been at my bank for well over a decade; most of the others have been within the industry for decades.

It conflicts sharply with the reality evident towards the bottom of banks though. Analysts have often been very frank with me and admitted that they’re not in banking for the long haul. For most, two to three years within investment banking will be all that they’re able to manage before moving into other fields. It’s not because they’re scared of being pushed out really either – it’s just an exhausting industry within which to make progress. To join a bank with the ambition of climbing through the ranks and into a senior position is unrealistic; to join a bank with the ambition of surviving for just a few years is enough.

This week analyst and associate bonuses were announced. There hadn’t been any discussion of the day beforehand surprisingly, although everyone knew it was happening. It was a really interesting time to be in the office.

One by one, early one morning, team members were called into an office and quickly given an appraisal of their performance over the year followed by a number. And apparently this year it was a golden number – or at least much higher than last year. It was really funny watching the analysts and associates shuffle out of that office trying to smother the childish grins on their faces. And even better still, watching them then try to concentrate on starting work again immediately after. There was no whooping or laughing or celebrating at all though.

In fact there was an eerie silence around the team – nobody discussed anything to do with their bonuses at all. Firstly, because they didn’t want to be seen to be showing off about how happy they were with what they’d received and, secondly, because of the fear that they’d received less than the person sitting next to them. Needless to say I had a quiet evening on that day – the office was emptied out remarkably quickly!

Next week I will start looking towards my end-of-internship project. Until recently everyone around the bank had been downplaying the importance of it and therefore so had the interns. But suddenly HR and our teams have changed their tone: it’s apparently very important and could be make or break in terms of our internship hopes. Yet another hurdle on the road towards that elusive job offer. The presentation itself doesn’t seem spectacularly difficult. Interns on each team have been assigned a significant M&A transaction within their team’s scope and have been asked to model it and pitch it as an idea, as if to a prospective client. Instead of pitching to clients, we’ll be pitching to a panel of MDs.

Apparently one of the most challenging aspects of the project is to balance it with other work commitments, which just keep on coming in. At the moment, things have been especially tough on my team as we’ve moved into holiday season. Some analysts are going away to train over the summer – the quietest period at the bank – whilst others are simply taking holidays. All in all, this means a promotion for us interns. After only a few weeks there are more interns on many teams than analysts. At times it definitely feels as though one function of interns is to smooth out the capacity of the bank during the quieter summer period.

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