What to Expect in Your Equity Sales Internship at a Bulge-Bracket Bank in New York
Back when we had nothing about sales on this site, I always used to give the same excuse:
“Well, sales and trading are pretty similar… just take a look at all those articles on ‘sales & trading (S&T).’”
But that wasn’t a great excuse because sales internships and trading internships can be quite different – from the recruiting process to the job itself.
To get the full details, I recently spoke with a reader who won a rotational S&T internship at a bulge-bracket bank, focused on sales, and then won a full-time return offer.
Oh, and she did all that coming from a non-target school as well:
The Rotational Recruiting Process
Q: Can you briefly describe your background?
A: Sure. I attended a non-target state school, majored in something finance-related, and completed several internships and student activities (private equity, student investment groups, etc.) in previous years.
I networked extensively for sales & trading internships at the large banks and focused on equity sales the entire time.
Q: OK. What was the overall recruiting process like?
A: At the bank I interned at, I went through an online application, a video interview via HireVue, and a Superday.
The process was the same for both sales and trading because everyone was part of the same rotational program.
In the HireVue interview, I had 30 seconds to prepare an answer to each question and then 2-3 minutes to record my answer.
There were around 4-5 questions, and they were all fairly broad: Walk me through your resume, tell us about a time you worked in a team, discuss a current event that interests you, explain how you would add value as an Analyst, etc.
Once I passed this interview, I went to the Superday, which consisted of six 30-minute interviews, all of which were one-on-one or two-on-one.
Interviewers ranged from Analysts to MDs and included both salespeople and traders from both Equity Trading and FICC (fixed income, currencies, and commodities) Trading.
Depending on the bank and the participating desks, you might even interview with someone from a non-market-facing desk, such as risk.
The questions were more involved at the Superday, but everyone still began by asking for my story.
I always said that I was interested in equity sales, so they usually followed up by asking why I wanted to do that, what I thought about the markets, and for a stock pitch.
They also asked about previous holdings I liked at the student investment fund; questions about leadership, teamwork, ethics, and intellectual curiosity came up as well.
Finally, they asked a few “client service” questions, such as how I might address 1,000 problems reported by clients.
Q: You mentioned that you had to network extensively to win this role.
How did you do it? And should students focus on just traders or just salespeople initially?
A: I networked mostly through alumni – there weren’t many since I was at a non-target school, but I did find one alumnus who was an MD in a separate division and who connected me with salespeople early on.
I also used LinkedIn to find and email other professionals at banks.
If you’re at a non-target school or you don’t know whether you want to do sales or trading, you should reach out to anyone you can find.
But if you have a wider alumni base or you strongly prefer either sales or trading, you can gain an advantage by focusing on one of them from the start.
Q: How do interview questions differ in sales roles?
A: Many of the questions are the same in both sales and trading – they’ll ask for your views on the market, investment pitches, and your opinions on current events.
But if you say you’re interested in sales, you’ll be less likely to receive math or brainteaser questions.
If you say you’re interested in trading, you’ll get more math/brainteaser questions and questions with more of a “trading spin.”
For example, instead of asking you to pitch a stock, they might ask how you would help a client hedge a specific trade, which might require knowledge of the Greeks.
If you don’t indicate a preference for sales or trading, you’ll get a mix of both types of questions.
Q: Great. What types of students usually win these roles? How competitive is it?
A: In the New York office of a large bank, I saw the following:
- Most students were from East Coast schools (both Ivies and non-Ivies).
- Many students were studying economics, government, public policy, or other non-finance majors.
- Almost everyone had previous finance internships in private equity, hedge funds, investment management, or at other large banks.
- Hardly anyone was from a non-target state school.
- And, true to the stereotype, there were a lot of athletes.
A Day in the Life of a Sales Intern
Q: Thanks for that description. What was an average day in the internship like?
A: My average day on an equity sales desk went like this:
- 5 AM: Woke up and got ready.
- 6 AM: Arrived at the office, started reading through new research, and noted any rating changes from analysts.
- 7 AM: Joined a morning call where research analysts presented their new notes and answered questions from salespeople and traders. I took notes on these calls and sent them out to the equity salespeople.
- 8 – 11 AM: I went to my desk, created stock pitch write-ups, and kept the desk up-to-date on market conditions. I also ran errands and did administrative tasks (printing documents, distributing research notes, finding models for clients, etc.).
If there was an upcoming equity deal (an IPO or follow-on), I went to the dry run of the roadshow presentation with the company’s management team and the other salespeople to take notes and observe the team’s performance.
- 12 – 3 PM: I was off the desk, either in one-on-one meetings with people from my desk or shadowing people on different desks and networking throughout the division.
If you want a return offer, you must get to know people through these meetings. When the division ranks interns at the end, you want as many people as possible to say good things about you.
Some afternoons, I was also invited to meetings with senior salespeople and research analysts to discuss specific companies they were covering.
- 3 – 4 PM: Right before market close, I went back to my desk and helped out with any last-minute tasks.
- 5 PM: Senior salespeople started to leave for client dinners. By 6:30 PM, most of the junior salespeople had also left the floor.
- 7 PM: I stayed until around 7 PM reading research and sending thank-you notes to people I had met with earlier in the day.
Q: Thanks for that description.
It sounds like the internship consisted of networking, meetings, note-taking, and occasional write-ups.
Did you work on longer-term projects as well?
A: Yes, but it depended heavily on the culture of each desk.
The first desk I worked on encouraged interns to put together pitches and email the desk regularly, while the second desk didn’t care about it as much.
You have to be careful because if you send out too much information, you stand a higher chance of making a silly mistake that everyone can see.
Whenever I wrote a pitch or short memo, I sent it to an Analyst or Associate I knew so they could check it first.
For each desk, I also had to create and deliver a more detailed stock pitch to everyone on the desk at the end of my rotation.
Those were the biggest long-term projects, and they carried a lot of weight in determining who received full-time return offers.
Q: On that note, do you have any tips on winning a full-time return offer?
A: My biggest piece of advice is to meet everyone on the desk on your first day of the rotation. That is the only way that people will be willing to let you shadow them and help with work.
Once you’ve met everyone briefly, you can start doing one-on-one meetings with Analysts and then work your way up to Associates, VPs, MDs, and Partners.
Then, you have to keep circling back to maintain those relationships and get to know each person better.
I kept a contact spreadsheet to keep track of each person I spoke with, how many times I spoke with the person, what we discussed, and who they referred me to next.
You could potentially meet dozens of people (or more!) during a few short weeks, so you need to track your interactions or you won’t remember everything.
Q: How much should you focus on networking with professionals on one desk vs. getting to know everyone in the division?
A: If you come in without a clear idea of which desk you want to work on, you should get to know as many people as possible when your rotation first starts.
That way, you can shadow people on different desks and cross off teams that do not interest you.
And if something does interest you, try to sit down with more people in the team, get on the list for a future rotation, and keep circling back to indicate your interest.
It’s not possible to do rotations “everywhere,” so you have to narrow down your options quickly.
You have an advantage if you know your top 1-2 desks before the internship begins, but some interns come in without a clear ranking and still win full-time offers.
Some people argue that you should decide between equities and FICC first, while others argue that you should decide between sales and trading first.
There are merits to both strategies, but the most important point is that you must make a decision quickly.
I split my time evenly between the two desks in equity sales where I was aiming to win full-time return offers, and I was in good shape by the time my third rotation began.
Q: Great. Thanks for your time!
A: My pleasure.
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