You’re a student at a university in Hong Kong or Singapore looking to get your first break into investment banking. But you think that internships at global banks are full of high-achievers from Ivy League universities who’ve jetted back home for the summer.
J.P. Morgan is trying to tackle this perception through its Asian ‘seasonal internships’, which it launched in 2014 in Hong Kong and in Singapore this year.
“Traditionally in investment banking it’s mainly been Hong Kong students studying at top overseas universities who do summer internships,” says Alvin Lau, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology graduate and former J.P. Morgan seasonal intern who’s starting a permanent job at the bank in June.
“The main purpose of the seasonal internships is to recruit more students from Hong Kong universities. It gives them exposure to investment banking so J.P. Morgan can see whether they’ll be a good fit for full-time roles.”
The internships run for three to four months – longer than a typical summer programme – in both the spring and autumn. “This means that you get to work end-to-end on some deals and really learn about how deals are structured and executed,” says Lau.
Lau says the ability to “prioritise work” is particularly important on a seasonal internship. “The intake size is smaller than it is during the summer. Because of this you get exposure to a wider variety of challenging work and you have to manage your workflow well with different deals coming in. I worked on a live M&A transaction and an IPO.”
His autumn stint at J.P. Morgan also boosted Lau’s technical skills. “The financial modelling you do at university is completely different – at J.P. Morgan it’s much more advanced and sophisticated and you learn from senior colleagues. And I learnt non-technical skills – such as how to convey a complex message in a relatively simple way.”
Lau warns that a seasonal internship is no easy alternative to a summer one – the working hours, for example, are the same. “One time an analyst was sick and I had to cover for them – that was difficult as I was doing a lot of the communications on a live deal, but I was able to ask for help when needed and I felt a great sense of achievement afterwards.”
And despite the smaller student intake on the seasonal internship – J.P. Morgan does not disclosure exact numbers – there are still plenty of opportunities to network. “For example, one of our clients in the tech sector invited interns from JPM and their company to their CFO’s house to network with senior management after they’d attended talks at JPM’s office, so the interns could better understand each other’s businesses.”
Converting your internship at J.P. Morgan
If you want to turn a seasonal internship into a full-time job offer, Lau has the following advice: “Investment banking is very fast and competitive, so you need to take the initiative and ask for more work – and help – when you need it. And you must be inquisitive – asking the right questions shows you’re interested in the job.”
Above all, interns must be “optimistic” in the office. “Colleagues can feel whether you’re enjoying the internship or not, and they prefer working with interns who are genuinely interested in the job.”
Because his internship fell in term time, Lau had to defer his graduation by a semester. “For students, I think taking three to four months off to work in the industry is a great way to make an informed decision about whether investment banking is the right career for them.”
Seasonal interns at J.P. Morgan in Asia typically rotate between two front-office teams and the bank takes their career preferences into account when assigning them. Online applications for the autumn 2016 programme have closed, but spring 2017 applications open in August and interviews are held in October.
“I had two interview rounds: the first one was with analysts and associates; the second was a ‘super day’ with four back-to-back interviews with directors,” says Lau. “The super day is less about testing your technical abilities and more about the bank finding out about you as a person to see if you’re the right fit for their culture. For example, I chatted about my passion for playing football.”
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