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The lazy banking intern who wanted to leave at 7pm

With days to go, students worldwide are about to begin the 2021 summer internships. For the lucky ones there will be £10k (or $20k if you're on Wall Street) of mostly tax-free income to be earned in 10 weeks. If you're in the office, this summer will be largely about desk shadowing, sitting in conference rooms and sipping wine and beer at networking events. Once in a while, however, there will be an all-nighter. And this can be a problem. 

Banking pays well and it offers good job prospects. But a lot of young people today seem to care less about this than previous generations. Particularly after the publicity about the long hours at Goldman Sachs, the expectation this summer may be that hours will be moderate. 

As a senior banker, I've interviewed a lot of young people for jobs in banking. Many of them have told me that they don't want to work late. I've also experienced this attitude on the job, and believe me - it does not make you look good.

A few years ago, there was an occasion when I was in urgent assistance at 7pm London time. I asked an intern for help. All that was required were a few corrections to a presentation and that he send it around internally. It was another 30 minutes of hard work, give or take. And he declined to do it.

 After listening to my request for help, he informed me: “Before I picked up the phone I was actually on my way out of the office. I have a date tonight and I can't be late. Can this wait until tomorrow?” No, it could not.

Call me old school, but I was in shock. Why work hard to get a job in banking in the first place?

Banks partly have themselves to blame. In order to attract young talent they've created short 'spring week' programs where students don't have to do any sort of actual work. These can last one day or a full week. Most applicants have done them, so that when I look at students' CVs I struggle to make sense of their apparent 'work experience.'

Thanks to these short internships, even students from the best universities seem to have little idea what working in banking is really like. They study economics, finance and sometimes even complex financial engineering.  They can mention countless networking events and quote very senior managers talking about market trends and banking careers, but they think this is sufficient and expect to work nine-hour days. 

The attitude from today's interns seems to be that banks should want them and persuade them to work in banking rather than the other way around. You need to address this if you're part of the intern class of  2021: it won't get you a job.

Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a senior banker in London

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

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AUTHORAmit Itelmon Insider Comment
  • Ju
    Juan
    4 June 2021

    I remember that as a GS analyst, in the middle of a sale process one Friday night, I was heading out around 7 or 8 pm. Before leaving, I checked the fax machine (it was the mid-90s) and found a revised offer. I put my stuff down, went back to my cubicle. I called the partner on the deal and told her that we just received a revised offer and I was going to analyze it and compare it to the other bids we'd received. That took until past midnight as I recall. I took my job seriously because I considered it a career or profession, not just a job. Those 7 years I spent at GS early in my career paid off even though I've been out of banking for a long time and have been doing direct lending for the last 15 years.

    These jobs are not lifestyle jobs, even when you reach the MD/Partner level at firms. The higher you go, the more the pressure and the greater the responsibility. Particularly if you have your own fund or firm, you feel responsible for the lives and careers of your junior professionals and support staff. Their career advancement and more fundamentally, their ability to provide for themselves and their families depend a lot on what you do. It's not an easy career but rewarding financially. Most importantly, when you see your people do well whether at your firm or at another firm, it is very gratifying on a personal level. This career is definitely not for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that but people need to go into it eyes wide open. There is a reason you get handsomely paid, because you will do things that other people are not willing to do or not able to do.

  • Du
    Dude
    3 June 2021

    If someone called me at 7pm when I was an intern to do something i would do it but I wouldn't be happy about it.
    Now as a manager I would never ask an intern at 7pm out of the blue to do some work. Would I expect him to work long hours? Yes. But I would make him/her aware of it in advance.
    Would I call an intern at 7pm and asking him to do 30 minutes of last minute correction? No f...ing way. If it was 5 hours of needed work for the next day I would out of necessity. But for the very same reason it was just 30 minutes of work I would do it myself. For respect of the intern. But also for my own self respect

  • Du
    Dude
    3 June 2021

    If someone called me at 7pm when I was an intern to do something i would do it but I wouldn't be happy about it.
    Now as a manager I would never ask an intern at 7pm out of the blue to do some work. Would I expect him to work long hours? Yes. But I would make him/her aware of it in advance.
    Would I call an intern at 7pm and asking him to do 30 minutes of last minute correction? No f...ing way. If it was 5 hours of needed work for the next day. But for the very same reason it was just 30 minutes of work I wouldn't. For respect of the intern. But also for my own self respect

  • Ri
    Rich Trybus
    3 June 2021

    What an entitled d*ckhead. If this article reflects the working culture in banking. Who would want to put themselves through that?. The very notion that this "manager" thinks they have the monopoly on a person's personal time is ridiculous, especially one that isn't earning the wage of an actual FTE. "I was in shock" - really?. You were in shock that someone made plans outside of working hours?. You were in shock that this person is human and has a life?. I hope that intern booted you and your clear inability to appropriately manage tasks into touch.

  • Ju
    Juan Direction
    3 June 2021

    They want a job in banking because they like it and if you are ok with working 16 hours a day, thats your problem and people work for a living, not the other way around. Yes you are very old school and let me tell you that one thing is sacrificing for the company and a different one is giving your life away. Good for that guy and his date.

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