Diary of an IBD intern: Senior bankers are the least politically correct

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I’ve been looking forward to week four for a while. Why? Pay day. As superficial as it may sound, it’s the primary reason anybody works in a bank. It’s the biggest enticer into the City and remains one of the biggest features of it. Interns are paid an analyst’s base salary plus a one-off living grant. The salary, in corporate finance at least, appears to be almost identical across banks and hasn’t changed for a number of years. But there’s no denying that it is a fantastic salary to be earning when only just taking baby steps into a career. That’s not to say that banker’s don’t earn the money – they would certainly claim to rack up enough hours to justify it!

The next ‘big thing’ to happen this week is the commencement of the mid-internship review process. HR make this incredibly tricky. Interns are made to submit the individuals within their team who they believe ought to give feedback upon their progress so far in addition to filling in a long self assessment form themselves. This encourages a really competitive spirit between interns to get their primary recommendations from the most approachable staff. All this does in practice is push interns to be extremely keen when it comes to trying to impress the most senior and impressive bank staff. I must admit I’ve felt a need to get involved no matter how much it makes me cringe; the peer pressure and competition between interns really is the intense centre to the internship.

Senior staff at the bank are generally very reasonable though. With experience, bankers almost seem to mellow. Although it’s still incredibly competitive at the top of banks, the more senior you are the more success is in your own hands. Perhaps incidentally, it also seems to be the more senior staff who are quite often also the least politically correct and most stereotypical bankers around. I've seen some employees be practically bullied… not for anything to do with work, but for their social life (or lack of it!) outside of the office. This kind of banter is pretty regular, from the top down within the team.

Conversation is no better in banking than it is in university halls frankly – HR must wince… just as most interns do when they hear the word ‘HR’. Although teams are generally very kind, flexible and accommodating to interns, HR in particular seem to want to encourage a competitiveness between us – inescapable as it already is. They do organise the internship programme very thoroughly for us though – and over the past couple of weeks on the desk I have been invited to a few networking events and presentations based around my team, university and interests. These are intended to be useful networking opportunities – it really is nice to recognise people as you walk around the bank – but foremost they act as great excuses to get away from the desk for a short while!

This week wasn’t as tough in terms of work for me and most of my team. Things appear to be settling down for summer already. Probably due to the commencement of school holiday season (and the beautiful weather), the numbers away jet-setting – both clients and colleagues – have suddenly increased.

When it’s quiet it suddenly feels really boring though; time crawls and it becomes exhausting just attempting to find bits of work to do. Particularly for interns the staffing system is very loose, with work across the team rarely being centrally managed so as to be divided equally. This makes the workload incredibly variable and lumpy. Sometimes I’ll be deluged whilst other interns or analysts are twiddling their thumbs. Analysts like to give their work away, but it often takes them just as long to explain how to do something as it would for them to do it themselves, so they often don’t bother teaching us.

It has meant that I’ve been leaving at fairly reasonable times – even early enough to catch a bit of a daylight a few times! But fingers crossed I’m given something to get stuck into next week. If I was permanent, a chance to catch some summer sun would be perfect, but for us interns it just gives us less of a chance to prove ourselves and learn – it’s all about balance. At the end of the day, as much as I’d love a tan, I’d prefer a job offer.

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