One of the more traditional MBA paths and one in which Booth has a strong presence, is investment banking. Whether you hate the industry or love it, the truth is that there are several misconceptions about the industry. To help dispel some of those myths and address some of the common questions prospective students have, I’d like to share a little bit about my experience as an intern in the industry.
During the summer of 2020, I interned in the investment banking division of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, within the team dedicated to the real estate, gaming and lodging industries. I have to say, despite all anxieties and uncertainties related to my first “online” work experience, I had a great time. Knowing that banking is a profession in which trust and relationships are critically important, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Can you imagine a founder who has dedicated his whole life to creating and growing his business entrusting his company’s IPO to someone he met online? Born into a generation that grew up alongside technology, social media, and relationship apps, we may not see what the big deal is, but a shift to a virtual structure is definitely a new challenge for the banking scene. Moreover, there is a high uncertainty about when offices will resume in person business operations, and if Twitter’s policy is any indication some never will. Thus, this summer was a great opportunity to being adjusting to meeting new clients online!
As expected, a virtual environment destroyed one of the infamous banking codes of conduct, the dress code. I still remember how gradually all interns regressed from the traditional suit and tie in the first Zoom meeting to polo shirts and even t-shirts. Even more astounding was watching group heads and directors abandoning ties and wearing sport shirts, not to mention analysts wearing hats in support of their favorite sports team. The truth is, many banks, in an attempt to answer to the new generations’ demand, have been gradually reducing their insistence in upholding business formal dress codes, especially in the office. I am eagerly waiting to see how this online period will affect the future dress code in the industry. However, other firmly held practices, such as the apprenticeship culture and the long hours, were not so much affected.
Many believe that to join banking it is necessary to have a deep knowledge in finance, but that is not necessarily the case. Although finance experience helps, the internship is soundly planned to give extensive training so each intern can execute from a company valuation to a clean presentation. Especially this year, we had weeks of training taught by external firms and more intensively by members of the teams. Furthermore, the bank assigned a junior and a senior mentor to each one of us, strengthening our technical abilities and helping us build a strong understanding about the bank’s culture. In particular, my senior mentor helped me determine the most important people to meet and how to establish meaningful connections within the bank. Certainly, pushing a culture of apprenticeship is one of the best characteristics of the industry, and one that promotes the high devotion to work.
That said, while connections were built, banking remains a profession that demands dedication. Be it because every project is imperative to the health of a client’s company or because of the high accountability assigned to the team involved, long hours are synonymous with the career, and so, must be followed by someone who is truly passionate about process a high level of information at once, participate in big transactions, and build relationships with C-level professionals. In my case, during the internship, I not only worked long hours during the week, but also, I had to postpone or work a lot during trips I had planned with friends during the weekends.
Despite the long hours, the experience was worth it. The delivery of a final project in which I developed a fairness opinion on an acquisition price offer for a client was the high point, during which I interacted with multiple members of the team and learned a lot about the way the client may picture itself in a negotiation.
I’m glad that in addition to my pride in the final project, I got along really well with everybody I met in the bank and discovered a well-respected career that matches my long term plans. My plan is to join the bank full time next year in New York and I strongly encourage those who think banking is a career for them to strongly consider Booth as their school and please feel free to reach out!