by Brian DeChesare Comments (42)

Coronavirus Updates: Remote Internships, Full-Time Offers, and Looming Market Meltdowns

Remote Internships

About a month has now passed since my initial article about the coronavirus creating the risk of canceled summer internships.

As I publish this on April 15, 2020, many firms have announced their internship plans:

  • Canceled Internships: HSBC (some internships in Asia), Santander (CIB in only certain locations? Unclear), and various companies in the hospitality, entertainment, and travel sectors, such as Disney. Even some tech companies with high exposure to those sectors (Yelp, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.) have canceled internships.
  • Delayed Internships: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan have delayed their start dates to July 6 and shortened the internships while offering full pay.
  • Remote Internships: Fidelity, Ernst & Young, Boeing (!), and various tech companies (Intel, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) have made their internships “virtual.” Some prop trading firms also fall into this category, and Morgan Stanley will make “most of” its programs virtual.
  • All Interns Automatically Get Full-Time Return Offers + Shortened Internships: Citi (in some locations) and Moelis. Both also shortened their internships while promising full pay. Outside of banking, PwC has done the same thing with a 2-week “digital upscaling” experience.
  • Status Quo, Internships Proceeding As Planned: RBC, Evercore, and… any other bank that has not yet announced specific plans?

I am surprised that more firms have not outright canceled internships, and I’m also surprised that some tech companies have canceled their internships.

But I’m not sure that these announcements are “good news,” unless you happen to be interning at Citi or Moelis:

The Impact of All These Changes

The problem is that if a few firms guarantee full-time offers, but others do not, you are screwed if you don’t receive a full-time return offer from your internship.

Even in normal times, it’s difficult to switch banks via “accelerated recruiting,” but this year, it might be virtually impossible:

  • Citi and Moelis will not be hiring anyone else, at least not in major financial centers.
  • And the other banks will not be hiring much outside of their intern classes.
  • Even outside of IB, “general economic uncertainty” means that full-time hiring will be down.

Politicians and activists have been complaining about income and wealth inequality, and now they can add “internship inequality” to that list.

How Do You Succeed in “Remote Internships”?

If you have an internship that is still going to proceed in-person – for now – you can follow this site’s guide to investment banking internships.

But if your internship is now “virtual” or “remote,” what does that mean?

No one knows, but based on accounts from students who have completed “virtual spring weeks” in Europe, my guess is that remote internships will be a mix of:

  • Training and presentations delivered by bankers, along with Q&A or “video networking.”
  • Some simple work tasks, such as looking up information for comparable company analysis, profiling companies, and fixing/completing presentation slides.
  • And they might not even give you real deals or clients but may instead offer you “simulations” based on past transactions or hypothetical ones.

In other words, you should expect even less “real work” than usual.

That’s especially the case if your internship is shortened from 8-10 weeks to 4-5 weeks.

One month is not enough time to get up to speed on a live deal, learn where to find all the information and process details, and then contribute substantially.

Also, deal activity will still be muted even by the summer, so there may not be much to do.

Without in-person interactions, issues such as office politics, speaking ability, appearance/cleanliness, and “the airport test” won’t factor into full-time offer decisions.

Instead, decisions will be based mostly on your work product.

So, if you’re doing an IB or PE internship, you better know Excel and PowerPoint like the back of your hand.

If you’re interning at a quant fund, the same applies to statistics/math/programming.

And if you’re interning in corporate finance, Excel and accounting are still essential, but it’s also good to learn tools that can automate the reporting process, such as VBA, SQL, or Python.

You should not expect much handholding or training because finance firms are quite bad at training in a standard environment, and they’ll be even worse with remote internships.

For more tips, see our coverage of how to prepare for IB summer internships in less than 8 hours, most of which still applies to remote internships.

Yes, a month ago, I was skeptical that banks would move to remote internships, but they haven’t quite done that: they’ve mostly simplified and shortened internships while also removing the in-office component.

Remote Internships and Full-Time Return Offers

Banks will likely lean toward one extreme or the other with full-time offers: many more interns than usual will receive them, or many fewer interns than usual will receive them.

Winning a full-time return offer is already a bit arbitrary, and it will become even more so this year.

Your return offer status will likely be based on:

  • Did you do a decent job with the work and avoid major screw-ups? Were you highly responsive to emails and phone calls?
  • How are the economy, markets, and deal activity trending by the end of the summer?

If the markets and deal activity are not looking so good, banks will be in “fewer interns than normal receive offers” mode.

Some people have suggested that GS, MS, and JPM will follow in the steps of Citi and Moelis and award full-time offers to all interns, but I think this is unlikely.

These three banks always hire more interns than they plan to retain for full-time roles, so unless there’s a big uptick in deal activity, I don’t see how the math works.

What Do You Do in This Recruiting Environment?

First and foremost, win the full-time return offer – and don’t even think about trying to switch banks.

To do that, focus more on the work product and less on the “socializing” / “making bankers like you” aspect.

Yes, you could still set up quick calls before you start, but it might not even be useful unless you’re already assigned to a specific group.

If you do not win a full-time return offer, then you’ll have to look at regional offices and smaller banks that are more likely to have had sub-par interns. See the article on last-minute IB recruiting for more on this one.

However, even regional offices may not be hiring much if deal activity is down by 50%.

So, you may have to think about options like a Master’s in Finance program or a job in audit, corporate finance, or something else that is less affected by deal activity.

All lateral hiring is also on hold for now, so you’ll have to wait and see if deal activity resumes anytime soon.

In the best case, there might be a pickup toward the end of the summer; in the worst case, hiring might remain muted until sometime in 2021.

Market and Economic Updates

I’ve also fielded some questions over the past week about my initial predictions:

  • 50-100 million deaths worldwide.
  • A move away from globalization and toward closed borders, lower margins, higher cash balances, and remote work.
  • Massive changes to the U.S. healthcare system and general political unrest/upheaval.
  • Negative global GDP growth, a 5-10% contraction in the U.S., and a 50-70% decline in the S&P 500, with 30-50% drops in other equity markets.

I’ll take this opportunity to reaffirm these predictions and add several more.

“But wait,” you say, “things are improving! Many countries have ‘flattened the curve’! Hospitalizations in the U.S. have been below model predictions in many places!”

Yes, but this is a case where the cure might be worse than the disease.

Have you considered the number of unemployed and underemployed people worldwide, and the number of small businesses that have shut down?

Most people are forecasting the fatalities like this:

Fatalities = Population * % Infected * Case Fatality Rate

But you need to add several terms to the formula to factor in second and third-order effects:

Fatalities = Population * % Infected * Case Fatality Rate + Population * % Newly Unemployed * (% Suicides + % Starvations + % Murdered + % Drug Overdoses…)

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

You can check this prediction in a few years by looking at the average annual all-cause deaths worldwide over the past 5-10 years.

Between 50 and 60 million people worldwide die each year, so if all-cause deaths increase to more like ~100 million over the next 12 months, this prediction will be directionally correct.

(For reference, 70-85 million died in World War II, mostly in China and the Soviet Union.)

Even when (if?) the virus outbreak is over, companies – especially small businesses – cannot just flip the “on” switch:

  • Re-hiring employees will take time, and everyone will be acting cautiously when giving and accepting job offers.
  • Consumer behavior will change, and fewer people will be eating out, attending live events, shopping in-person, etc.
  • Most companies have nowhere near enough cash to last for months of no revenue, even with loans and government aid.

The S&P Has Recovered A Bit! We’re in the Clear, Right?

Nope, I don’t think so.

Yes, the Fed has effectively killed capitalism and socialized the markets by promising to buy virtually every asset, short of stocks. They’ve even back-stopped junk-bond ETFs!

The problem is that none of that makes an impact on the “real economy.”

Yes, central banks will prop up hedge fund managers, executives, and institutional investors, but these activities will make no difference to ordinary people who lose their jobs.

Most companies haven’t even reported Q1 earnings yet, and the ones that have, have had disastrous results (see: BAML, JPM, and Wells Fargo).

The S&P 500 is more expensive now than it was before the crisis started because forward earnings have dropped significantly.

Oh, and more thing: the main source of returns in U.S. equities over the past ~5 years has been corporate stock buybacks:

Stock Buybacks and Equity Returns

But dozens of companies have announced cuts or suspensions of stock buybacks, so who will drive up stock prices now?

Newly unemployed individuals with little in savings? Come on.

Personally, I’m waiting for the S&P to drop to 1,500.

Bear markets do not end with a trailing P/E multiple of 20x+; something in the 10-12x range is more likely:

Bear Market P/E Multiples

So, What Happens Next with Remote Internships, Hiring, and the Economy?

To summarize:

  • Bank Internship Statuses: GS, MS, and JPM have delayed and shortened their summer internships, other companies have made them remote, and Citi and Moelis have given all interns full-time offers; some tech companies and non-BB/EB banks have outright canceled internships.
  • Remote Internships: Expect little “real work,” especially if your internship is shortened, and focus on the work product to win a return offer. Interns who respond to emails the most quickly will have an advantage, and “not screwing up” matters far more than advanced technical knowledge or schmoozing.
  • No Return Offer: If you don’t win a full-time return offer, you’ll have to consider an MSF program or another job that is less tied to deal activity, such as audit or corporate finance. Return offer rates could go either way, and they’re mostly dependent on the state of the economy by the end of the summer.
  • Markets/Economy: I have become more pessimistic about a quick recovery. The virus might be less dangerous than initially thought, but the “cure” is even more deadly. The stock market is even more overpriced, and Q1 and Q2 earnings will be disastrous. So, I think prices will edge much lower unless the Fed starts buying stocks directly.

In my mind, the main question about all these events is not “if” but “when.”

Hopefully, the answer is “there’s light at the end of the tunnel by the end of the summer,” or there will be a lot of disappointed interns out there…

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. Avatar
    John Johnson

    Hi Brian,

    Do you recommend incoming summer analysts to network with their groups before the internship starts / reach out to intern sponsors offering to help and ask for their guidance to prep?


    1. Yes, sure, networking before the internship always helps. But the people you contact may not be able to offer any preparation tips because no one knows what these “virtual internships” will entail. My prediction is that they’ll be disorganized and chaotic since banks are not good at last-minute adaptations.

  2. Dear Brian,

    Thank you for the always insightful article.

    I am a finance master student in Frankfurt and will graduate in June 2021. My summer internship interviews at the local boutique corporate finance firms got cancelled in April. Therefore, I seized the last minute to get myself an internship offer in Global Transaction Services, under the corporate banking division, at DBS Bank back in my home country Taiwan. Previously, I have completed two internships in Europe, one in wealth management at Deutsche Bank and one in research at UniCredit.

    Do you think I should take the offer? I have already done two non-IB internships, and the DBS one is obviously also not related to the investment banking business. I am considering using the summer break to learn German and improve my financial modelling skill. My German is in the B1 level which is not enough to find an IB job in Germany.

    Some seniors told me I already got some names on my CV, so there was no need to spend another 2 months working in a department not related to IB. Instead, I should sharpen my German ASAP. However, some people also told me that the internship experiences are never too much, and DBS is a decent name in Asia. My function will be also related to corporate clients.

    I would appreciate your thought! Btw, I used lots of your networking tips and templates, and they were quite useful! Thanks!


    1. p.s. The interviews and the offer I got are for summer 2020

    2. I think the problem here is that it’s tough to win an offer in Germany without actually being from German, regardless of your language abilities. The DBS internship would add something because corporate banking is closer to investment banking – some banks actually group them together – and would be useful if you want to go back to Asia or stay in Europe. So I would recommend the DBS internship, and then try to use that experience to win off-cycle IB/PE/VC roles that can lead into a full-time offer next year.

      1. Hi Brian, thank you for your advice. I am trying my best to find an off-cycle internship at the moment. Thanks!

  3. Do you think AI/ ML/Data Science based internships in the big banks would have good conversion rates during this time?

    1. I don’t follow them closely so can’t say for sure, but sure, given that banks are hiring extensively in those areas, rates should be good.

  4. Hi Brian,
    Some very interesting insights, thanks for this. I wondered if I could pick your brain on a few questions I have, would love to get your opinion on the following:
    Let’s suppose a vaccine (or any other cure) to the virus is discovered in the next couple months (wishful thinking, I know, but economics is all about assumptions right?)- presumably this will send the stock market soaring (S&P 500 especially). My questions are, in your view:
    a. Will this surge be short-lived owing to Q2 results or do you reckon the market has already priced in the poor earnings expectations into the current valuations?
    b. Will the subsequent drop in share prices (and valuations) owing to poor Q2 earnings results and companies actually having to grapple with the after-math of the crises be
    (i) as steep and
    (ii) as indiscriminate (sector agnostic)
    as the fall in value we saw in during week 2 and 3 of March?
    I’m especially curious to hear your thoughts on companies like Amazon (trading at its 52-week high) and other semi-conductors / healthcare stocks, which although will be useful / more resistant to economic shocks in the aftermath of the crisis, do you think the correction they’ll experience will be as drastic (given that the market is forward looking)?
    Appreciate any insight.

    1. I think the market is completely delusional about current valuations, but if you look at the numbers, it’s not really “the market” as a whole, but a handful of mega-cap stocks that are propping up everything (FAANG). But once advertising revenue drops and people stop buying iPhones, those will drop as well. Amazon is the only one of those companies that should benefit. Yes, people spend more time on Facebook and Netflix, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue for them.

      I have no idea if the S&P will fall steeply, gradually, or keep rising, but I have purchased out-of-the-money long-dated put options on the entire index. I view them as “insurance” in case the index falls.

      The S&P 500 would be reasonably valued at the 1200 – 1600 range, but I don’t necessarily think that is a likely outcome if the Fed continues with Unlimited QE forever.

      I don’t really think the market is forward-looking. The market is effectively “Fed-looking” now – it ignores everything else and moves up if the Fed prints money or drops interest rates, and down if it does the opposite. There is no longer an independent stock market.

  5. Avatar
    Jason Chen

    Hey Brian, could increased private sector saving prove to be deflationary enough to offset the inflation generated by higher amounts of fiscal government deficits?

    1. I’m not an economist, but I think that’s unlikely because the size of the government deficits has expanded by a ridiculously high percentage, far higher than the possible increase in private savings. This might work in the short term, but I don’t see how it lasts in the long term when/if things ever return to quasi-normal.

  6. Santander CIB NYC is “Internships Proceeding As Planned”

    1. Thanks, I will update that (we had comments indicating otherwise, may have just been for one location).

  7. Hi Brian, many firms have applications open for Summer 2021. How do you think the coronavirus situation will affect recruitment?

    1. Everything will be virtual, so expect more HireVue and more phone calls or video calls for final rounds, Superdays, and so on. It probably helps if you’re good technically and hurts if you rely more on being social or “interesting” to win offers.

  8. How do you will predict for someone in private equity? Incoming summer associate at a LMM tech focused buyout shop.

    Also, keep up the good work. I love reading your articles!

    1. I think you’ll be fine. Full-time return offers are almost always tougher in PE, but it depends on what the firm has done historically. No idea whether or not they’ll also make internships “virtual,” but I think it might be tough to do that for smaller firms. Virtual internships work best at large companies where interns all complete similar tasks.

  9. Hi Brian

    As an incoming MBA candidate at a top 5 global B school – aspiring for BB IB ( a career switcher from tech ) should i defer my MBA to next year on the grounds that internships in Jan-Mar 2021 will be severely affected (hiring freezes and virtual components) by COVID-19?

    1. I don’t think that’s a great idea because things might be even worse by next year if there’s a prolonged downturn. Right now, most banks are assuming this is a “temporary blip,” but no one knows if that’s really the case.

      The only way you’ll be worse off is if somehow everything miraculously recovers by next year. But I think it’s more likely to be about the same or possibly worse. Yes, the lockdowns might be over, but the economic damage will still be here.

      1. Hey Brian

        Thanks for your answer. A few more points about me
        1. International student
        2. Looking for jobs in London IB,MBB
        3. Currently having a stable job in healthcare and can work another year building on my skills and resume- digital transformation etc.

        I feel loosing a well stable job, and taking up loans in current times seem very foolish. As you said it’s gonna be same or worse from now.
        Secondly banks in virtual internships would go for someone with finance experience than an engineer as the former wouldn’t require much training and can be more productive in virtual mode.
        Also have a hunch for different countries focusing on getting their local people places first looking at how trump reacted. BoJo will follow too.

        Not expecting it to miraculously get stable but Atleast a vaccine in global circulation by 2021 fall seems realistic according to J&J reports. Even though economy won’t kickoff I can attend in person classes and my MBA will be worth the buck.
        Does that make sense?

        1. If you currently have a stable job and can stay there for a while, then yes, maybe do that and avoid taking on debt in the current environment. And yes, international student hiring will be down everywhere (I think they might block all Chinese nationals in the U.S.), so if you need visa sponsorship, maybe stay where you are for now.

      2. So then leave the prospect of MBA for few years. I have a job currently- so rather than taking huge loans in such uncertain times, keep your job, grow skills (and your cash balance) and then after a few years apply again for MBA.Sane advice ?

  10. Hi Brian,
    Would it be possible that end of internship project/presentation would have more impact on deciding FT offers than usual? If so, what would be the best way to prep for those? Thanks in advance.

    1. Yes, it’s very possible, at least on the sales & trading side. I think it’s mostly general presentation tips / common sense, like making your slides very concise, not reading directly off them, leaving time for Q&A at the end, etc.

      If you have to deliver the presentation online, it’s important to make it more “interactive” and leave room for people to ask questions in between because attention spans are much shorter when they’re not with you physically.

      Hard to say exactly how to research and create the presentation because it’s usually based on what you do over the summer, or what you learned… and it’s unclear what interns will be doing or learning. But to be safe, you should probably go into the internship with some idea of a security or market or trading improvement you want to discuss, and then spend all your downtime researching that, just in case you end up not completing much official work.

  11. What about S&T remote internships? The whole point of the internships there is to fit in with the desks…

    1. Yeah, that’s a good question. Maybe they’ll just award full-time offers to all or almost all interns there? I have no idea how they could accomplish anything in a “remote” S&T internship since it’s mostly about networking. They might also place a lot more weight on the end-of-internship project or presentation and give out offers based on that.

  12. Evercore is also status quo for now, noticed it was left off the list

    1. Thanks, I will add them.

  13. Thanks for your insights! Any thoughts on how to use the time you get from a cancelled internship to your advantage and make up for the loss of working experience?
    I’m waiting to start my Masters in Finance this autumn, so full-time hiring isn’t on my radar yet and unfortunately my current internship (March-May) got cancelled. What can one do to compensate for such a gap in the CV? Do you think online certificates will gain more significance as a kind of proof for not just being lazy during quarantine? I already work on learning another language and brushing up my mathematical skills, but it still feels like a disadvantage to someone with (even if it’s “just”) a remote internship…

    1. I would say:

      1) Learn or improve another skill (Excel/VBA/SQL/Python/R, etc.) or natural language.

      2) See if you can get a “temp role” or “externship” or some other kind of remote role. Yes, unemployment is way up, but some companies are actually seeing higher sales due to the lockdowns and need additional team members to support everything. If you can ask for a role that lasts for only a few months, they’ll be much more likely to go along with it.

      Online certificates may help a bit, but most people/companies still don’t take them that seriously because the requirements are all over the place and there are no standards. You’d be better off taking one of the skills you learn and creating something useful with it, such as a simple program on Github, investment pitches and models, or a tool to automate something in finance.

  14. Avatar
    MBA Banker

    hey thanks for this – how do you feel about return rates for MBA summer associates versus summer analysts both in general and given these circumstances? anecdotally MBA return rates feel pretty high but not sure if that was a function of recent market conditions

    1. Yes, return offer rates for MBA summer associates do seem higher, but that’s also because it tends to be harder to retain good people at that level (as it’s rare to find someone qualified who also wants to stay in IB long term).

      I don’t think rates this year will be much different from Analyst return offer rates: almost completely dependent on the trends in deal activity by the end of the summer, unless you’re at Citi or Moelis. Associates will still probably have a higher return offer rate than Analysts in either scenario, though.

      1. Avatar
        MBA Banker

        cool good stuff thank you!

  15. What about 2021 summer internships – will banks hire significantly fewer interns as the economy worsens?

    1. They’ll hire fewer interns for sure, but the large banks always hire a certain number because deal activity can change fairly quickly, and they don’t want to be unprepared. So it’s not as if intern hires will drop by 90%, or even 50%. Full-timers are generally worse off than interns because banks usually start by cutting expensive, mid-level bankers when deal activity falls. Juniors are at risk as well, but they’re also much cheaper, so there’s less incentive there.

  16. This is not the case about HSBC, please edit the post and stop ruining their reputation with such false claims.

    1. It was already edited: “HSBC (some internships in Asia)”

  17. Hey Brian

    I always appreciate your very timely pieces, but this one starts with massive misinformation: HSBC HAS NOT CANCELLED THEIR INTERNSHIP! I have one with them in London this summer and they sent emails reassuring interns that one way or the other we will do something, and that they will do what the rest of the industry does. Unless this is some insider information which you have, in which case I doubt you would publicize it this easily, please correct this part. Thank you!

    1. They did cancel some internships in Asia, but I will correct that.

  18. Thanks for the timely article! How about consulting? Do you think demand for post-crisis strategy or organisational changes will come back before deal activities?

    1. Possibly, yes. But companies will also be reluctant to spend money on outside consultants unless the companies are about to die. So, restructuring/turnaround consulting, maybe, but strategy/HR/other areas, maybe not so much.

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