Why experienced bankers are being driven crazy by interns

The summer months can be a bit of a double-edged sword for full-time bankers. While they suddenly have access to a newfound source of labor in summer interns, the upside of additional bodies can sometimes be outweighed by the need to mentor and train university students who may turn out to be more of a nuisance than a help. For every good intern, there is one that often leaves bankers exasperated.

Just what in particular drives full-time bankers crazy? Some take issue with what they see as confounding personality traits; others have trouble fathoming specific behaviors that have left them scratching their head. Here’s what a group of anonymous bankers (and two hedge fund execs) had to say.

Shockingly poor effort, despite the pedigree

It goes without saying that subpar work will earn an intern a one-way ticket home. But sloppy and lazy mistakes – like issues with formatting and computational errors – are too often committed by interns with stronger skillsets who should know better. The work can sometimes be mindless and tedious for some, but part of the test is proving that you won’t treat it as such, said a Barclays associate. Far too many intelligent interns from target schools just scream ‘I don’t really give a damn’ without realizing it, he said. “Less proficient but hungrier interns can often beat out those who think they’re already capable analysts.”

They’re flirting/sleeping around

Of the 182 comments on a recent Wall Street Oasis thread on intern flubs, nearly half involved some kind of inter-office sexual escapade, or at least an attempt at one. And the behavior isn’t exclusive to huge sell-side intern classes. An anonymous New York hedge fund manager said he had to fire two interns who were caught hooking up in the bathroom. “I had another flirty intern who would walk around and give massages to staff – I had to stop that too,” he said. “She would have made out with a fire hydrant.”

Dressing to impress, not to blend in

There’s a reason most every bank intern wears a “uniform” to work. Fair or not, some bankers seem to get personally offended, or at least annoyed, when interns wear a suit, watch, cufflinks or pair of shoes that cost more than the internship pays. Interns who sport overly expensive brands can be perceived as someone who comes from money and who may not be hungry enough to do the dirty work, or at the very least someone with poor judgement, bankers say.

“Leave your Louboutins at home,” added one female hedge fund exec who previously worked on the sell-side. “And don’t wear flip flops to work in the morning, even if it’s from the elevator to your desk,” she said. “My feet hurt too. Suck it up.”

They lack awareness

“The last intern I kicked out was playing his Sony PlayStation in the office,” said the hedge fund manager. “I thought I was going to lose it. He just thought it was OK to play video games in an office.” The intern in question attended an Ivy League university and had a blue-chip resume. “I grabbed his bag and placed it outside our firm door and [told him] to get out.”

They’re looking beyond their jobs

While it’s human nature to believe you had it tougher than the current generation, most bankers very much believe this to be true when it comes to Wall Street internships, particularly if their time came before the advent of protected weekends and the like. One of the issues mentioned is the rhetoric of C-level executives who publicly preach about the benefits of interns networking across groups and getting introduced to every business line in the bank. “That’s bull****,” the VP said. “If you’re off [having coffee] while others are doing actual work, good luck.” Too many interns fail to recognize that their fate is almost always decided by the people they work with on a daily basis, not some MD who works on a different floor, he said.

They act like robots

“Likability is important. VERY important,” former Goldman Sachs banker Afzal Hussein recently posted about internships on LinkedIn. “If you don’t fit the culture of a company you won’t get an offer. When it comes to this you have to simply be yourself. Be human.”

They make plans

Most banking internships are only 10 weeks long. Outside of a funeral or wedding, interns should be available for the entire stretch, said the Barclays associate. He recalled one recent intern who missed a week-and-a-half due to a pre-planned family vacation to the Caribbean, despite pleas from employees to reconsider. No return offer was made.


Beecher Tuttle – Read more on efinancialcareers.com

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