by Brian DeChesare Comments (52)

So, What Should You Do at Investment Banking Summer Training Besides Getting Wasted Each Night?

So, What Should You Do at Investment Banking Summer Training Besides Getting Wasted Each Night?

You’ve just been through a warzone to get your offer: 53 interviews, 3 weekend trips to New York, and so much time spent staring at Excel that you’ve developed a monitor tan.

But things worked out, you accepted your offer, and you’re about to start work in 2 weeks.

You just need to make it through the training program first.

But that should be the easiest part of the entire process, right? Right?

Does This Really Matter?

When I first got questions about training programs, I was confused: it seemed like a topic that didn’t warrant much advice.

“It would be about as stimulating as all those suggestions over the years to create a recommended reading list,” I thought.

But then I sat down to think about it in more detail and started asking around, and realized that there might be some important and not-so-obvious points to make.

Why Training Programs?

They’re a combination of marketing and education: banks pride themselves on offering “the best investment banking training” – even though banks use the same companies to train you – and they want to get people from non-finance backgrounds up to speed quickly.

Beyond just teaching you about accounting, valuation, and finance, lots of banks bring in speakers from different groups and use them to introduce you to their culture and how things work.

For some inexplicable reason, a few banks really like to tout their training programs and use them as a selling point when interviewing candidates, which might just be the strangest recruiting tactic ever.

No one joins Goldman Sachs because their training program is so great – they join because of the name “Goldman Sachs.” Their training program could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter.

The “education” from these programs is most helpful if you’re not from a finance background.

You will indeed have a tough time at first if you know little about accounting, valuation, and finance – but then it would also be difficult to get an offer these days without knowing those topics to begin with.

Even if you are completely new to finance, training programs are still not that helpful because different groups have different standards and it can be hard to focus when everyone is talking to each other and chatting online.

So don’t stress too much over all the content – there are more pressing concerns during training, beyond just getting enough bottles every night.

What is a “Training Program”?

Right before you start working, the bank will fly you and all the other incoming analysts and associates to New York or London (or wherever your bank is based) and spend 1-2 months “training” you.

Translation: You get to spend each weekday in a crowded room learning all about Excel, accounting, valuation, and finance from outside training firms and occasionally internal speakers from the bank.

You follow along on your screen as they instruct you, and you keep Facebook and Gmail open so you can chat with everyone else about how bored you are and how the instructor has a receding hairline.

You may also get tests and case studies to complete, and group exercises similar to what you find at assessment centers. And then there are those fun standardized tests you have to pass – the Series 7 and 63 back in the day, and the Series 79 in recent times.

Sometimes banks also determine group selection during training, but most of the time it happens well before that – either at your sell day, or as part of the interview process itself.

You’re not working banking hours during this time – weekends are mostly free and you rarely stay late at night, which is the first and last time that will happen as long as you work in the industry.

If you’re going into an internship rather than a full-time job, you’ll get just a week-long crash-course rather than the 1-2 months that full-timers get.

Many boutique banks don’t offer training programs at all because it’s beyond their budget – you’re also not likely to go through training at private equity firms or hedge funds, because they’re small and they expect you to know everything you need once you start working.

If you’re going into sales & trading or another non-IB area at a bank, you’ll probably have some type of training as well but the material will be different and it might be shorter.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the 2 most important words in everything I’ve written above are “crowded room.”

If you’re not meeting other people and networking during training, you’re wasting your time.

So How Do You Approach Training?

Ask most bankers about what to do during your training program, and you’ll get 1 of 2 responses:

  1. “Just get drunk every night! Party! It’s the best part of the analyst/associate program.”
  2. “Study hard and take all the homework assignments and case studies seriously! Oh, and if you don’t pass those exams, you’re screwed.” (This one usually comes from students who aren’t even in the industry yet)

Neither one of these is quite right.

On #1, yes, you should go out and have fun since this will be one of your last chances to do so in the next few years.

But you need to be strategic about how you do it and also make sure you meet the right people in the process.

On #2, despite rumors to the contrary, most of the work they give you does not matter that much. Just do reasonably well and pass what you need to pass – it’s almost irrelevant next to your deal experience in your first year.

But I Heard This Person Got Kicked Out for Slacking Off!!!

Most of these rumors are greatly exaggerated. Yes, if you do something incredibly stupid – kidnap the Managing Director’s son, start drinking at work, etc. – you might be removed from training, but that hardly ever happens.

If you already have your group placement, homework assignments and tests during training aren’t important – the senior bankers at your office don’t have time to read the details of what you did and then change your group based on that.

If you’re really concerned about not knowing enough or being disadvantaged next to everyone else there, learn some material before training starts.

If you’re reading this site you’re probably a Type-A overachiever anyway, so you’ve already signed up for modeling courses before you even got interviews.

Just dust those off and start going through all the material and you can doze off during training and still do well.

What About the Series 7, 63, and 79 Exams?

These are actually important to pass because some banks won’t let you start working for real until you’ve cleared the exams.

They’re horribly boring and you’ll forget everything you learned in about 2 days, but you need to pass them anyway.

I’m never going to produce a course on these because they’re too boring even for me – but I’ve heard that the Knopman materials are good.

Do not underestimate these exams because they are more difficult than you initially think.

There’s a lot of rote memorization (certain questions will give you choices of 5 days, 10 days, 15 days, or 20 days and you just have to know which one is correct), and it’s hard to cram and learn everything in a few days.

So yeah, make sure you pass these – but don’t spend every waking moment studying at the expense of networking.

OK, So Then What About Networking – What Do You Mean by “Make Sure You Meet the Right People”?

Going out and getting bottles every night is almost a good idea, but there are a few problems:

  1. You won’t have much money yet since you just started and may not even get a paycheck until training ends.
  2. It’s more helpful to know people in different offices and different groups instead of always hanging out with the same crowd.

Let’s say it’s 2 AM, you’re working on a pitch book for an industrials company, and you need to include a case study of a deal the Chicago office did but you don’t know where the files are.

If you don’t know anyone there, you’d be screwed – yes, you could just email the entire office and ask for someone to help you, but everyone is busy with their own fire drills and deadlines so they may ignore you.

But if someone sees your name and recognizes you from training, you’re in much better shape and you might actually get the answer you need.

It’s almost impossible to get to know people from every group and every office, so focus on 5-10 analysts/associates.

Get some geographic diversity (if you’re in the US, know people in a few different cities and also a few in Europe and Asia) and industry diversity (if you’re in an M&A group, get to know people in industry groups and also ECM and DCM).

Doing this is not difficult and I would feel silly writing a “guide.”

Each day there are plenty of breaks, and most banks throw lots of events and parties during training – take advantage of these and go up to meet new people there.

Just think of it as a big information session, only without seasoned bankers. And it’s even easier than information sessions because you have an enforced time limit and everyone else is new and wants to meet others.

Does It Really Help?

The main problem is the high turnover rate in finance – by the end of your first year, at least 50% of your incoming analysts/associates will be gone.

So it won’t help you forever, but it doesn’t matter too much because your first year is the most critical anyway – do well at first and you’ll get better work and better exit opportunities, and do poorly at first and you’ll get the MDs laughing at you and bottom-tier bonus.

During training, I made the mistake of constantly going out with the same group of people and not getting to know others.

Things still turned out OK (see: this site), but there were quite a few times when it would have been helpful to know people in different groups.

It’s not a question of life-or-death, but it will save you some headaches and possibly let you get 6 hours of sleep rather than 4 hours – at least on some nights.

In Short…

So do what you need to pass everything and learn the material, but don’t take any of it too seriously at the expense of meeting other people.

If you’re concerned about not knowing enough when you start working, start preparing beforehand and learn as much as possible from classes or training programs.

And make sure you find out about your office and who makes decisions there before you start working as well.

Get to know 5-10 people well so you have contacts in other groups and other geographies when you need something and no one else in your office can help.

It’s tempting to befriend only the incoming bankers in your own office or your own group, but that defeats the purpose of training: you want to spread your net wide and meet people from all over.

And if you’re already doing all this and you know accounting, valuation, and finance like the back of your hand, have some fun and try to show up for training every day without passing out on your desk – they might actually notice that, especially if you’re in the front row.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Wow, typing with thumbs. Sorry for all the grammatical/spelling errors ^

  2. Hi Brian,

    My husband is starting his IB summer training in NY this July. What do you know about the living situation for analysts while they’re there? Is this something I will be able to attend with him? Do analysts find their own housing for two months, or does the bank cover the cost of the hotel? Trying to get a head start on our planning, post training. I don’t know if it makes a difference, but his FT position we be houston when he’s done, so obvs, we won’t be staying in NYC (unfortunately)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’m not sure if you can go to work with him if this is what you were asking? Yes analysts usually find their own housing for 2 months, or banks may provide accommodation. Yes I do believe banks cover the cost of accommodation during the training period. I believe HR should have more details so you may want to reach out to the bank’s HR.

  3. ER_Associate

    bouncing this question – any suggestions on STC vs Knopman for Series 7? Thx!

  4. Would you recommend STC training or Knopman for the series 79? Also, do you recommend the virtual or live class?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I have taken neither so I’d leave this to readers.

  5. I just graduated with a degree in finance and I am trying to get into an IB Summer Analyst training program. What do you think of the NYSF or the Global Investment Banking training program out in London. One has to pay to get into these programmes, and I am willing to pay as long as I get the best bang for my buck and it helps me break into the Investment Banking field.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am not sure of the GIB out of London. Perhaps NYSF is a better option if you want to work in NY. Another option you can explore Analyst Exchange that pairs you up with an internship. Otherwise, I’d tap into your network and offer to work for free and do informal internships at local firms.

    2. please can you guide me on elite internship programme from global banking training programme

  6. Hey Brian,

    Another great post as usual, I would just like to say a big thank you to you and rest of the staff on the site. I finally landed a FT position with an elite boutique after spending 9 month in audit with a big 4. Tons of great sutff on M&I and BIWS. The interview guide is simply amazing! 95% of the stuff I came across during the interviews were covered in the guide.

    Big thank you once again! Keep up the good work

    1. Cool congrats on the offer

  7. Good post. As someone that went through a BB training program last summer, I’d like to provide a summary based on my perception, which I feel is largely in line with the post:

    If you are attending training after a summer analyst position with the same firm and already have your group placement, don’t worry about training at all. Extra (or any) time spent on homework, tests, paying attention, etc is a waste of time. Enjoy the city.

    A lot of groups in my firm wait to select analysts based on training performance. You’ll know ahead of time if that’s you.

    If you did not have a summer IB internship and aren’t a finance/accounting major, training will likely be overwhelming. I felt bad for some of the history or engineering majors in my class. They had to stay late to get their work done and thought everything moved too quickly. Many had hard times grasping the subjects and even failed the training tests. If that’s you, I would suggest getting your hands on a current 1st year analysts training materials so you can get a head start.

    Good luck

    1. Thanks for the input, good thoughts

  8. Hey Brian

    I have a quick question, I graduated this year (earlier than expected) and was late for the recruiting cycle, most places already filled headcount. I managed to get an offer from a middle market firm but i felt that i could have done better if I applied earlier.
    Do you think it makes more sense to do a year in a finance masters program and start the application correctly or should i go for the offer I have and laterally switch into a BB next year?
    (i’m not a finance major by the way)

    Any help would be appreciated.

    1. I would take the MM offer, lots of risk and time/money involved with a masters program

  9. Hey, I wasn’t able to find a reference to this anywhere else on the site, do firms generally tend to check credit history as part of the recruiting process for summer analysts? I’m 21 and in my first year of university, back when i first turned 18 I foolishly inccured some damage to my credit score and have been denied for credit cards as result. Will this be grounds for a rescinded offer come background check time?

    1. Credit Pirate

      I don’t think you have to worry about this for a summer internship – would be very rare. Get your credit in line though, because within the next 2-3 years it will matter.

    2. I actually had a background check article but deleted it because there were too many questions way beyond the scope of this site. A low credit score will not keep you out.

  10. Hey there quick question. All the BBs and Big5 in Toronto seem to only take SAs in penultimate year. What types of firms would both be open to a sophomore year internship AND provide relevant work experience/”story” reinforcement. Thanks in advance.

    1. Boutiques and also some large firms actually do sophomore rotational internships

  11. Brian,

    I just finished my first year at a semi-target California school. This summer I have an internship at an investment consulting firm with the independent adviser group. I also have the opportunity to work in a wealth management firm during the school year. My question is should I pursue the wealth management internship if I want to do i-banking. Or is that too many internships that aren’t banking specific?

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Try to get something more related to banking, if you can’t I would just skip the school-year internship because wealth management doesn’t add much if you already did investment consulting unless it’s a bulge bracket bank

  12. For London based grads. Real warning, you WILL get kicked out of the grad scheme if you fail your FSA exams more than once. It is a very very small % who do year on year but it does happen. Esp in front office roles. Without those exams you cannot trade/talk to clients because you are not registered to do so!

    1. Good to know, exams are always annoying but seems they do matter occasionally

  13. Do you know when there will be more Australia Conent?

    1. When there’s a volunteer who wants to talk about his/her experience in the region

    2. I want to send you an award for most heuplfl internet writer.

  14. Anonymous

    Hey Brian, have a question you hopefully haven’t been asked TOO many times.

    Were you faced with making the decision between whether to pursue banking versus trading before you did your stint in banking? I’ve found that I’m interested in both working on deals and being close to the markets, and would probably like to work in the hedge fund industry and maybe even manage a fund one day. I realize that I can draw valuable skills from both but wondering if you could weigh in on this.

    I’ve shadowed both before so I feel pretty confident in knowing what each job entails.

    1. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/true-story-get-into-investment-banking/

      Trading is much more specialized + I actually think the stock market is boring so wasn’t for me

  15. Just wanted to say that this is my favorite blog ever. I’m not in banking, but it sounds so interesting and I’ve been reading for a couple years now.

    Cool stuff.

    1. Yeah actually working there is quite boring, the stories here are more interesting than anything that actually happens in the industry

  16. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been on the site for a while and I find the information very helpful. Just one thing. I’m thinking about going to Toronto because New York and London are extremely hard to get into. I understand that the deals are basically oil & gas and you don’t get as many exit opportunities, and pay is not as good either.. People are trying to talk me out of it and saying that even Hong Kong or Shanghai are better choices. What do you think of Toronto as a banking destination? What are its advantages over NY or London?

    Thanks!

    1. Discussion here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-canada/ Most would say NY or London are better to start in, but Canada can have some advantages

      1. Going to Toronto is better than not being in the industry, so do go if London or New York won’t work. Also, read the content on this site about China – if you’re not Chinese then you basically have zero opportunity in Shanghai no matter what you do. HK is better, but only just.

  17. BruceWan

    Didn’t know where to put this but what happend to the rest of the interviews withe the people from Brass Bone about the clothign??

    love the site

    1. They never got back to me so we didn’t run them – they covered the most important points in the first 2 and there isn’t much to say about other things anyway, fashion should be an afterthought as an analyst.

  18. Just thought I’d add a heads up that for those from the Australian side of things in BBs, training is probably irrelevant and a holiday-of-sorts.

    We start our full-time analyst positions in February, where-as training is in July/August (I think) because that seems to be when the rest of the world starts.

    It pretty much means that by the time you go to training, you are already skilled in all those concepts just from work experience alone :) All the more time to party though!

    1. Good to know, training is pretty pointless if you’ve already started working

  19. do you think restructuring is still going to be hott in the next couple of years?

    1. Might pick up a little but will not be like 2009 was for restructuring

  20. Really helpful post!
    About getting to know people in other groups: as an analyst on the IB side is it valuable at all to befriend some of the people on the other side of the Chinese wall (like, say, Sales people, Traders, Sales-Traders and everything else in between)? I know we’re technically not supposed to interact but are there any, ANY scenarios you could legally make each others life better?

    1. Usually they are in a separate training sessions so it can actually be hard to do that. It would be good to know some of them if possible, just for networking / career change down the road etc., but in practice it would be difficult to actually meet them. And as you said, you can’t really ask them for information in the normal course of business.

      1. Thanks for the reply Brian.

        Just for the record, I ended up living next to an S&T guy during the summer, and though I couldn’t speak about my work he was willing to share what traders do, how they look at the markets etc… a lot of very useful insight.

        Lesson for future interns: BE NICE TO YOUR NEIGHBORS!! (and they might volunteer to help with your laundry when you’re coming home at 3am)

  21. Will you still go through training if you were a SA previously or is it only for people new to banking?

    1. Previous SAs do go through it, but you don’t really need to pay attention if you’ve already done an internship

  22. I thought only traders have to take exams? What is the equivalent exam for investment bankers in the UK?

    1. Actually not sure about that one, maybe someone else knows about the UK. But these days banks make more than just traders take exams.

    2. no_longer_analyst

      In the UK everyone has to do the Securities and the Regulations Units of the FSA exams, traders additionally have to complete the Derivatives module.

      The exams are easy but require a hell of a lot of memory work, most banks require you to do them at the end of the summer training program and before you hit the desk. Some of the American banks allow you 2 years to complete these exams so you effectively do them whilst working.

  23. O the long anticipated article on summer training :)))))

    Great post!

    “If you’re reading this site you’re probably a Type-A overachiever anyway, so you’ve already signed up for modeling courses before you even got interviews.” SO TRUE!

  24. Great post.

    Is it common for people to head home on some weekends? (I’ll need to look for an Apt back in NY)

    1. Yes it happens, depends a bit on bank though

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