Kealan Varian, ISCG alumni and Commerce International graduate from UCD, recently completed an internship in Credit Sales @ J.P.Morgan in Canary Wharf, London.
In this post, Kealan outlines his experiences and perspective on working within the London investment banking industry.
The following conversation took place in an elevator at 25 Bank Street, London, February 2016:
Managing Director: "I fucking love printing."
Kealan: "Why? Because, eh, you get a break from the desk?"
Managing Director: "No, no... Printing f**king money!"
Kealan: "Oh, haha..."
Let’s skip forward to the first day of induction week when a HR rep stood onstage in front of 400 interns and proclaimed “this is not the wolf of wall street”. While it’s true that at no point did any senior management stand in front of the workforce and scream “I’m not leaving!” the excesses and ruthless characteristics displayed in the film were certainly present throughout the summer.
The firm took in ~400 interns across all business lines for summer and year-long placements. The intern-programme itself was very well run and particularly well-funded with a constant schedule of events organised, including a CSR day, senior speaker series, a virtual trading game and social events. Interns were also encouraged to take part in company-wide events, such as the corporate run.
On top of this, the credit sales team implemented specific intern-focused initiatives throughout the summer, including 6:45am economic catchup meetings, Monday afternoon "credit classes" where we learned about varying credit products (Bonds, CDS, TRS, Indices & Tranches) and trade idea presentations at the end of each week.
It was in these trade ideas sessions where the ruthlessness presented itself. The 'make or break' moments. Every week the interns prepared trade ideas and submitted them for Friday morning review. At lunch time, a number of interns would be informed that they were to present, standing up in front of various levels of management with the audience made up of a variety of teams from the floor. As the selected interns reasoned and justified their trading recommendations to senior leaders within the firm, questioning varied in intensity, with mental maths and hypothetical scenario analysis questions being posed from every direction.
The Importance of The Team
Ultimately your manager will decide if you’re right for the team or not, based on their views and feedback from other team members. However it’s worth noting a few things here. Some teams will simply don't have the head count and can’t hire you even if they wanted to. Brexit certainly didn’t help this. Some teams, for whatever reason may not want an intern, so it’s worth looking at their recent intern hiring history if this is the case. Most teams however really want their intern to succeed and will deliberately make time in their busy schedules to give the intern every chance.
One point that was made to us multiple times was that "a managers job is to manage expectations," so if you do have a review and are surprised by the feedback well then your manger isn’t fulfilling their role as effectively as he or she could.
What Advice Would I Give to Anyone Applying?
Talk to anyone and everyone who has applied, done phone interviews, assessment centres, internships or is in a grad role in the financial sector. You can read all the official advice on the banks website but in reality this will never compare to talking to someone who has been through the process. I was fortunate to know one person who had done it and they in turn put me in contact with many others, you would be surprised how generous people are with their time. There are also many useful online guides for interview questions as well as sample brain teasers.
Which Business Line Should I Apply To?
Contrary to many beliefs, investment banks are incredibly diverse places. There is a huge universe of products, teams and business lines, all operating cohesively under one roof, and spanning multiple diverse markets or regions. You can do all the research you want but the reality is that it’s very hard to know where you would be best suited to before you get into the bank.
Do you apply to IBD (investment banking division) or maintain some control over your evenings and apply to markets? Do you look for a UK or an EMEA team? These are all relevant questions and worth looking into before you apply.
What Did A Typical Day Look Like?
I was in at 6:30 every morning and never left before 6:30pm, often staying until 10:30 at night or later on multiple occasions. In the mornings I would help put together morning roundup emails that were sent out over 2000 clients; containing economic news, research pieces and upcoming events. Throughout the day then I would complete small tasks for the team while also attending many of the events which were organised for the interns. There was some weekend work too but not for more than a few hours in length.
At the time, I lived with some IBD interns and often wouldn’t see them from Sunday night until Friday evening. One IBD intern, not in JPM, had a few nights where he came home only to shower and change before heading back into the office.
What Advice Would I Give to People Starting Internships in Finance?
You have to hit the ground running or ultimately it can cost you an offer. Training is provided so make the most of that and do your best to understand the products you deal with before you go into your role. Again, try to talk to anyone who has been through the process or sat at your desk before you.
How ISCG Helped Me Out in Interviews
ISCG came up in quite a few of my interviews. Being able to speak about delivering projects to real life clients while working to deadlines was of great interest to employers. Employers were interested in finding out what ISCG was and were impressed by it at the end of the interview.