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The investment banking work experience pipeline and what it means for you

Banking and investment graduate recruiters view their spring insight programmes and summer internships as talent pipelines to fill the majority of places on their graduate schemes. Start in your first year – or be prepared to play catch-up.
Many banks now run spring insight programmes, which provide students with a short introduction to their organisation prior to applying for internships.

The vast majority of successful applicants to banking and investment graduate schemes have previously completed a relevant internship – mainly at the same institution. Typically 50% to 70% of graduate hires in banking and investment have worked for that organisation as an intern. In some cases the figure is even higher: 90% or above.

Most banking and investment internships are only open to students in the summer between their penultimate and final years at university, with application deadlines typically falling in December or early January of the penultimate year. For students on three-year courses, that means applying in the autumn term of the second year.

Increasingly, banks are adding an even earlier stage to the process. Many now run spring insight programmes, which provide students with a short introduction to their organisation prior to applying for internships.

These last between one day and two weeks, and are generally aimed at students in the first year of a three year degree, or the second year of a four year degree. Deadlines typically fall in the January of the first/second year.

It’s unclear what percentage of interns are drawn from spring insight programme alumni; however, these are very much thought of by recruiters as the first stage of the talent pipeline, and are designed to give attendees a head start.

Search for investment banking internships and spring placements on TARGETjobs.

What are banking and investment spring insight programmes?

Spring insight programmes – aka spring internships, spring analyst programmes, insight programs (sic), insight weeks or insight days – typically give students an overview of the bank in question, and insights and advice on getting through its recruitment processes. They often include elements such as:

  • attending seminars/presentations on different aspects of the business
  • work shadowing
  • participating in case studies or business games
  • attending social or networking events
  • learning about the organisation’s internship and graduate recruitment processes and how to succeed in them.

One-day events are sometimes held on university campuses; longer ones tend to be based at the employer’s offices. They are not always paid as such; however, expenses such as accommodation tend to be covered.

With longer insight programmes, students who perform well may be fast-tracked through the initial stages of selection for summer internships, or even offered an internship outright.

Can I still get an internship if I haven’t done a spring insight programme?

Overall, students who have completed spring insight programmes will be a step ahead of those who haven’t in the race for banking internships. Even if they don’t have an offer of a place or a fast-track route, they will have first-hand knowledge of the institution and advice on the recruitment process. However, at this stage it’s perfectly possible to catch up. If you need to do so, develop your knowledge of the banking and investment industry and compile evidence of this. Useful activities include:

  • getting work experience in a finance setting
  • taking on finance positions at university, eg society treasurer
  • developing knowledge of the financial markets
  • becoming familiar with the terminology used in the particular banking or investment sector that interests you
  • talking to any lecturers or visitors to your university who are familiar with the sector.

I’ve done an internship at one bank but am applying for a graduate job at another. What are my chances?

Students who have completed a relevant internship at a similar institution are still appealing candidates to banking recruiters – albeit they will be competing for the diminished pool of graduate jobs not already filled by the bank’s own interns. If you’re in this position you should prepare to talk about what you learned from your internship (particularly knowledge and skills that can be transferred to the role in question) and why you are now applying to this particular bank and job.

If you were turned down for a graduate role at the bank where you did your internship, seek feedback as to what let you down and immediately take action to start rectifying the problem. You’ll only have two or three months between completing your internship and applying for graduate schemes, which might not be enough to solve your skill or knowledge gap completely. However, it will mean that if you’re asked why you weren’t taken on, you can demonstrate that you’re aware of your weak point and are proactively taking steps to tackle it.

Can I still get a graduate job in banking or investment if I haven’t done an internship?

Students applying for graduate banking or investment jobs without a relevant internship are at a distinct disadvantage. In some situations, other financial work experience may help (the more relevant, the better). Recruiters may also still be willing to consider you if you fulfil another criterion that’s currently important to them. For example, many banks like to recruit graduates who are fluent in second or even third languages, so if you are an overseas student or are studying modern languages, this could be your foot in the door.

To a lesser extent, some banks are also attempting to widen the pool of degree disciplines that their graduates have studied, for example targeting arts or humanities students, and are aware that they may not have considered banking as a career as early as they needed to. If you’re an exceptional student from such a degree background, who hasn’t considered banking until late in your studies, it could still be worth a shot.

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