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Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong press ahead with internships, despite Covid-19

Most large banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are ploughing ahead with plans to take on summer interns this year, despite the spread of Covid-19 in both markets and the closure of university campuses in Hong Kong. But they are on alert to change course if there is a substantial escalation of the virus outbreak locally.

UBS says its Asian internship programmes “remain unaffected” by the coronavirus. A Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Societe Generale says the firm is “currently proceeding” with all its summer internship, traineeship, and graduate programmes in Hong Kong and across Asia Pacific.

SocGen is, however, “monitoring” the Covid-19 situation to ensure there will not be any “issues” for incoming interns. Goldman Sachs, which has not announced any changes to its Asian internships to date, is taking a similar approach. “For the summer internship programme, we are monitoring events very closely and are in wait-and-see mode,” says a spokesperson for GS in Hong Kong.

We understand that Nomura, which like most global banks hired its 2020 interns late last year, has not changed the dates of its Hong Kong and Singapore internships. It is asking interns who have travelled to any country significantly impacted by the virus (presumably including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea) just prior to their internships to work from home for 14 days. Nomura declined to comment.

Banks that cancel or cut back internships risk losing top students to competitors when they hire 2021 graduates. “Junior talent is important for Societe Generale as they are the future of our workforce,” says the spokesperson for the French bank.

Students we spoke with in Hong Kong say they haven’t heard of internships being pulled yet, although they are worried about last-minute cancellations if coronavirus cases start to spike again in the city. A CUHK student says banks aren’t yet culling interns because they aren’t permanent staff – banks can simply reduce their return offers to interns later this year if Covid-19 dents full-time graduate hiring.

Local banks in Singapore haven’t changed the size of their intern cohorts or their timetables. “In Singapore, we continue to have a healthy demand for polytechnic and university interns,” says a spokesperson for DBS. The bank’s start dates remain in line with each school’s stipulated internship /vacation period (polytechnic internships start either in early March or early September, while university summer internships start early May).

OCBC isn’t making substantive changes to its internships either, but because some of its 2020 hiring is ongoing, some of its interview processes are moving online. “We are taking our ideation day – a day where the applicants for our FRANKpreneurship summer internship programme go through a full day of assessments – virtual. The cyber ideation 2020 will kick-start on 16 March 2020 as planned,” says Jacinta Low, head of HR planning at OCBC.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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