Interested in investment banking but not sure where to start?
The Sun sat down with four college students who landed investment banking internships and asked them about their experiences and the best advice for Cornellians looking to break into the industry.
Below are excerpts from the interviews, slightly edited for clarity.
What is your background ?
Jingyi Wang ’21: I am a senior student in Statistical Science and Asian Studies and my professional interest lies in finance, especially investment banking and equity research. In the past, I have completed internships in equity research and investment banking, as well as consulting and trading. But ultimately, I chose to go the investment banking route. Last summer, I worked in a small investment bank.
Bobby Ma ’20: I am currently in my final year of economics studies. I’m from California, but I’m going to New York full time. I did an internship at the Guggenheim last summer.
Harrison King ’20: I’m a senior in hotel school and I’m extraordinarily lucky to have been with Morgan Stanley for 2 and a half summers. Last summer, I focused more on real estate mergers and acquisitions. For full time, I will be returning to the Investment Banking division of Morgan Stanley.
Stephanie Phen ’20: I’m a senior at ILR School. I was born in China, but have lived in Canada, Shanghai, Massachusetts and New York. On campus, I am involved with Cornell Consulting, MICC and Phi Gamma Nu Business Fraternity. Last summer, I interned at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Banking division.
What are some tips for interviewing for an investment banking internship?
Wang: The first round is a HireVue which is an online interview. The best way to prepare is to prepare 4 or 5 stories. I prepared 4 or 5 and I think that’s enough. Just try to be as unique as possible and try not to go down the usual route for your answers. You should also read The Wall Street Journal at least once a week and ideally every other day. As for the super day [final round], it’s a bit like HireVue, but it also depends on the company. Some companies ask you conceptual questions – it’s quite simple. Other companies ask you to do calculation questions, so you must know accounting. I think bookkeeping is a pretty big part of it, so you should read all your bookkeeping questions.
Ma: The essence of the interview is that people want to know if they can sit next to you at 11 p.m. and not hate each other. If you pass this test, you have a very good chance of getting a job in finance. And I would say whenever you interview, try to make it as conversational as possible, because the point is really to try to get to know you. So the more you step out of the script without deliberately trying to get out of it, and the more you present yourself as an interesting person who fits the culture of the company, the more time you have to successfully land an internship after an interview.
Phen: I think it’s essential to convey your story to the interviewer in a clear, focused, and concise manner. You must effectively show that your personal and professional history matches the specific position for which you are applying. This means that the first step in preparation is to have a clear understanding of what the role you are applying for is through networking and prior research. Finally, it is very important to establish a personal connection with the interviewer. This can be done by asking meaningful questions at the end, finding commonalities, and answering questions in an engaging way.
What does an effective recruiting strategy look like?
Wang: In America, the most important thing is networking. The optimal strategy is to get lots of solid referrals. You should attend information sessions and immerse yourself in this networking culture and get used to it.
King: I can’t stress enough the importance of networking and building your network with former – not just former – people who work at the company you want to work at.
Ma: I think the networking is definitely because the biggest part of the banks goes from all the applicants to the people they’re interviewing. Because everyone at Cornell has essentially the same resume — in the sense that the pre-professional opportunities people attend are very similar — it’s really hard to tell people apart. But through networking, you can really get people to put a face to a name. And then they can pull out your resume and say I like that person. Give them an interview.
What advice would you give to a freshman who wants to one day land an internship in investment banking?
Ma: Well, I think you have to first understand why investment banking, because personally, like I said, my freshman year, I said I wanted to do investment banking. investment. I didn’t know what it was until my second spring to be perfectly honest. So I really think because deciding finance early at Cornell can be a trap because you think you want to do something because everyone else thinks they want to do something even if you’re not really sure. So I think tip number one is to figure out if you can really see yourself liking it or not. And that means you enjoy following the markets and learning about how the industry works. Also really try modeling, because people don’t ask you to model during the interview process, but a big part of the bank is modeling.
King: A lot of students want to get into investment banking because they hear it’s really cool. But I think it’s also really important to make sure you do your homework, because it’s a job that demands a lot of you. It takes commitment, dedication, loyalty, teamwork, and most importantly, love for what you do. These are things you will learn by talking to people full time and networking with them as well.
Phen: One important piece of advice I can offer that I think is often overlooked is the importance of follow-up. Analysts receive hundreds of emails a day, and your email may have been lost in the chaos. It’s always a good idea to follow up if you haven’t heard back in, say, a week. Following up shows the person you’re reaching out to that you’re going that extra mile, and you’re much more likely to get a response and start building a relationship.
Investment banking has a reputation for having very bad hours. How bad were your hours?
Ma: My typical day was 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and I was usually out at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. on Fridays. I worked half of my weekends. But I do know that Guggenheim treats our interns pretty well. But it also depends from group to group. Some groups, such as health services, have continued to be overwhelmed. But other groups had very reasonable hours, especially for investment banking.
Wang: My schedules weren’t bad at all. My friends [working in investment banking] in Hong Kong, they typically left work at 2:30 a.m., returned home at 3 a.m., and woke up around 8:30 a.m. Five hours a night isn’t so bad actually; it’s kinda like my schedule right now when i have a 9am
Phen: I arrived at the office around 9:30 am and, depending on how busy, I usually left around midnight. If it was busier, maybe 1 or 2 am
What skills do you think were important at work?
Ma: Being able to multi-task and keep a cool head focusing on what you need to do while managing lots of different things. No particular facet of banking isn’t difficult, but there are a lot of things you have to juggle. To be honest, my semester working at Café Jennie helped me succeed more at work than any club on campus. Making one particular sandwich wasn’t difficult, but knowing which came first and what type of mayonnaise to put on which of the six sandwiches in front of you – that was the hardest part. It allowed me to gain experience in terms of having a lot of things thrown at you by several different people, and just dealing with the stress when it comes to critical time.
Wang: Communication and teamwork. You don’t work alone on a project, so you have to work as a team. You have to stick to your schedule, and your teammates have to stick to their schedule, so that you both get to the finish.
King: I think the main skill set that people should at least feel going through these internships is that you are 100% dedicated to the job; to be able to do the job no matter what, because it’s a job that demands a lot of you. Courage and being a great team player is very important because you spend hours and hours a day working with the same people. Also, having great attention to detail is extremely important for this particular job.
What is your best internship memory?
Wang: The moment when I finished all the assessments and introduced to the director. It was a 40 page powerpoint, so it was quite satisfying.
Ma: Definitely having lunch with a senior managing director who was part of the founding team of Guggenheim Securities and playing golf with him. Getting advice from one of the most experienced guys in the business was helpful for someone just starting out in their career.
King: As an intern, I was able to meet clients; it was just a great experience to be able to meet such extraordinarily important leaders, work on various deals, and really contribute to the team, knowing that my work was actually being used. The highlight was definitely that I had the chance to present some of my assignments in front of the client.
Phen: I loved hanging out with the other interns and getting to know them on the weekends. We were planning brunches or outings to Central Park. They are a group of people that I really like and who have helped make my summer experience great.