A Day in the Life of a S&T Intern at a Bulge Bracket Bank in New York: 5 AM Wake-ups and Glorified Lunch Delivery Service?

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Sales & Trading Intern: Day in the LifeThis is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. He’s previously written about his own story of how he broke into sales & trading, from the recruiting process to networking to resumes to “fit” interviews and technical interview questions.

The following occurs between 5 AM and 10 PM on a bulge bracket investment bank’s trading floor in New York.

Events occur in real time.

5:23 AM: That’s right – my first alarm is starting to go off…

5:24 AM: SNOOOOZE.

5:25 AM: Staying in bed one minute longer means being late to work, so it’s time to roll out of bed.

Morning Etiquette – What to Do Between 5:25 AM and 5:45 AM

Do yourself a favor – if you’re male, shave every day. We can argue semantics around facial hair another time, but for now, remember your ABC’s: ALWAYS BE CONSERVATIVE.

Males: As far as dress is concerned, be conservative in the beginning (full suit, blue/white shirt, non-flashy tie), but after the first week or two, start adapting your dress to whatever other people on your desk do. Business casual tends to be the norm, but it varies by bank and desk.

To be on the safe side, always have a jacket and tie at your desk – you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.

If you’re female, follow similar rules and see the guide on how to dress appropriately in finance.

5:45 AM: I’m on the subway by now; you will likely need a monthly subway pass if you’re there for at least 2 months (look into all the different transportation options to and from work, and take into account weekend and leisure travel… the unlimited pass usually pays off).

6:00 AM: People are slowly making their way into the office. You usually have a few hours to yourself in the morning before the market opens.

Make sure you allocate at least an hour to reading the Wall Street Journal, because everyone reads it, and it’s one of the few “useful” things you can do as an intern.

Wall Street Journal / Barron’s Opportunity…

  • Easy way to add value: Create morning summaries of the WSJ and weekend summaries of Barron’s – these are helpful and will get you noticed.
  • Take the initiative and make a one-page summary with bullet points and email it to your team – they will appreciate it.

What About Coming Up with Trade Ideas?

Yes, definitely come up with trade ideas to present to your team… but don’t do it in an obnoxious way, and don’t approach senior traders with your ideas right away.

  • Talk to analysts / associates first because they’ll be your best resources and will tell you if you’re about to do something stupid.
  • Leverage the firm’s resources – use internal research portals to look up analyst coverage of different sectors, call or email the members of your firm’s research team, introduce yourself as an intern, and see if they can chat with you.
  • Generate ideas and track them over the summer to see how they perform – your pitch will be much better if you can point to previous ideas that succeeded.

7:00 AM: Morning meeting. Every firm / group is different, but usually the traders and sales people get together to discuss the market, customers, trade ideas, etc.

TAKE NOTES, TAKE NOTES, TAKE NOTES!!!

At the meeting, take notes everyday so that you can follow up with traders/sales guys after the meeting. Asking questions on points that they brought up during the meeting is a great way to meet people.

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Traders tend to be busiest during this time right before the market opens and right after the market opens, so leave them alone.

Continue reading, work on projects, find ways to add value, go out to pick up breakfast, etc.

If a trader does let you shadow him during this time, he will most likely ignore you; don’t take it personally.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: This is a great time to shadow the people on your desk.

But depending on your desk (culture, openness/friendliness etc.), this can be a very tricky and difficult process to navigate.

People will not just invite you, so you must take the initiative.

Walk over to them in the morning, ask them if they have any time for you to shadow them, and most people will be very willing to have you sit with them.

If, when you go back to them later in the day, they happen to be busy (remember, their schedule is dictated by the markets and some days are slow and other days are crazy), then just reschedule with them.

Side Note from Brian: It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the point above.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend who’s a fairly senior trader at a bulge bracket bank in NY, and he mentioned how almost NO interns ever introduce themselves to him or ask how they might make themselves helpful… after they’ve put a ridiculous amount of effort into getting the internship in the first place.

If you fail to do that, you might as well skip the internship altogether.

Lessons for Speaking with Traders

Always be conservative. Be very careful of what you say. Make sure not to sound arrogant when you are talking with them.

You should always have a notebook with you to write down everything they say – they might decide to test you on it later, and you’re going to look stupid if you failed to write something down and can’t answer them correctly later on.

Asking questions is also very important. Some traders will steer the conversation, but others will not talk to you unless you ask the questions first.

If that means preparing questions in the morning, then do it – but always be prepared.

“Good questions” can mean a few different things:

  • If you are on the equity derivatives desk, maybe you can ask about the Greeks in pricing an option or ask them about put-call parity (get technical!)…
  • Alternatively, if an important economic event is about to take place (e.g. ECB meeting), ask them about that and how different outcomes will affect their products, trading, etc.
  • You can also ask them about why they chose trading, their background, how they got to where they are, advice for succeeding on the internship, etc.
“Good” questions tend to be specific (“What do you think will happen to Product X if the ECB decides not to bail out Greece?”), while “bad” questions are vague (“What do you think about the markets?”).

Lunch: The Most Important Thing to Get Right as an Intern?

Yes, this is the true role of any S&T intern: getting lunch for all the guys on the desk (I’m only half-joking here).

Always ask the guys on your desk if they want you to get them anything and bring it back to eat… and don’t screw up the orders or take too long, either.

Use lunch as a time to network and get to know people on your desk. If they offer to go out with you, make time – always say yes. Take the initiative to ask the people on your desk to go out because they will usually not ask you.

Most of the time, of course, traders need to be there all day and can’t leave – but if it’s a slow day, they might be able to go with you.

Side Note from Brian: The importance of delivering lunch correctly also cannot be overstated.

Another story from a senior trader friend: one time they tasked an intern with getting lunch for them at a restaurant right next door… and it took the intern 1 hour to go there and come back as everyone was hungry and wondering what the hell had happened to him.

It turns out that he had gone to another location 10-15 blocks away rather than the one next door, pissing off everyone in the process. Please, check Google Maps and Yelp before you go and attempt to pick up food for everyone.

1:00 PM: Coffee break … always ask around to see if people want to get coffee. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but definitely pick a few other desks that you want to network with during your internship.

Try to go out with as many people on those desks as possible – that way if your desk is not hiring at the end of the summer, you have a shot at getting an offer from a different desk that you networked with.

Some other key things to remember when networking with other desks:

  • Don’t offend anyone on your desk.
  • Don’t spend too much time away from your desk.

Your desk is always a priority – if something needs to get done, make sure you are there to help.

If you’re working on an extended, summer-long project for them, then going away for 30 minutes might not be a problem. But when someone gives you a small project to work on, finish it before you start networking elsewhere.

Pick 2-3 desks to focus on, and get to know people at each of them over the summer. You don’t want to attempt to network with every single desk, or with every single person at those 2-3 desks, or you’ll develop a reputation for “getting around” and they may not take you seriously.

2:00 PM: There are only a few hours left until market close, so around this time I’m finishing up ongoing projects or shadowing people.

You can get projects from anyone on your desk and they might consist of almost anything… so make sure you’re around to “offer your services.”

Coming up with your own projects is also a great idea: for example, if you’re on an equities desk, make the traders a “cheat sheet” of stocks that are posting earnings that month.

If you’re on an options desk, make a cheat sheet of stocks that are reporting earnings in a given expiry.

Be creative when coming up with ideas, and always show them to an analyst on your desk first to verify that you’re not doing something stupid or redundant. Get their opinion, and then maybe share it with the rest of your team.

Other times, people on the desk will just ask you to research something, make copies, or do work in Excel. It really depends on the desk and the style of operation that your team has.

3:00 PM – 6:00 PM: You’re getting tired, but the day is somehow flying by. The key is to always be doing something and to remain enthusiastic (a smile always helps), even if you’re not that busy.

And if you really don’t have any work to do, get started on reading ASAP.

The Importance of Reading

Believe me… it is your only chance of seeming remotely intelligent in traders’ eyes.

The worst thing that can happen is for a trader to come up to you and say, “Hey, what do you think about legislation that was passed in Congress today?” and then for you to have no idea what he’s talking about.

Reading is the solution to that.

You can read anything from finance textbooks to newspapers to internal research reports, or anything that you think is relevant to what your desk or firm does.

Brushing up on your Excel skills during this downtime is also a smart idea – it’s unlikely that you’ve learned anything useful there in school (unless you’ve taken an online course in Excel…), but you can learn a ton via your own research, testing different things, and asking other interns on your desk.

If you don’t take the initiative to do this, it shows that you’re lazy; if you can figure stuff out and make traders’ lives easier, it shows that you’re resourceful.

6:00 PM: At this point, the markets are usually closed, traders are leaving, and the office is getting quiet.

Use this time to chat with the traders about desk trading activity, important market events that happened that day, something interesting you may have read, and so on.

Some traders are closing up their books and finishing up some last minute stuff; if that’s the case, leave them alone.

8:00 PM: As a general rule of thumb, you’ll be out by 7:30 – 8:00 PM, but that varies by day, desk, and firm. You should always be the last one on your team to leave – no, technically there’s no face time in trading, but as the intern you do NOT want to develop a reputation for “leaving early.”

If you do stay late, feel free to email someone (just to show you were working late) the project that they asked you for. Yes, this trick still works on the trading side.

10:00 PM: You better be sleeping or getting ready for bed. Tomorrow is a repeat!

In some ways, being an intern on the sales & trading side is easier than being an intern in investment banking since you don’t do “real” work in the same way (i.e. you’re not actually trading anything).

But landing the full-time offer, or even impressing them enough to leave open the possibility of a full-time offer, can be much trickier since the internship is less structured and you have to be much more proactive.

But you do have everything above, plus all the other S&T coverage on this site to do just that.

Follow everything here and avoid a fat finger or two, and you might just succeed in spite of the odds against you.

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. He’s previously written about his own story of how he broke into sales & trading, from the recruiting process to networking to resumes to “fit” interviews and technical interview questions.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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38 Comments to “A Day in the Life of a S&T Intern at a Bulge Bracket Bank in New York: 5 AM Wake-ups and Glorified Lunch Delivery Service?”

Comments

  1. Tristan says

    Interesting. S&T internship sounds like the internship I had at NBC. It wasn’t structured and you had to be cautiously proactive to secure a full-time position afterwards.

  2. Andrew says

    Wow, really great article. It really nice to not only have some insight into the work that summer interns will be doing but to also hear about some of the tips/tricks that we can utilize to secure that full-time offer. Wouldve never even thought about summarizing the WSJ and sending it out to my team. Would be nice to have an article like this for investment banking summer analysts.

    • says

      Thanks! Yeah, there is a lot of coverage for IB summer analysts already but you can’t be quite as proactive there because it’s more about just asking for what they need help with and doing whatever it is (WSJ summaries and such aren’t as relevant for IB). We may do a round-up feature of all the previous coverage of summer internships in IB.

  3. jie says

    Hi, nice article
    I have been trading FX for more than 2 years. I want to be a professional trader. I am still in College and I wanted to intern. But there are not too many trading firm around my area(Southern CA).
    How do I get into ?
    thanks

    • says

      Thanks! If you’ve been trading for that long, your chances are much better at a small prop trading firm or other independent trading firm where they care more about your track record, so I would focus on those places rather than large banks.

      I would also move, or at least start networking in, an area that has more trading firms such as NY or Chicago.

  4. R.D. says

    Hi M&I,

    I am a high school student from Hungary in the 11th grade at the moment (two years till going to uni) with a huge interest in economy and finance for 4 years now.

    I have decided that my next summer vacation really should not be “wasted” with being drunk all the way as finally I am standing a good chance of getting my feet into the doorstep of finance.

    This year me (along with a few of my classmates, as a team) managed to win all the competitions for high-schoolers available in Hungary related to economy and finance. Some of them were really prestigous, for example one was fully organized by the Hungarian National Bank, another one was sponsored by the leading hungarian universities, banks, foreign exchange brokerage houses, and by the Hungarian Stock Exchange aswell.
    All of our team members received internship opportunities for the next summer at the largest investment banks and brokerages in Hungary but I insist on travelling to London in the summer and land unpaid summer internships there.

    (In addition last year I have won a forex trading competition and also I was hired by Investopedia for some research work as a freelancer, remotely from my home.)

    Based on the above, with my background, with the highest level of determination (which I possess), what do you think Brian:
    Would I stand ANY chance of landing unpaid summer internships in London? Is it even possible?
    What would you propose?

    Thank you for your time and the article, good as always!

    • says

      Thanks! I think you would have a shot at unpaid summer internships in London, but I’m not sure if you’d necessarily be better off – London would make a difference if it were an internship at a large bank vs. a smaller firm locally in Hungary.

      Also you still have a lot of time, so I wouldn’t worry about landing internships quite this early, though you should start thinking about it by your 2nd year of university.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you get into a target university, that will help. You’re already getting started sooner than most people so I don’t think you should worry too much. Start cold-calling and networking sooner rather than later.

  5. BankerBlues says

    Great article! When is the Private Equity interview guide coming out? Need to get ready for those meetings with headhunters!!!

    • says

      Thanks! Probably not going to release a PE interview guide because it would be 95% overlap with the IB interview guide and the modeling courses. We also have several bonus case studies in the modeling courses that are representative of what you might receive in PE interviews, and more coming soon.

  6. Damien says

    Hey! Great article!

    I would like to inquire about the odds of me landing a position in a hedge fund such as Blackrock, Soros Fund Management, Caxton Associates or Tudor Investment Corporation. :)

    Some details about me:

    – Senior in NYU, majoring in economics with a minor in philosophy.

    – Expected to graduate with a cum laude or possibly, a magna cum laude.

    – Been active in the market for almost 10 years now, but only have a 6 years recorded track record. (Been very profitable)

    My biggest worry is that I am lacking heavily in quantitative skills. My investment strategy is mostly discretionary and as such, I am not sure that hedge fund would be interested in me.

    • Damien says

      I fear that because my strategy is mostly discretionary, I would not be able to contribute much to the team in generating profit.

    • says

      If you’re not good quantitatively then it will be tough at many of the large hedge funds, because they want to see quantitative skills and will test you with brain teasers, math questions, etc. (some funds are more value-oriented and don’t care about that stuff as much, but quantitative ability is still important)

      It’s probably better to focus on funds that align with your strategy or even a prop trading firm that does something similar, if you can find one (most are focused on market-making so might be difficult).

      • Damien says

        Oh thanks for your honest reply! But what do you mean by quantitative skills anyway? Is it the ability to do 4 digits mental maths or valuations? Or computer science like things

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Are you very passionate about the markets and familiar with various trading strategies etc? Have you had any experience with hedge funds/investment banks/investment funds? If you answered yes to the above, your chances are relatively decent

      • Damien says

        Oh thanks for the encouragement!

        And yea, I would answer yes to all of the above!

        Will update you guys if i manage to break in!

        Thanks!

  7. Arnold says

    This is such a great article! A number of the tips you’ve laid out are relevant to internships at any finance firm especially when CAREFULLY transferred. Is it possible to have a similar article on Interning at an asset management firm?

    Keep ‘em coming Brian, great work as always!

  8. Korlanok says

    Great piece Brian.

    Have you considered expanding the S&T articles in a similar fashion to the IBD ones? I mean, instead of industry & product groups, having articles on functions (trading, quant, sales, structuring) and products (equity, bonds, commodities, FX).

    I would love to see an article on energy commodities trading.

    • says

      Yes, it’s on the list and I want to cover all those areas eventually. We’ve had multiple writers volunteer to cover those different desks for S&T… and then they always fall through or flake out. But yes, eventually I want to cover all of them. Something on quant funds is coming up soon.

  9. biswa says

    hii brian, really nice article!!!
    i m a student and have just completed my graduation, but the thing is that i wnat to start my career as a investment banker in an investment banking but i have no idea how to get into it..so if you can please suggest me, it would be very helpful for me…

    thanks and regards

  10. WantToBeATrader says

    I’m starting college this fall and plan to become a trader. I like this article a lot and have a follow-up question: Is there anything that S&T interns are assigned to do by their bosses? I understand that interns can find small projects by talking to people at their desk. My question, however, is whether your boss (or bank) will automatically give you work to do. Do you have any examples of the work you’ll be assigned at a BB S&T internship like the author’s?

    • says

      Yeah, sometimes their bosses will ask them to summarize the news, reconcile trades, and other tasks like that. But in general, you really have to go out of the way to ask for work because they’re to busy to even assign work to you in many cases.

      • WannaBeATrader says

        Thanks! I was also wondering about the social life as an S&T intern. Will your bank give you housing with all the other summer interns, or will you have to find it yourself? Will you get time each day to hang out with the other interns at work?

        • says

          Generally you have to find housing yourself. Interns tend to hang out together and sometimes there are company-sponsored events, but you still have to put in the effort.

  11. AZero says

    Since most HFs won’t hire undergrads, do you think the best approach if going through the IB path is to try and get into S & T?

    Also, do BB banks take interns from overseas (I’m in australia) for their offices in NY?

    Thanks for the info

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes S&T can help you if you want to get into a HF

      Yes though you’d need a visa/be studying in the States to work there, or you may ask for internal transfer

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