Interview Insights is a series of interviews that we conduct with junior staff across major banks and other firms with the hope of providing job-seekers with first-hand information on what each role entails. The interviews are conducted on an anonymous basis so that the interviewees can share their thoughts freely.
1) For the benefit of the audience, could you give an introduction to your current role?
I am currently an analyst at a global investment bank focused on Asia ex-Japan Equity Capital Markets (ECM) transactions. In my role, I focus on facilitating and advising on equity-based financing solutions for clients across all sectors. In this capacity, I have worked on transactions including traditional IPOs, follow-on's / block offerings, rights offerings, private placements, etc.
2) What is your average day like?
I wake up at 8:50am and check my email via my corporate phone in case any requests came in early in the morning / late at night. If a senior has logged a request, I reply to acknowledge that I have received the message and proceed to get prepared for work. I arrive at work at 9:30. I begin the day by reading through overnight emails / process any outstanding work/read the news. I also sneak in 15 minutes or so for breakfast.
At around 12:40-ish I eat lunch. On a busy day, I skip lunch. On a typical day, I buy take-away and continue to work, saving the take-away for later in the afternoon when I get hungry. If I am exhausted from the previous day, I'll spend my lunch napping in a bathroom stall. There are occasional instances where I sit in for a bite with colleagues however, this is increasingly rare given everyone's busy schedules. Throughout the day I will have a coffee break or two with other colleagues.
Work proceeds till around 6:50 at night, at which point analysts collectively order take away. Dinner usually arrives at 7:20 or so and, depending on work demands, is typically eaten alone at my desk or inside a conference room alongside other colleagues. After dinner, work continues. Depending on the specific demands of a given transaction / client, work may extend till 8 pm... or 4 am....If I end the day early, I will typically head to the gym.
I head home after responding to all the demands of the day. I may also leave certain requests for the following day if they are not urgent. Upon arriving home, if new comments were received during my commute, I will have to remote log-in to address them. When completed, I speak to my family for a bit and browse the internet to get my mind off work. Soon after, I proceed to get prepared for bed to embrace the next day.
It is important to note that work is completely unpredictable and will continue to flow in and out throughout the week. Anything from joining live meetings, joining calls, jotting notes, preparing presentation/transaction pitching materials, translating, preparing market updates, preparing industry analysis, refreshing old marketing materials and more can be requested of an analyst throughout the day. There is therefore no 'typical day' - schedule and work demands are different depending on the specific transactions at hand, the directors you're working under and the clients you're serving. This makes the job quite unique albeit challenging versus other corporate jobs.
3) How did you land this role?
In line with other banking roles, I was fortunate enough to receive a full-time offer upon completing a 2.5 month summer internship. I applied for the summer internship at the beginning of my junior year and began interviewing towards the end of my first semester. The summer interview process was broken into two phases. First, the initial phone screening where I had two separate phone calls with two directors. Next, a 'superday' where I spent a morning at the company's office rotating to speak with 4 other directors.
4) Is there anything about your interview process that you think would be good for applicants to know?
I guess this is a variation of 'what advice do you have for students currently preparing for interviews'? On a most practical note, you should know any and everything listed on your CV in substantial detail. This means you should be able to address questions that naturally branch outwards from your listed experience.
For example, say you conducted equity research on an automotive company. You may be asked (1) the business models / operating metrics of key competitors, (2) current government stimulus surrounding automotive purchasing in a geography, or (3) the feasibility of the company expanding into a new market. The above are just random examples, but the point being that you should be prepared to be tested on material beyond your immediate scope of responsibility.
The world is a competitive place. Prestige, high salaries, and untamed egos in combination attract flocks of qualified and ambitious students to apply for banking internships. Demand will thus always far outpace supply by a factor of 100s-to-1. It is helpful to understand there are candidates far more qualified than yourself (think Ivy-league undergrad, 1x Oxbridge masters, CFA, 4 internships,1 year full time working experience - yes, I've actually seen this) and only through substantial hard work can you compete with such individuals.
Extending from the above point, it is worthy to note that I have noticed extreme aggregation in demand for certain roles. In banking, demand aggregates for 'Investment Banking Analyst' roles, in consulting, demand aggregates for anything with 'McKinsey' in its title. The masses (including myself) are often too shallow to explore beyond such roles. Use this to your advantage, there are amazing middle-office (e.g. Operational Risk Management roles) / front office roles (e.g. Fixed Income Structuring, Exotic Derivatives Sales, etc) with less competition that offer equally (if not more) rewarding careers. Spend the time to explore such opportunities as well. Don't blindly follow the masses to apply for the 'hottest' roles. Be extremely self-aware / introspective so you know the career you want/pursue the appropriate interviews that lead you there.
I have found it helpful to put things into perspective after failing interviews: Interviewing is in large part a storytelling process - this implies an interviewer may not like your story after all at no fault of your own. That's perfectly fine, be graceful, admit defeat, and move swiftly onto the next opportunity. Life rewards those who march on in face of hardships.
From group interviews, these are qualities that I have seen make a candidate standout: confidence (the only way one achieves this is through mind numbing hours of practice, studying and speaking to oneself in a mirror), smile, speaking slowly and clearly, appropriate eye-contact, being grateful for an opportunity but never desperate. Overall, having grace and poise (abstract, I know, but you'll recognise it when you see it). The above will easily make a 30% difference to an interview performance with zero alteration on content. Without doubt, these will lead a candidate far in interviews (and in life at large).
[Sherpa Comment: We completely agree with this comment about practice, which is one reason we created Sherpa. Click here to start practicing, including a free interview question.]
5) How was your internship experience different from working full time?
Internships are finite - push for 2.5 months and you will (hopefully) be rewarded. However, full time jobs are, well..full-time. This implies there is no end (unless you quit) and so balancing work and showing consistency in performance over the longer-term are now far more important than bursts of dramatic out performances.
There is also more responsibility that one carries when working full time. During an internship, any mistakes made are borne by an associate / full time analyst. Upon transitioning to full-time, I am personally liable for any and all mistakes made. You have more skin in the game, and there is no way around it.
People are also generally nicer / more restrained when you're an intern. The harsh realities of a demanding corporate life / abusive personalities amongst your colleagues arise when you start working full time.
6) What do you want to do long term?
Honestly, I'm not sure. For now, I see myself running a venture of some sort (entrepreneurship potentially), maybe investing (PE / Growth Equity), or being an expert in a field and advising clients. Anything that makes me happy and allows me to provide sufficiently for my family is on the table.