Summer days

Thinking about applying for a summer internship? Annabel Downs tells Lucy Mair about her experience on the summer programme at Goldman Sachs

Why did you decide to apply for an internship in investment banking?

I studied Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London, but I realised quite quickly that research wasn't a viable career option for me in the long-term. I wanted to use my quantitative skills from physics and my analytical background, but in an environment where I'd be kept on my toes and have the opportunity to interact and engage with people as part of my day-to-day role.

Investment banking is intellectual, but also very tangible because you can see the visible effects of your work every day. When I applied for the internship in Securities (Sale and Trading), I wasn't certain that investment banking was for me, but I wanted to have a taste of something a bit different, so I decided to try it out.

Were you given any training to prepare you for the internship?

The first two weeks of the internship were solely training, which was based around capital markets and bond analytics, and was incredibly helpful. My internship class included people from a wide mix of academic backgrounds, from science to humanities subjects, so by no means was it a class full of people with degrees in finance. The training put everyone on the same page before we embarked on the rest of the internship.

How was the internship structured?

After our two weeks of training, we had two weeks of one-hour rotations through different departments, which gave me a very broad overview of how trades are structured on all the different desks. Then you choose specific desks to do two one-week rotations on, followed by two two-week rotations. I did one-week rotations on the convertible bond trading and equity volatility trading desks, then I did two weeks with the prime brokerage risk group, and two weeks on the mortgages trading desk.

The day-to-day routine differed depending on the desk, but generally I was meeting the team, building relationships with them, and learning about their roles. In addition, I would help the team with real projects, do anything that could be beneficial or helpful to them, and just get involved in anything that was thrown at me.

I think the great thing about the internship was that I got to see so many different areas. On top of that, during the rotations there was no specific outline of what you were required to do, which made me push myself to get as much out of it as I could, and also to learn as much as I could from the team I was working with.

What was the working day like?

The hours varied depending on the desk and also on the length of the rotation. In Securities, I had early starts as I was working with the markets. Towards the end of my two week rotations I was putting in a lot more time than at the beginning, because I was working on specific projects with deadlines. Interns weren't necessarily expected to work long hours, but as you're learning you naturally take longer to complete tasks than an experienced person would.

What challenges did you face during the internship?

It was overwhelming at the start to have to learn about an entirely new world and understand the theoretical aspects behind the business, especially coming from a non-finance background. Meeting so many new people and trying to keep on top of everything was challenging too. I think I just had to trust that I would pull through, and trust in my learning abilities to absorb all of the information that was coming at me.

Was there anything you weren't expecting?

The biggest surprise was the discrepancy between how investment banking is portrayed in the media, and my actual experience at Goldman Sachs. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and helpful, and even the senior level management spent a lot of time with the interns, which gave us the opportunity to learn from these very successful, bright and motivated people within the bank. Nobody expected us to know anything, so we were free to ask questions. I felt very comfortable talking to people, integrating myself, and networking.

Did you have the opportunity to get to know the other interns and people at the bank?

I made some very solid friendships on the internship and I keep in touch with nearly everyone, which is one of many fantastic outcomes from the experience. We were working hard during the week, but we always reserved Friday nights for going out together after work.

We also had networking events within the bank at around 6pm, where we got to meet representatives from different divisions and find out more about what different jobs entailed. I met multiple mentors through these events who nurtured me during my internship, and I kept in touch with them afterwards. I think mentoring is a key part of the culture and it shows that senior people want to help the younger generation at the bank to be successful.

What did you learn from the experience? Do you have any advice for students thinking about applying for an internship?

I learnt that it's okay to be wrong, or to not understand something fully the first time it's explained, as long as you raise your hand, ask questions, and continue to make the effort to learn.