I'd never considered banking as a profession. I guess I was more interested in the skills needed and the type of work involved, such as dealing with customers and understanding their needs, rather than the numerical side. So from the beginning I knew I was going to be more interested in the retail side of banking.
How many internships have you done?
I've done three internships at HSBC. The first was in retail banking and lasted three months during my gap year before university. The next one, also in retail, was at the end of my first year of university. My last internship was at the end of my second year at university, in commercial banking. Both of those lasted two months.
What drew you to your employer?
If I'm completely honest, I just saw the internship advertised. I wasn't particularly looking for it, but what made me stay after the internship were the values HSBC hold and how they stick to them. And even though I was only there for eight weeks, I felt that a lot had been put into my development which was really refreshing. It made me think that this is the kind of place I'd like to work.
Did the internships help you get your graduate job?
Definitely. On the eight week internship you're assessed by your two line managers (one for each four week placement) against different competencies. If you meet the standards and impress your line manager then you'll be recommended to the emerging talent team to be invited back and won't have to apply again for the graduate role.
And what do you think it was that made you stand out?
I think it was the transferable skills that I could offer. Even though I had no previous banking experience, having never done any spring weeks or anything in the financial sector, I did have experience in a PR agency and an advertising agency, and I'd worked in a café. These roles are all about dealing with customers and clients and understanding their needs and how best to meet them.
What aspects of the application process did you find challenging?
I feel like I come across better in person, so I found the initial paper application more difficult. The situational judgement tests, though they weren't overly taxing, were challenging because I wanted to make sure I was getting across on paper what I wanted to. Once I got through them and moved on to the telephone interview and then the face-to-face interview I found it a bit easier because it played more to my strengths.
Which roles did you particularly enjoy during your internships?
My second retail internship focused a lot on customer experience. My manager and I decided that I would mystery shop all the branches in the area once a week. I had to look around each branch, ask various questions and then write up my experiences to suggest what could be done differently or what we could learn from it. Then on my last week I spoke to all the retail branch managers and gave them feedback on how to improve their customer experience. It was a big responsibility, especially as I was still at university, so I found that project really enjoyable.
Which skills did you find useful during your internship?
Empathy is useful. If a customer comes in and they're upset, it's usually because something's happened such as a payment being returned, which has had a knock-on effect. It's difficult when you're new and you don't have the answers, but if you speak to the customer you can get to the root cause of the issue and find out how to deal with it. It's important that you listen to them and see what you can personally do to fix it. If it's another department that needs to solve the problem, you see what you can do there and then to make the situation better and get the ball rolling to resolve the issue.
What advice would you give to an undergraduate who is hoping to get a job at the end of an internship?
You should always be proactive and seek out new projects and opportunities. Although your line managers will give you work, if you've finished all your projects or you've done all that you can at that moment, see what else you can do or see if there are any other teams you can help. On my commercial internship, although I was in the high-net-worth client team, there were other teams around us doing the same thing but working with different types of business customer. So I took the initiative and went around with my skills matrix of all the systems and did the same thing for them. Also, don't be afraid to speak up. You're a fresh pair of eyes and they're really keen to hear what you think. If you feel that something could be approached differently, say so.