What was unique about Barclays Wealth that made you want to apply?
BT: The idea of working for an investment bank never really appealed to me as I have always enjoyed working with people on a more personal level, and wealth management seemed more appealing. I acquainted myself with the main players, and Barclays Wealth caught my eye from the outset, especially in relation to the acquisition of Lehman Brothers America in the wake of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy, which has placed the Barclays brand on a global level and illustrated to me that this was somewhere I wanted to work.
SS: Barclays Wealth is known industry-wide for the great scheme it offers its graduates. As well as lots of up-front training, Barclays Wealth registers you on the CFAâ„¢ program and pays for you to do all three levels. You get rotations on both the client and product side of the business and you get to go overseas on a six-month placement to see how Barclays Wealth operates in a different country. Barclays has a great reputation for promoting a work-life balance and encouraging meritocracy, plus its stability in today's economic climate made it top on my list of firms at which to be an intern.
So, the alarm clock goes off... tell us about a typical day.
SS: Normally I'd grab a coffee and arrive at work between 8 and 8.30am. I worked in the Africa division of Barclays Wealth so my day would start by reading the financial and African news from the past 24 hours and tuning in to a morning call updating employees and clients on the markets. The rest of the day would vary immensely, but was always client-centered. Tasks could range from simply ordering a new cheque book to drafting up a loan proposal for a house or yacht, to going to meetings with wealthy African clients either in Mayfair or around the UK to their home or office. We also assessed how much risk clients were willing to take with their assets, responded to queries clients had, researched products and informed clients of new funds suited to their investment strategy. Lunch would be at one of the local cafes and I was lucky enough to get most of my work finished by around 6pm so the rest of the evening was mine to enjoy.
BT: I always started my day by checking my emails and following up on any unresolved issues, especially in relation to pending transactions or deals that had to clear. At lunch I tried to meet up with fellow interns so I could get an understanding of what they had been doing. Due to the nature of the banking system, late afternoons were usually quieter, but you had to expect the unexpected. So when a client phones at 5pm on a Friday afternoon asking for an issue to be resolved, you know you're potentially going to be there for another couple of hours.
What kinds of opportunities were open to you?
BT: The opportunities were incredible: I don't know of any other internship where interns could converse with the CEO, question the senior management, or pick up the phone or fire off an email to anyone in the company. One of my biggest challenges was being asked to construct a presentation on what my team could be better at. I then had to defend my conclusions in front of the entire team.
SS: I got to travel to visit clients around the UK, meet interesting people from the African region, go on courses to learn more about certain areas, sit in on senior meetings and meet several MDs of the business. I realised the more I asked to get involved in, the more people could see my interest in learning and the more they were willing to take me along to things to enhance my experience over the ten weeks.
Tell us one thing which will stay with you about your experience.
SS: Pitching to the chief executive, Tom Kalaris! Very few other interns could say they had pitched in front of the chief executive of a global bank after just ten weeks of working there. We had eight weeks to prepare a client pitch about what we as Barclays Wealth could offer an internet entrepreneur. We then presented it in front of the prospective client, a panel of directors and Tom. It was a huge challenge considering we were just getting to grips with the company, the financial markets and how to sell the services Barclays Wealth offer - a steep learning curve! We realised just how much we had learnt over the eight weeks and presenting it in front of such senior people was a phenomenal experience.
BT: The pitch was initially a daunting prospect, yet the opportunities that came out of it were amazing. We had the chance to meet with the potential client individually and as teams, as well as being able to talk to a wide range of senior Barclays Wealth staff who helped and guided us in our presentation but always made sure that any decisions we made about what to put in the pitch were ours alone, which placed enormous pressure on us as a team to get it right.
The offer is on the table - have you decided to work at Barclays Wealth?
BT: The decision for me was simple - with the excellent support I had received, given the opportunity to work in a very dynamic, fast paced environment, surrounded by some of the best and brightest in the field - I was always going to accept. I am very much looking forward to starting.
SS: Yes! I had a great summer with Barclays Wealth and it was fantastic to receive the offer, especially with competition being so tough in today's financial sector.
What will it surprise people to learn about life at Barclays Wealth?
BT: The biggest surprise to me was the structure of the company, placing value on everybody's opinion whether you were a senior banker or just an intern. Everyone had the chance to speak and everyone was given the chance to be heard. I know of no other company that affords that level of respect to everyone in the company.
SS: People want to work hard but also get along with each other well. It's about getting the tasks done efficiently and before the deadline but how you work is up to you. I was always busy, but I didn't feel I had to pretend I had lots to do and sit at my desk until everyone else in the office has left, just to try and impress.