Investment Banking Internship Prep

In this tutorial we’re going to get very ‘real’ with you and explain exactly what investment banking interns are for.  We’ll start general by revealing the type of work you will be asked to do and what your true purpose is.  Then we will drill down to the specific tasks investment banking interns do on a daily basis.

By giving you the uncensored preview you’ll know exactly what to prepare for and what to forget about; plus how to act coming in.  This street-level knowledge will literally put you amongst the top 10% of interns at your bank.

 

BONUS: Download a free reporton how to crush you summer internship and earn the $100,000+ return offer, plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.

 

Investment banking internship prep the smart way

After landing an investment banking internship most students will go away and start studying everything and anything they can find.  Every investment banking resource, blog, book and course they devour is done with the faint belief that it ‘might’ be useful come summer time. 

That it ‘might’ just save their ass and help them stand out. And although I love the enthusiasm, that kind of prep strategy is freaking retarded.  Why would you spend all that time studying for things that may crop up.

Instead you should first ascertain what your Excel Monkey ass will actually be doingcome summer time.  With that knowledge you can proceed with much more certainty.  You can really drill down and pinpoint the areas to prep for – the sorta things that will pop up when you walk in on Day 1 of your investment banking internship.

So with all of that in mind, I’m now going to spend some time laying out all the tasks interns do.  We’ll start general and get more specific.  After doing this I’ll reveal exactly what your purpose is as a banking intern too – knowing this will further help you determine how to prep for summer (and how to perform once in). But as with all things Inside Investment Banking tutorial related this is but a taste of our advice on internship prep (get your full hit here…). 

PS another reason I’ll share all the real internship tasks with you is to help you keep your expectations in check. 

That way you’ll walk into your summer internship with the right mindset and you’ll never be disappointed or surprised again. Most of all, this ‘reality checking’ will help you clearly understand your role as peasant monkey kid and eliminate any possibility of you turning up on your first day armed with laminated Excel shortcuts and a deadly appetite to “build models mother f*ckers!”.  

 

What type of work does an investment banking intern do?

At the helicopter level, what you’ll do will mirror a first year investment banking analyst just starting, minus the glory tasks and professional respect of course. How awful can the work get? Well, we figure there’s no such thing when you’re a 20-something kid. 

Even when you are shining MD Larry Larryson’s shoes you’re only an email away from dreamland – if you’re anything like us, a simple email asking you to “fix up…” a PowerPoint for a big bad blue chip like Newscorp or Apple will have you singing “Hallelujah”.

Heck, if an Apple logo pops up you might even struggle to take in air, or control the opening-closing of your eyelids!  And most surely you’ll need a change of underwear.

So no matter what mind numbing tasks you find below, just remember that on average they’ll be cool enough to satiate a 21-year olds nascent love for the world of investment banking.

 

What specific categories of tasks fall to banking interns?

 

1. Marketing

This is any task that involves you selling the bank or the client.  Whether it’s via pitch books, IMs, or some other BS-ridden vehicle, doesn’t matter. Time spent selling objectively describing the state of the market, industry trends, new ideas or products also fits under this category.  Remember, anything that can make the bank money is worth selling.  

2. Deals

Sure, ‘deal work’ may involve you doing some Excel work. 

But more probably, your role on a deal will involve the heavy lifting, time-consuming grunt work that comes with “getting deals done”. From performing random research tasks for the client (they request some odd ends and tails) to chasing up 30 people via email to confirm tomorrow’s call, you can find enough work here to carry you through summer. 

You see what I mean by setting expectations!!  As an investment banking intern on a deal you are but a glorified assistant…albeit a well paid one.  

3. Everything else

Ah, the catchall category. We’re lumping the rest here. 

Picture random enquiries, Bloomberging-till-death and all other monkey like activities that cumulatively add less value than a GM management team, but “just have to get done” to quote Analyst Chuck Chuckford.  Many of the 39 tasks I’m going to run you through below fall into this category.

 

The top 3 summer intern tasks revealed

Whether you’re doing an investment banking internship in Hong Kong or a banking internship in London, this list is going to apply to you – it’s the universal laundry list of tasks that banks allocate to the lowest of the low…the investment banking interns.  Get excited!

Because this list is insanely long, I thought I’d 80-20 it and give you the top 3 investment banking intern tasks first, and then throw the rest into a nice big “and the rest” section.

PS I could have made ‘research’ a top 3 task since you’ll pour more sweat into this cesspool during your summer than anything else.  But instead I’ve broken it down into it’s specific guises, eg Bloomberg research, to give you a much clearer idea of what you’ll do this summer and how to do it, and lumped them all into the “and the rest” section.  

 

1. Creating company profiles

Maybe it’s a bit jaded of me, but I think of company profiles the same way I think of Wikipedia entries – a hodgepodge of basic-as-Ben-Stiller information that’s not particularly interesting, but always necessary to have on hold.

The reason we create company profiles is for use when analyzing the competitive landscape of our client company’s industry and for using in presentations to the client about possible deals (who can they buy, who can buy them, who to watch out for). They also help us keep tabs on who’s doing what and where each player fits in – very CIAish I know.  

 

What does a company profile literally consist of?

It depends on what it’s being used for. 

In say a basic ‘Market Update’ PowerPoint presentation going out to a client, each company profile (of the client’s competitors/suppliers/customers etc) may only be a one slide summary with a 3 sentence description, 5 numbers/multiples, recent news etc – this super succinct form occurs when say 5-15 competitors are being profiled at once in a basic presentation.

In it’s longer form, say if you were detailing every potential acquisition target in a formal pitch book (!), a company profile could include several slides that straddle everything from historical financials to extensive qualitative descriptions of the company’s revenue streams to detailed analysis of specific parts of the company (to suit the immediate usage requirements). 

In this form the company profile gets heavy and moves beyond the realm of mere Wikipedia copycat!

Because company profiles are often merely a collection of simple information scattered beautifully across a few slides, they’re considered Intern Level Work and will probably be one of the first things your analyst-mentor will palm off to you come summer.

As you can see from the above, you don’t need a 3.8 GPA from Stanford to pull these off.  

 

How should you go about prepping for company profiles?

When you get into the bank flick read through a couple past examples, internalize the language, structure, components, and metrics used, and quite soon you’ll know how to create company profiles without even referencing precedent samples. 

They’re basically just glorified Wikipedia entries after all! The first thing you will notice when reading past examples is how tranquilizer-esque they are; they’ll put you to sleep in an instant.

The data, the language, the facts, the summary – it’s all so common knowledge and BS sounding.  But your job is not to win a freaking Excel or creative writing competition so don’t try to break with convention and pen some Charles Dicken prose or engineer some insanely original multiples when you’re asked to give it a go. Instead play it safe and create company profiles that blend in, not stand out.

If you want to impress bankers here then all you need to do is present with extreme succinctness – super industrious language paired with only the really important numbers/graphs etc will wow bankers since it saves them time and hides the “who cares” details.

Some students think they need to find interesting facts and figures about the company that aren’t readily accessible via a company search on some half-rate intelligence database to impress here.
But trust me when I say finding uber original info like this is time consuming and really not expected – and when you’ve had 2 hours sleep in 2 days why would you get all sadomasochistic on yourself with some freaking primary research?!

That said, you can’t create all your company profiles by simply grabbing text from a database search, or (and yes this is very common) copy-pasting a Wikipedia entry on the company or text from the company’s own website!!

Instead you need to write from scratch using the tone/type of language and exact structure you see in the banks existing company profiles, and with the type of conciseness you see in these; as well as drawing your figures and numbers directly from the original sources and condensing them into their most essential and insightful form (just like with spreading comps – which we talk about below).

ie you have to summarize the summarizers, but do it accurately and in a client friendly way.

As an investment banking intern you’ll probably more often than not be asked to simply update or double-check existing company profiles. This can really suck if the intern or first year banking analyst who made the existing profiles did an awful job on them, because bankers will expect a mere ‘update’ to take you no time at all, and yet you’ll almost be making profiles from scratch!!

PS Although you are all bright eyed and bushy f*cking tailed now, don’t be disheartened if you make dozens of company profiles and they never get read – such is the nature of them.  ie banks will want profiles on hand for ‘just in case’ a client requests them, or a deal takes heat.  

 

2. Performing financial statement analysis

You can be asked to painstakingly analyze 10ks, 10qs and any godly number of in-house financial databases during your internship in order to derive a motley crew of decision-making metrics and numbers bankers want. 

Whether bankers want them for a model, a PowerPoint presentation, an IM, a conference call or for their own sadistic mind, doesn’t matter. This all sounds more difficult than it is, because most of you will have barely read a full 10k thanks to a lack of real world teaching in college, or the lack of a finance/accounting degree to your name.

But don’t worry, we’ve got some good news for you and a plan to get you trained up in no time.

Firstly, the good news.  As with all investment banking interns you’ll be treated like a fifth grader come summer time…in a good way.

That is, bankers won’t assume you know how to do much of anything, and will thus teach you the basics you need.  Albeit very very very fast.  So as long as you listen up and watch them walk you through a sample 10k analysis, then you’ll be fine.  

 

How should you go about prepping for financial statement analysis?

If you’ve got the same intense motivation we had as students then don’t be afraid to download some F500 company financial statements right now and read them page by page, line by line. This real world reading and analysis in your spare time now can turn you into a banking natural. 

It worked for Warren Buffett as a 20-something, and for us too. If you go down this route please develop the right approach – which is to speed read the statements first.  ie examine the table of contents, the headings, the summary writing & figures first, and get a feel for the whole statement – then feel free to get stuck into the details.

Also, please understand that you need to read about 10 different company financial statements before you develop anything like an understanding for 10Ks, because they vary company to company in many ways – and with each different statement you are challenged to find all the components all over again (eg non-recurring charges) and make all the adjustments using fresh figures (eg depr).

Although all of this skill is not expected of you when you walk in day 1 of your banking internship, being able to find your way through a chunky 10k or other company financial statement at mach speed is handy. 

Armed with this skill you’ll be able to breeze through training, avoid asking any dumb questions when assigned your first financial statement analysis task and you’ll turn in accurate work from the get go.

One more thing; I found financial modeling training worked a treat for developing my financial statement analysis skills in this area, because any good online modeling course will take you step by step through real world financial statements and show you what everything means, how to break it apart and then how to use it to derive the decision making metrics.

In case you haven’t read it yet, check out our Guide to Financial Modeling training courses.  

 

3. Spreading comps

Unlike the previous task, this is a more specific type of financial statement analysis. This is the stereotypical “oh, can’t we find an intern to do that” kind of task, because it’s time consuming, mindless grunt work – or at least it is to any analyst with half a brain. 

But for you interns it’ll be a whole new experience and something you’ll approach with trepidation – unless of course you realize how simple they are…

Spreading comps simply involves comparing a bunch of companies based on a handful of financial metrics, most notably value multiples (eg EV/EBITDA).  It gets trickier within certain industries where the financial metrics of concern grow and deviate away from simple value multiples.  But don’t worry, your group will handhold you through this.

Before I continue I’d like to head off any students thinking “Can’t a computer just do the calculations?”. Well the answer is yes, there are databases filled with all the info – and calculations already done for us when we run a simple company search, eg CapIQ.

But the problem with these programs is they’re f*cking terrible at rendering the kind of precise financial calculations senior bankers demand. 

You see, although these computer programs scour the financial statements like any good intern, they don’t do all the adjustments like add backs or take into account footnotes littered with references to non-recurring charges etc (explained below).

So although these computer calculations are quite good, they’re not banker-good (aka perfect).  And at $10 an hour you are a cheap way to get accurate results.

Also, every time I presented comps as an intern I was asked how I arrived at every freaking metric – so by doing them myself I was able to show the ‘how’, and didn’t simply say “Computer says yes!” like a Little Britain f*cktard travel agent!!  

 

Let’s get back to Spreading Comps 101

At the heart of any spread is our client company or some other target company – we want to see how they are performing, valued, structured etc against similar companies.  ‘Similar’ can mean same industry, same size, same debt structure etc, depending on the situation (IPO v M&A etc).

It’s important to realize that ‘similar’ is a subjective decision, and one that your mentor will often make for you by saying “spread these 5 companies”. 

But if they leave it in your hands then be careful to select companies that are similar along the lines that matter most to your end analysis. Although the end result (a couple metrics for each company) seems simple enough, getting there can be difficult.

Spreading comps you see, is as easy as the company’s financials and structure is simple…meaning if you get handed a couple of Enron-esque or transparent-as-the-Fed types of companies you could be in for a world of pain when it comes to finding the numbers you need to do things like add backs, multiples calculations etc (eg me in the first week of my internship all those years ago…hello hidden non-recurring charges, off-BS v on-BS dramas, complicated debt structures, dozens of dense language confusing-as-hell footnotes etc…ouch!).

The intern who will impress bankers the most is not necessarily the intern who comes up with the metrics fastest, but rather the one who can show their full calculations for every metric and explain how they arrived at each answer when interrogated by a senior banker.

Eg explaining how they deciphered what footnote 12 meant, showing how they added depreciation back in at Point B etc.  ie banking is just like math class – you’ll get rewarded for showing working out!  

 

How should you go about prepping for spreading comps?

The trick with learning how to spread comps is practice.

So if you can get hold of a few full examples (the financial statements, the calculations, the explanations, the end results), self learn / reverse engineer them and then spread comps over and over again before your summer you’ll be fine.

Once again this is a banking task that is less difficult than it sounds and within hours you’ll be spreading like you breathe…without much thought!  Especially if you followed our advice above in point 2 “Financial Statement Analysis” – ie print off a few 10ks and 10qs now, get familiar with them and you’ll know how to find/interpret/adjust the data you need to create the comps fast. With all that said, when you are finally asked to spread comps during your internship please approach the task with caution.

Meaning even if you have spread a hundred comps going into your summer, go slow. Triple check numbers, re-read the 10k and 10q a bazillion times, and sense check the shit out of it all!

That last point (sense check) is unbelievably important, because if you turn up with a set of comps and I can see with a quick glance they’re wrong (ie without even referencing the financial statements) because they are just illogical numbers, you’ll look like a lumbering Arnold Schawzenegger in Kindergarten Cop!

Remember as with all investment banking intern tasks, your aim is to ‘not stuff up’, as opposed to wowing bankers with your speed.  Accuracy trumps speed.

PS Spreading comps sounds like a b*tch right?  Well yes, but the upside is that you’ll be creating numbers that bankers will rely on to make important decisions – ie its important work, to an extent.

Often senior bankers will use comps to sell clients on an idea, eg “Hey company x, look, your leverage ratio is really low compared to Fannie Mae, we think you should do a half billion dollar debt issue and give us a hefty percent as lead managers”. Excellent!

PPS When the client tries to mention Fannie went the way of the dodo and blew up, just financial model them to death – oh yes, no client can stand up to an investment banking powerpoint-cum-excel presentation that shows how a deal will magically net them an extra $100 million in EBIT!  

 

 

And all the other tasks investment banking interns do

Ok, now we’re going to speed through the rest of the tasks you will perform during your investment banking internship so you have full knowledge of what’s coming up and whether there’s anything you need to prepare for.

 

4. Conducting hours of Bloomberg research

Once you get the hang of using the Bloomberg terminal you’ll fly through hours of research without any problems.

But I dare suggest you should slow down, because becoming the go-to-intern for anything Bloomberg research related sucks as this is boring grunt work at it’s finest! In fact MD Larry Larryson’s 7 year old son Jojo Love III could pull data off a Bloomberg terminal with a few minutes instruction – ie its not the sort of skill that will get you noticed. Getting a little more serious though, I’d like to add that Bloomberg is unlike any operating system you’ve used before – the keys, the shortcuts, the navigation…it’s all new.

So when you start your investment banking internship you’ll probably have a session or two with Bloomberg, and they’ll show all you interns how to use the 19th century looking contraptions to perform popular research tasks.  If you heed their training you’ll find Bloomberg is fairly intuitive and fast to use. P

lease pay more attention to the Bloomberg training that we did as interns, because there’s nothing more annoying to junior bankers than getting asked every 5 minutes by some punk ass intern “How do I get back to the analyst reports Mr Banker Man?”.

PS if bored, use Bloomberg to read stock reports about your favorite penny hopefuls – it’s from the Bloomberg chair that every great banker crafts their own personal investment strategy on bank time after all!!  

 

5. Hunting down stats

Whether you’re powering through previous presentations or even premium ‘info services’ for them, you should realize that this is a marginal step above admin work.

But doing your fair share of grunt work as an investment banking intern is honorable…and hey, your freaking investment banking internship salary is triple your friend working at BCG over summer! Also, hunting down stats is the perfect example of the kind of task bankers first give interns – aka the tester

It tests your ability to happily accept shit work, to seriously approach basic tasks and to avoid making mistakes.

PS if you do make a mistake here, just pick up your $100 suit jacket and leave – you are no baby banker my friend.

 

6. Compiling info from various resources

This may sound like simple work, but if for example you are trying to spread comps and the companies involved are opaque like we talked about above, well, then it can take every ounce of innovative thinking to track down the information you need; knowing who to talk to, where to search, what to read, how to extract etc, takes smarts.

This kind of resourcefulness though will set you apart from all the other interns, because most will be too afraid to even ring the freaking information department of the bank to request a report!

PS always check with your mentor-analyst before requesting any materials that cost the bank money to access – you don’t need some D-grade info officer laying down a freaking cost-approval inquisition on you.  

 

7. Scouring financial news sources, especially the summary services

Whether for opinions, sentiment, data or other news relevant to a client or the market generally, I’d call this ‘fun’ work. 

It’s market related and about as close to direct client work as some of you may get. One of the first training sessions you’ll receive as a summer analyst will be on how to use the information services including the news databases. 

The advice I have on this is listen closely.  Despite the tedium of learning how to refine searches to the nth degree on these platforms, just slam down some Ethiopian-sourced caffeine and take killer notes. Having advanced search skills (like I mention in the next point) will help you save time and increase accuracy, which is a vital skill when VPs ask you at 4.52pm to get a dozen articles before the 5pm call!  

 

8. ‘Googling shit’ – the technical term

Anything from “Production levels in North American Pulp Mills” to “Smartphone penetration in the 18-25 market in Chongqing, China” can be hunted down via Google. And so you shouldn’t be surprised to know investment bankers resort to Google and other publicly available information for their research, reports and presentations all the time

That said, you’ll probably end up in proprietary databases more often than not to find information. But since Google is going to be a big ally for your summer internship we recommend you upgrade your search skills by learning all the fast ways to search more accurately.  If you don’t know how ” and – and other keystrokes effect Google searches then please take 5 minutes now to learn.

Since this is a fairly boring and misunderstood area I tracked down a super quick presentation – it will turn you into a Google Rock Star in 5 minutes and you’ll be able to save at least 30 hours this summer thanks to these basic Search tricks.  Check out How Bankers Can Become Google Search Rockstars now.  

 

9. Updating poorly formatted in-house Excel databases

Or cleaning the disheveled ‘sheets’ so they don’t look like they’ve just been attacked by the entire team from Zoolander. 

Whatever shape this type of F-grade Excel task comes in, avoid it at all costs.  You see, although you’re finally allowed to play in the wonderful world of Excel, this is not the promised land. 

This type of Excel work is extremely mundane and absolutely useless for your development and most of all for your work track record. Let me pause us on that last point (work track record); during your internship you need to chalk up tangible achievements that make you look like an investment banking analyst in the making – think modeling, pitch books, deal work.

Otherwise, if you’re left at the end of your internship simply holding up “formatted Database FG10199″ as your major achievement then your chances of securing a return offer are low!  

 

10. Collecting numbers, opinions and analysis from various bankers

You’ll usually do this for an upcoming group or inter-group meeting, and quite often it will require you to get in touch with bankers from other groups too.  Now I’ll admit this sounds like simple ‘compiling’ work, which we mentioned above when talking about Googling, news scouring etc.

But this type of task has one huge difference, being that here you are compiling info by speaking to, writing to and meeting with bankers.  And best of all, bankers from other groups too.

Meaning this task is in fact the #1 way you can network during your summer internship without actually networking…ie thanks to this task you can easily get to know other bankers without resorting to douchebag acts such as ringing up bankers in the morning and asking to go to lunch to ‘get to know each other better’. So please recognize why this task is different to other info gathering tasks, so that when it does land in your lap you’ll tackle it with the type of gusto it deserves.  

 

11. Creating and updating league table slides

In case you haven’t heard of league tables (aka banking league tables) they’re simply the competition ladder for the banking industry – ie showing the amount of deals done by all the major banks(M&As, IPOs, Debt etc) and ranking them from biggest to bitchiest. I think I need to retract the word ‘simply’ though, because to any banker these tables mean everything. 

They are the go-to place to settle bets on who’s the real master of the universe, they’re the home of both inflated and bruised egos, and they’re the most manipulated data sets on Earth!! Although you will find many publicly available league tables, eg Dealogic’s League Tables or Thomson Reuters League Tables, banks will always want to shape their own for use in both internal presentations (eg annual review) and external presentations (eg pitch book).  And this is your job – taking the data and presenting it in a nice PowerPoint slide so your bank looks better than it is in one or more categories (eg debt raised, M&A volume etc). As you can imagine this is another one of those tasks that most interns will try to avoid. 

It’s fairly unimportant work and quite basic, so you can’t really muster up a big “Look what I did Mr Larryson” sorta achievement. Beyond understanding the industry, why would you want this sort of task? Well, league table work can be useful because it’s usually something other bankers will be interested in talking about and thus something you can use to chat and interact on.  Hello networking!!  

 

12. Updating ‘daily market numbers’ for a client

This is live deal work in a sense, because the market numbers are usually price/buy-sell/volume/spreads etc related, and is something the client needs as they try to buy, sell or float their sorry ass. It’s also a task you get to do everyday (for say 20 minutes) and one senior bankers will be interested in hearing about everyday – especially in the lead up to a deal or other market activity (eg buy back). 

So yeah, don’t go kicking yourself in the head if you get assigned this sorta thing come summer time, instead enjoy. PS I’d like to point out that this is the perfect example of live deal work for interns – ie it’s nothing juicy like building a model, but it still counts and if you can spin it the right way you’ll end up with a tangible achievement to show. 

 

13. Being randomly asked for your thoughts on just about anything

From asking about a current deal to “those Knicks last night”, bankers questions can be very random.  And yes, I know I know – you thought as peasant excel monkey boy you wouldn’t be asked for your thoughts on anything.

But it’s true, junior bankers (and sometime senior ones too) like to test your mettle, see if there’s a brain capable of original thought in your head and generally determine whether business acumen comes natural to you.

It’s hard to prepare for these questions, because unlike a formal interview they’re so random.  But if you keep up to speed on your group’s work and the market generally then you should be fine. Of course, if you prepare for your investment banking internship the way we suggested in our guide toInvestment Banking Blogs, Books & Resources you’ll be fine – ie WSJ, Fortune, a few blogs, books and financial modeling training.  

 

14. Scheduling in-house meetings and generally performing tasks thatyour assistant has outsourced to you!

Avoid like the plague.  You do not want bankers to put you in the same mental basket as “team assistant”. That said, if you get thrown a ‘to do’ like this in a team meeting and it has to do with organizing a live deal meeting, then go nuts. 

Organize the shit out of it! You’ll be able to email everyone on the team, the other bank’s team and even the client with a polite “Meeting Time Request” email for example.  This of course depends on your bank; many of you will still have these emails sent out by one of the more responsible junior bankers, albeit copy/pasted from your email.

Oh last point – when I say ‘avoid like the plague’ I’m not saying you should flat out refuse these tasks at all! 

I’m just saying you should try to skirt away from them when possible.  But if you do get handed them please tackle them with the type of seriousness and attention to detail bankers respect; just think of it like Initiation!  

 

15. Taking notes during meetings and calls

Now I know you’re thinking this investment banking intern task sounds Sesame Street easy.  But it’s not, because meetings and conference calls in investment banking run at warp speed. 

There are usually multiple parties on the call, 8 people trying to speak at the same time, a melange of topics being passed over with insane speed and a dozen concepts totally foreign to you being bandied about – it’s one confusing mess for the newly initiated IB intern. I mean it’s hard enough to note all the names of people on the call (your first job as team scribe!), let alone keep track of all the issues raised, resolutions reached and questions left open.

Hint: if it’s an option for you always elect laptop over notepad because you’ll need to write fast and later you’ll need to circulate the minutes.  Just watch out for those sadistic MDs who hate the sound of keystrokes effecting their dictum!!

Before leaving this task let me point out that I’ve never seen an intern being relied on as sole scribe during any conference call of importance.  Instead the overworked junior bankers with the neatest organization skills will go nuts on this along with you – you’re almost just shadowing them for fun!  

 

16. Printing presentations and reports

And possibly even binding them with the assistance of an angry-looking office manager named Brooke – who gives you the evil eye when you ask “Which color binder should we use on this report?”.  Brooke is pissed!

Ok, enough nightmare reminiscing, let’s just say that as a banking intern you will be responsible forprinting draft reports all the time.  You see in banking no one proof reads shit on the computer. 

And rightfully so, since it’s a million times easier to spot a mistake on paper, than it is on a computer screen. With reports often spanning hundreds of pages (and multiple copies needed) you could see some serious ink time. But don’t worry, any serious printing (eg the final version of a pitch book) is handled by the bank’s ownPRO print department – the poor guys downstairs who basically work in a Xerox Sweatshop 24/7!  

 

17. Being the good little coffee kid

If you pay for the coffees you’re a good little rich kid too!  This may seem like an antiquated idea.  And officially it is.  I mean no banker is ordering you around and saying with a Rick James twang “Get me coffee b*tch”.

But that’s the thing, because it isn’t expected anymore, it’s so much more appreciated when you do volunteer for it.  Of course, if you do, don’t resort to some subservient “Would you like some coffee Mr Larryson?” – you’ll get branded as the MD’s ass kissing pet! Instead keep it casual and more like “I’m just going to grab a coffee, anyone want to join – or I can bring one back?”. PS This is a favorite task amongst any clued in intern, because it is basically a hall pass. 

You get to ditch the Excel for a brief moment in time and breathe fresh air – oh yeah, that’s right…get outside the bank’s own cafeteria and into the real world!!  

 

18. Providing material for in-group jokes, i.e. yourself.

Not so much a task, given that your natural inability to perform menial tasks is the very material bankers need for a laugh. I don’t think I need to drum up investment banking war stories here, but suffice to say interns are the fuel of summer time office gossip – what they wear, who they hook up with, what mistakes they’ve made.

If you want to avoid being the general focus of lunch time laughter just keep a check on your clothes (don’t try and dress better than the junior bankers), romantic interests (leave Jenny in TMT alone!), group emails (never send them unless you have to and they’re work related), and drinking (get drunk at social engagements with junior bankers sure, but handle yourself well – and avoid drinking heavily around senior bankers).  

 

19. Shining shoes

This should not surprise you given you’re cheaper to hire on a per-hour basis than the homeless dude down stairs asking for a dollar!  

 

20. Fetching laundry

Carries the same probability of happening as shoe shining, i.e. it’s more urban legend than fact.

Well, with that said I do remember HR telling us that if any bankers ask you to fetch their dry cleaning during your summer internship then you can tell them raised, resolutions reached and But fetching the group’s dinner when you’re pulling an all nighter is much more probable…you are after all faster than the delivery guy!  

 

21. Writing market updates or commentary on industry trends

Not a bad job to get assigned provided you aren’t simply asked to paraphrase like a $70 k a year equity research officer!  And yes, there is some room for original thought here.  But don’t let your writing take you much beyond summarizing here. 

Keep it simple.

You should re-read “how to create company profiles” above for some tips on this too – ie about conciseness, blending in etc.

If you are being asked to do this within the context of an up and coming deal then get very excited, because this is once again live deal work – interns working in IPOs are particularly expected to be good at this, especially in today’s seesawing market.  

 

22. Interpreting or at least passing along regulatory changes to the team

Not a common job for interns, especially anyone working outside of a complicated financial products group. 

But I do remember as an intern having to research regulatory changes as they applied to a potential deal. Basically the bank wanted to keep tabs on the legal ramifications from new laws being passed so that if a deal became possible they could sprint to the client with pitch book in hand and start discussing the terms.

ie they wanted to be ahead of the client, ahead of the market. Although this related to a real client, it wasn’t a live client/deal, but rather just a potential one.  And as an intern you shouldn’t focus too much on work that relates to generating deal flow in 6 months or 1 years time. 

You want to have a much more short term focus during your summer. How difficult is this task?  Well, it depends on your attention to detail and language abilities – but if you take your time and break it all apart, it should be fine.

Like with all things, don’t worry too much, because the bank will have their own legal team doing the hardcore interpretation and analysis.  Whilst your research is more preliminary and to be quite honest usually just done to test out your analytical/interpretative skills.  

 

23. Working on ‘assessments’ of competitive landscape changes

This is basically telling the client what the client already knows, but wants confirmed by an outsider who knows less about the industry than them…what?!

Yeah, this one is pretty simple – paraphrase what’s already been written in the Journal, format it nicely with a beautiful header and send it on out!  Almost, anyway. You would be amazed how much companies rely on us bankers to tell them what they already know

It’s the kind of reassurance a child looks for when they’re out riding their bike for the first time. But it’s also the kind of reassurance a CEO likes to have when the Board starts questioning him about his decisions…“Look, the bank agreed”.  

 

24. Adding any kind of content or analysis to decks, sheets, tables etc.

Usually this will take the form of information sent to you via email from some tired and disgruntled investment banking analyst, saying “Incorporate this into slide 5 of the presentation before 8am”.

Your job is to take their dribble analysis and somehow reduce it to comprehensible analysis for a presentation that has to go out to the client by morning. All in all this is absolute gravy for any half decent investment banking intern.  

 

25. Compiling, organizing and unifying 100 different resources into one

I wrote this task down and then realized it’s pretty freaking similar to one above.  But the reason I’ve kept it on the list is because it’s a very specific kind of task I’m referring to. In banking turnover of analysts – and all bankers in general – is high.  And whenever one leaves its usually done fast with notice rarely served.  So what’s left is a big pile of heaping information…completely unorganized.

As an intern you could be expected to act like a good little spring cleaning Excel Monkey and go through it all, identify the useful and synthesize it into one clear body of knowledge. 

Nothing sensitive will be amongst the information; just a pile of “maybe important” docs. So yeah, you’re about one level above janitor on this one – but this banking task tests your attention to detail and bankers like that.  

 

26. Collecting dozens of scribbles from an analyst and bringing them together in a nice looking PPT or XLS

Really common task and similar to Task 24, but a job more focused on your ability to make Microsoft Office docs look good. If you want to achieve this then either learn Office inside out before starting summer or see if you cancon a night assistant (assistants that work the graveyard shift) into showing you the 80-20 essentials of formatting and presentation.  Because if anyone knows how to do it, do it fast and do it to please senior bankers it’s them!

PS You will get many more kudos than you think if you get this task right, because bankers are superficial mofos, often impressed more by form than substance! 

So try turn out a few sparkling slides or graphs with shiny colors and sit back to bask in the praise.   In fact, like I’ve said many times before, you’ll probably get more “well dones” with a good looking 5 slide investment banking power point than you will with 20 comps!  

 

27. Pumping out executive summaries for time-starved senior bankers

This is basically the same task you have been doing for yourself over the past couple years as a college student…ie taking a large and unwieldy body of words and distilling it down into the essentials.  So go grab your highlighter, take notes and write up the bare bones summary ASAP. 

This is pie, as long as you don’t leave out materially important info – and don’t include info tid bits that no one cares about. ie balance is key.  

 

28. Editing and formatting docs, ppts and xls

Here your task is really about tightening up already tight banking presentations. Adjust this headline here, make sure the same font is used for all footers, cross check the table of contents with the actual pages themselves etc.

You can go crazy doing this kind of work and it can be really hard to spot the miniscule incongruities, but displaying this attention to detail is essential.  It’s within every baby bankers’ DNA. 

So give these kinds of tasks your full attention, don’t rush and you’ll be fine.  

 

29. Creating rough graphs, charts, data sets, tables and other ‘doo dah’ for presentations

It’s fairly mundane work, but you can separate yourself from other interns here if you care enough tomake good looking ‘doo dah‘, or if you make ‘doo dah’ that is consistent with past presentations.

Really look to precedents for guidance when handling this kind of task – especially because junior bankers don’t want to be asked by you “Chuck, how do I create a chart in Excel?”!!  You’ll give Chuck his freaking 3rd ulcer for the year with that sort of question. I hope you can see how mastering Microsoft Office before your banking internship can help you kill it this summer.

PS Office is a skill you’ll use far more than financial modeling during your internship, one that gets a helluva lot of kudos and isn’t that difficult or expensive to learn – so go nuts.  With that said, beware of mastering Office before summer only to find out the bank uses a different version!  

 

30. Proofreading the 2am gibberish of your analyst-buddy

This is one of the hardest jobs you’ll have as an intern, because when it’s 3am in the morning and your analyst buddy hands off 47 pages of dense information to you about a deal structure or some tax related musings and asks you to give it a “sense check” or worse “proof read it for mistakes” the pressure is firmly on you. But you’re just as fatigued as them, and infinitely slower in the head being a peasant Excel Monkey after all. 

Whilst there’s only so much Red Bull, caffeine pills and slapping yourself on the face can do! But hey, this is the sort of task that bonds you to your fellow banker faster than anything and earns you true ‘grunt worker’ status. These are the nights when investment banking interns are born! If you want to make sure you crush this task then 1) go home on the nights when you have no work (screw ‘stupid’ face time – we’ll explain this better in the free course) so you are rested up for the all nighters, 2) don’t caffeine overload during the day, 3) print everything out you need to read, 4) speed read / sense check before getting into the nitty gritty and 5) highlight every and I mean every little mistake you find, from missing punctuation to a their v there mistake – your analyst buddy will thank you.  

 

31. Shadowing an analyst for the day

Unlike S&T where interns basically do nothing but shadowing, in investment banking proper you could do this on slow days or on days when an analyst from your group is put in charge of training you in several different skills.

When your task is basically ‘observing’ though it’s common for interns to drift off, but this could kill you! Instead, you need to take notes, ask intelligent questions, try to have a go at the task yourself, and most of all, don’t annoy the analyst training you or simply allowing you to observe them work.  Bonus marks if you can fetch them coffee when they’re waning at about 3pm.  

 

32. Playing with precedents for learning purposes

This is the “Go play in the yard Timmy” task of the investment banking intern world. If you remember when your parents were too tired to play catch with you, then this instruction will resonate hard with you…”Go study one of our previous transactions…there is a good model in the archives”.

As far as intern tasks go this is fairly useless, because it’s hard to passively learn from a past example – ie without applying the lessons and interacting with the material you’ll absorb almost nothing. But I’m not too worried about whether you learn or not, I’m far more interested in making sure you get the investment banking return offer. 

And on this point this task fails too, because it is not the kind of achievement you can use to argue why you should get invited back – in fact it’s not an achievement at all. To help steer you away from useless tasks like these we’ve come up with a handful of ways to turn an unproductive banking internship into a summer of tangible achievements – the type of achievements you can use to turn in an A+ investment banking summer internship and secure the return offer!  Check out this to discover them all.  

 

33. Using the Replace All function to create a new pitch book!

I’m not joking.  Sure, some unique work will go into the banking presentation down the track, but as far as you go your job is over after hitting Replace All!  

 

34. Playing some part in producing 150 page Information Memorandums

This task can turn into a monster. 

I’ve seen a summer intern break down after 60 straight days of oil & gas related IM work such was the detailed, boring nature of it. But playing a minor role as an investment banking intern in the production of an Information Memorandum can be valuable since it will educate you on the various parts of a selling deal.

FYI an IM is basically a doc that outlines all the information companies or investors would need to decide whether to invest in a project/company (a business description in it’s fullest sense). As an intern working on this you’d be tasked with doing research into the company and industry to pad out the IM. 

Hello Googling “oil supplies 1985-2011 in Antarctica” and reading 100 page reports on drilling rights!  And in my opinion this is what real baby bankers handle best.  

 

35. Passively, quietly, interestingly listening in on calls

Yes, this is an investment banking intern specialty…being seen, not heard!

But the value in this task lies not in your input or lack thereof during the call, but rather in what you can learn from it, in what questions you can generate from it and what follow up tasks you can be assigned due to it.

So even if you’re asked to just “sit on a call”, approach this task with the same vigor you would any of the other 39 most popular intern tasks – remembering to take notes on everything, because they’ll be essential for fulfilling any follow up tasks you do get assigned.  

 

36. Updating bankers and clients on ‘investor sentiment’ and other impossible-to-pin-down BS

You complete a task like this by gathering every piece of data and in some cases ‘expert opinion’and boiling it all down into a hot and punchy summary. Yes, it’s the bouillabaisse of the banking world! It takes intelligence to come up with a report that doesn’t sound like total and utter b*llshit forecasting. 

The key to making a report bankers/clients will believe, is in your explanatory reasons or in the objective data you can point to.  

 

37. Having a go at introductory excel stuff and maybe even valuing the odd company or modeling a capital raising or merger

This type of work differs group to group, and sometimes it will only fall into your lap when you’re put into a mock M&A competition at the bank, or otherwise involved in a hypothetical deal project (eg mock IPO).

This is the type of task where knowing a little about Excel and practical finance before summer comes in handy.  But don’t be fooled into thinking you have to run out now and sign up for a $1000 financial modeling course in order to crush this.

The bank will teach you everything you need during basic training. But once again, like I warn above their teaching will be fast, fast, fast, with no room for “Can you go over that one more time?”.  So prepare for this task according to your learning speed.  If you are considering FMT check out our guide to financial modeling training and courses.  

 

38. Reviewing study materials handed out during orientation

Ahhhh, if you get this then scream, hit your MD and tell him to “generate a meaty task you mofo”, because this is the biggest waste of time known to investment banking interns the world over. In all seriousness though, you’ll only ever get assigned this task if deals – and even pitches – are completely dead. 

I mean, so dried up that the bank can’t afford their Bloomberg subscription anymore, dead.  So don’t worry so much about this task – or how to respond to it!  

 

39. And so the list could go on forever, but that will do for now!!

You can see there is a wide assortment of tasks investment banking interns can be asked to do. I could continue with more, but the marginal benefit would get washed away by the marginal cost…the list was already weakening towards the end in terms of value to your summer prep after all!!

But I hope this super comprehensive approach has dampened your wild expectations and focused your preparatory efforts thereby saving you time.

Above all, don’t forget that point we made several times above – bankers don’t expect you to know much when you rock up on your first day.  They’ll teach you everything you need to know. 

So if you haven’t prepped for all these tasks you’ll be fine…provided of course that you are a super fast learner!  

 

 

Why has the bank hired you for 3 months?

This is a useful question because the answer will help you to fulfill the right role when you start. Nothing is worse than seeing interns gagging to be the 21 year old wannabe VP after all. Let’s answer this question by looking at a few ideas my younger hick-slow-self proposed in the past. 

Some right, some dreadfully wrong.

Initially, the inner-Gekko in my younger (and deluded self) thought…well, the bankers are stressed out, can’t finish all the work and they need my help.  I’m there to finish off models, tie up the loose ends on billion dollar deals and generally save the day with my 7 finance subjects worth of knowledge.
Um, not quite.

Then I read a bit more about “this whole banking thing” and thought…well, the banks invest a lot of money and their people’s time in training-up analysts and so the internship is just their low-cost way of testing whether I’m a ‘project’ with a positive NPV and thus worth investing in (via a return offer). 

Excellent Richie Jr, now you’re getting somewhere.  Internships = 60-day money-almost-back guarantees.

But then once inside the bank my thoughts darkened slightly too…well, it looks like the assistants have developed too much inside knowledge to be called upon to fetch coffee – they could take down VPs and MDs with 1 group email.  So it’s time to call in us coffee-running college kids.

Now you’re there son.  Your mission is clear.  Starbucks beckons.

So as investment banking interns you’re simply expected to work 15 hour days on interesting but far from compelling tasks, show that you are willing to do what it takes and be a good sport & work well with the team.

Once you understand that this is your purpose and nothing more, nothing less, you can truly dominate your summer the way the banking gods intended. “Two espressos Richard, and oh yeah, here’s your return offer you good kid”, MD Larry Larryson.  

 

How to fulfill your glamorous-as-grits purpose

  • “Lower your goals Excel Monkey”, is the first thing MD Larry Larryson would say.  As an investment banking intern you should simply aim to get the work done and not stuff up, as opposed to taking huge risks in order to produce work that stands out (but more often flops).
  • Be willing to perform manual labor – often pointless labor at that.
  • Try to understand the team’s work to a tee.  We’re talking types of deals, types of clients, schedule, products, news etc.  If you share your understanding in the right way it will show real passion, interest and devotion to the group.
  • Offer insights when they are requested – and then when you’re familiar enough with the team, offer these insights without being asked.
  • Predict requests and self-initiate basic tasks – get this right (ie initiative, but not presumptuous) and bankers will love you.

 

More insider advice for banking intern newbies

Contrary to popular opinion we think it’s often a good idea for you to pursue simple tasks without crazy deadlines – as opposed to always chasing insanely challenging work so you can show off your smarts.  At least we advise this for those of you in your first week of an investment banking internship.  Why?

Well, you will have more time, face less pressure, be able to clarify instructions and even triple-check your work – all of which will guarantee you turn in excellent mistake-free work.

And even when you fail this Basic as Ben Stiller work, no one will care as much because it is not needed immediately or of any mega importance.  Instead of grilling you and viewing you as an incompetent f*cktard they will just say “fix this and that and come back to me later”. 

Too easy.

In the same vein, prevent your inner Rick James coming out and saying “Get me some modeling work, bitch” or “Take this pitch book before I bitch slap you down mofo”.  In other words, avoid whinging about your task load or aggressively demanding more glamorous work. 

Produce some results first, before you start expecting a boost in the quality of your work.  Bankers will recognize your results and reward you accordingly. Also, never allow yourself to fall into a debate with analysts about something that is their bread and butter.

Eg. an intern who decides to argue with 1st year investment banking analyst Chuck Chuckford about how to do financial modeling or what excel shortcuts to use or whether they really can make Chuck’s 3rd slide ‘prettier’.

If you can remember your place at all times – during conversations, meetings, networking events, drinks, email loops etc – you will thrive as an IB intern.

 

Understand that you cost more money than you add value

This will surprise most banking interns who think they are mini profit-centers crucial to the bank’s success.  But your investment banking internship salary is actually a loss making investment…from a short term point of view at least.

With banks worldwide paying about $1000-$1800 per week (plus expenses), your investment banking internship salary is dare we say f*cking sky high compared to the value you deliver.  And on top of your salary are the other costs you burden the bank with…

With all the training you receive, the time your group devotes to you, the resources thrown at you, the events put on for you, plus the investment banking internship salary you get paid, your ‘package’ can cost the bank anywhere from $30k to $40k.  Per intern.
You represent a big freaking outgoing.

In the short term, what do you bring in? In net terms…nothing.  But what about all those 100 hour weeks you put in as an intern? Well, the grunt work you do doesn’t add a lot of value and the results you do actually achieve take you forever to chalk up.

I mean, the average intern takes an eternity to pump out their low-value work.
Think about all the time it takes you to come to grips with foreign tasks, learn how to execute them, and all the mistakes you make that need a banker’s attention.  Plus the 10 revisions required to get your work to a banking standard.

Your redemption comes in your potential long-term value add. A

s an analyst you will be worth every dollar – I mean where else can corporations extract 100 hour weeks out of bright hardworking 20-somethings for $15 an hour?  Not even McDonalds gets that value out of it’s 20-something workers! 

Maybe now you can see why banks will happily pay you a $1500/week investment banking internship salary!

As an intern you’re simply an investment for the future and once you realize you’re not the big dog you thought you were, you can start being humble enough to realize what you’re there to do; don’t stuff up, show the bankers you can make it as an analyst and you’ll have the return offer in your hands in no time.  

 

Want to dominate your internship?

Now that you can see how tough investment banking internships are and how precarious your position as an intern is, you should take action and follow our prep advice above.

Check out our free course on how to break into banking, because in it we show you exactly what you need to do to crush your summer internship.

 

BONUS: Download a free reporton how to crush you summer internship and earn the $100,000+ return offer, plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.