Wall Street investment banking interns have notoriously tough jobs. The hours are long and the work is gruelling and uninspiring.
Their counterparts in the sales and trading divisions of Wall Street banks aren’t much better off.
They don’t have to pull all-nighters working on live deals like their counterparts in banking, and they’re less likely to be asked to work over a weekend.
They do face another set of challenges, however, ranging from finding time to go to the restroom to dealing with higher-ups who see being mean to the intern as a ‘rite of passage.’
‘We can’t even go to the restroom’
One sales and trading intern at a bulge bracket bank told us she gets in at 6:30 am every day and leaves anywhere between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. She still works long days, but the hours are less than they would be if she were interning in investment banking.
The real difference between S&T and investment banking, that intern said, is that “you’re constantly in your seat, glued to your monitors with the market. You can’t miss a single thing — you can’t miss a single call, you can’t miss a single trade, you can’t even go to the restroom.”
She said she’s exhausted by the end of each day, and barely has time to shower before falling asleep and waking up at 5 again the next morning.
Other desks start even earlier.
One intern told us that a typical day on a trading desk at his bank begins at 5:30 am, when interns begin putting together a market update for their team.
“When you’re in the office, you’re actually working,” said the intern. “You’re not sitting around twiddling your thumbs.”
‘You’re just the annoying intern’
The S&T internship is more like an apprenticeship than an internship, according to the first intern.
“You’re just sort of being the annoying intern, tapping people on the shoulder and being like, ‘Hey, can you explain what’s going on? What is this, what do you do?'”
Her days are spent watching the traders, looking at their screens, listening to their conversations, jotting down notes and looking up the lingo they use, before coming back with more questions.
“The first couple weeks on the desk, it’s really traumatising,” she said. “People aren’t going to actively turn away from their monitors and be like, ‘Hi, you’re the new intern, nice to meet you.'”
That means you need to be confident — confident enough to approach a high-level manager and ask to shadow them while they’re busy.
“It’s all about interpersonal skills in sales and trading” said the second intern.
A rite of passage
How are the other people on the team?
“You get a range,” the first intern said. “Some people are very friendly, like, ‘I was an intern not too long ago, I know how scary it was.'”
Others seem to choose to be mean, almost like a “rite of passage.”
It’s even worse when the markets get volatile, like when Greece was on the verge of bankruptcy earlier this summer, or when the Chinese stock market really started to wobble.
“People get really mad,” she said. “They shout and they swear.”
She said most traders eat at their desks, and the place can get pretty messy throughout the day.
Sales and trading interns tend to shadow anyone who is free. Sometimes that means a first- or second-year analyst, sometimes that means a vice president. Occasionally, it even means a managing director.
“The MDs generally are a lot nicer, and they’re not so much in the weeds of things, so they can give you like a top-level, macro outlook,” the first intern said.
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