Skip links

Introduction

We would like to clarify that whilst working in finance has a strong stigma attached to it, the reality is very different to that. The first thing many think when bankers are mentioned is The Wolf of Wall-Street or The Big Short. This is far removed from what normal, day to day finance is like. Nevertheless, the financial industry remains an extremely attractive and dynamic sector.

It is frequent to hear from Imperial students that they want to work in Finance. But what does it actually mean?

Finance firms all tie back to the same concept in one way or another: Cash kept under a mattress is worth less every day (inflation). Finance puts this stagnant money to use for profit. Be it paying your house upfront in return for a mortgage, covering your credit card/overdraft, funding a new highway or extending money for Intel to afford the R&D into a faster microprocessor. Putting money to use makes the world work. Little of today’s development and innovation would be possible without it. The intention of the Banking industry is to create value in this world. However, a few bad actors have in the past ruined the show for the rest by leaving a bitter taste in the public’s mouth.

“Working in finance” really is an umbrella term. The financial industry encompasses a wide variety of sub-sectors and firms with very different activities and businesses all of which will be explained in the following sections. Most of these divisions have very little in common other from the facts that they attract some of the brightest minds and that they offer some of the world’s highest salaries.

Working with intelligent people on world changing projects and getting paid significant amounts of money sounds like a dream to most. Needless to say, it comes with tradeoffs. To start off, it is relatively difficult to “Break into Finance” in the first place and it requires a lot of preparation along with a serious, corporate mindset. Secondly, hours can be grueling and the a managing a life outside of work challenging. In prestigious front office roles expect north of 80 hours per week on average and up to 110 hours during peak workloads.

Types of Financial Services

This section serves as an introduction to the different categories of financial institutions that exist. It is essential you explore all your options and decide which interests you most and suits your personality the best. We want to help you understand that Finance is a lot more than investment banking. There is a place for everyone.

Central Banks

A central bank is an independent national authority that conducts monetary policy, regulates banks, and provides financial services including economic research. Its goals are to stabilize the nation’s currency, limit unemployment, and keep inflation in check.

Firms hiring Imperial grads include: BoE (Bank of England), ECB (European Central Bank), Your Home Countries Central Bank f.ex. Deutsche Bundesbank

Retail & Commercial Banking:

Retail banking, also known as consumer banking, is the typical mass-market banking in which individual customers use local branches of larger commercial banks. The industry aims to be the one-stop-shop for as many financial services as possible on behalf of individual retail clients. Consumers expect a range of basic services from retail banks, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, personal loans, lines of credit, mortgages, debit cards, credit cards, and CDs.

Commercial Banking offer products similar to retail, but tailored to large corporations. These include Merchant services, trade services, corporate loans, retirement products etc. Usually banks offer both retail and commercial banking.

Firms hiring from Imperial include: HSBC, Lloyds, Santander …

Challenger & Internet Banking

Challenger banks aim to offer similar product pallets to their established retail competitors while undercutting them in price by reducing overhead through internet-only banking.

A start-up environment with large focus on automation and technological innovation.

Firms hiring from Imperial include: Monzo, N24, TSB …

Insurance Firms

Insurance Firms provide coverage, in the form of compensation resulting from loss, damages, injury, treatment or hardship in exchange for premium payments.

Insurance companies base their business models around assuming and diversifying risk. The essential insurance model involves pooling risk from individual payers and redistributing it across a larger portfolio. Most insurance companies generate revenue in two ways: Charging premiums in exchange for insurance coverage, then reinvesting those premiums into other interest-generating assets. Like all private businesses, insurance companies try to market effectively and minimize administrative costs.

Firms hiring from Imperial include: AIA, AXA, Allianz, China Life Insurance …

Trading Firms

Brokers

A brokerage is a firm that charges a fee or commission for executing buy and sell orders on the exchange on behalf of an investor. When buying securities for personal investment, you likely do so through your personal brokerage account or trading platform. These can be packaged with extra consulting services, or simply a flat fee for carrying out trades.

Firms hiring from Imperial include: TD, IG, etc … Most Invest. and Retail Banks Markets Div.

Market Makers

Market Makers are a more institutionalized version of a brokerage. MM’s are usually hired by the underlying securities provider (i.e. Uber hired Citadel as Market Maker for its IPO) or stock exchange to help ensure there’s enough liquidity (volume of trading) for trades to be executed seamlessly. Market makers act as wholesalers by buying and selling securities to satisfy the market—the prices they set reflect market supply and demand. Most market making activity has been automated but involve complex tech infrastructure on the backend. Certain illiquid securities continue to be traded by desk traders.

Firms hiring from Imperial include: Citadel, IMC, Jane Street, Optiver, SIG, Investment Banks

Commodities and Energy Traders

Commodity traders focus on investing in physical substances like the typical oil, gold, or agricultural products, but also more exotic commodities such as cotton, wheat, corn, sugar, coffee, cattle, pork bellies, lumber, silver, and minerals. Most products you use on a daily basis once had its raw materials passed through the hands of a commodity trader. Most large firms are also liquidity providers i.e. mining the commodity then trading it

Energy Traders act much like Commodities Traders but have a sole focus on the energy sector. Commodities range from oil and gas to kWh of grid electricity on the UK wholesale electricity market.

Firms hiring from Imperial include:  Vitol, Glencore, Cargill… BB Investment Banks, Oil and Gas i.e. Shell, BP …

Proprietary Traders

Proprietary trading is an activity carried out by firms or individuals by investing directly in the market rather than earning commission (as discussed above). Prop Traders either trade with the firm’s capital or with their own assets

Many of you likely feel a mystique around trading, having watched movies depicting traders making millions by taking risky positions in the markets. This is far from today’s trading reality. Capital markets are automated, heavily regulated and firms are more risk averse than before following catastrophic events in 2008. Algorithmic (Quantitative) has made markets highly efficient by picking up on mispricing and profiting from spreads in microseconds. The odds of a human ‘proprietary’ trader’s success are ever shrinking. IB’s such as Deutsche Bank have recently shut down these operations for their significant loss making. For short term trading, think of markets as a zero-sum game. Simplified: Every pound you ‘win’ was a ‘loss’ for someone else. There are 3 ways to win in this market: “Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.” – M.C. Traders spend a lot of time thinking of how to outperform their competitors. It is a fascinating field that continues to demand the brightest minds for search of innovation to be the smartest and fastest while remaining compliant with regulations.

If you are considering day trading with your own capital, keep in mind this is highly risky and WILL lead to financial loss IF you don’t know what you are doing. Do not put any money in the market you cannot afford to live without, and keep in mind that trading on margin/leverage will amplify these losses for you drastically.

There are firms that will offer trading “internships” that cost money. We are in no position to disqualify such companies, but please ensure you are not being lured into a scam by someone trying to make some quick money off an unknowing teenager.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: Jane Street, Mako Trading… Investment Banks

Financial Management

Asset Management

AM’s manage assets on behalf of others. They are usually in charge of large pools of money i.e. a nation’s pension fund, a university’s endowment, mutual funds (people contributing their savings) … Active Managers fully carry out the research, selection and management of the fund’s assets, putting money to good use and earning a return. Active Managers are often benchmarked to market indices to gauge performance. A more recent phenomenon are passive funds, namely Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), that aim to cut down on management cost of active management by implementing a simple but diversified strategy i.e. invest in the US 500 largest public companies (S&P 500) theoretically returning larger profits to the investor.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street… Investment Banks

Hedge Funds

A hedge fund is a type of asset management firm, albeit one that is often privately owned, relatively unregulated, and open to only qualified investors (i.e. HNIs that can deal with the risk appetite of HFs). HFs are comparatively unregulated and exclusive. Hedge Funds are Asset Manager that charge clients larger fees for taking bigger risks with their money. The ‘hedge’ in the name has little to do with today’s HF strategies.

Wealth Management

Wealth management is an investment advisory service that combines other financial services to address the needs of affluent (HNI) clients. It is a consultative process whereby the advisor gleans information about the client’s wants and tailors a bespoke strategy utilizing appropriate financial products and services. A wealth management advisor or wealth manager is a type of financial advisor who utilizes the spectrum of financial disciplines available, such as financial and investment advice, legal or estate planning, accounting, and tax services, and retirement planning, to manage an affluent client’s wealth for one set fee. A lot of time is spent on relationship management, maintaining connections to clients.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: Coutts, GAM, Aberdeen Standard Investments… Most Retail Banks

Private Equity

A private equity (PE) firm is an investment management firm that invest in private firms (not listed on a public stock exchange). Private equity firms either hold the company or actively get involved in improving operations to add value to eventually sell it off at a profit. This is the most exclusive finance sector. Most jobs only become available after IBD experience at a top BB firm. Consultants from the likes of McKinsey also have a chance.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: KKR, Carlyle, Blackstone, TPG, Permira, Bain …

Venture Capital

Venture capital (VC) is a type of private equity specifically focusing on small, early-stage, emerging firms that are deemed to have high growth potential, or which have demonstrated high growth (in terms of number of employees, annual revenue, or both). Venture capital firms or funds invest in these early-stage companies in exchange for equity in the companies they invest in. Venture capitalists take on the risk of financing risky start-ups in the hopes that some of the firms they support will become successful. The start-ups are usually based on an innovative technology or business model and they are usually from the high technology industries, such as information technology (IT), clean technology or biotechnology.

The typical venture capital investment occurs after an initial “seed funding” round. The first round of institutional venture capital to fund growth is called the Series A round. Venture capitalists provide this financing in the interest of generating a return through an eventual “exit” event, such as the company selling shares to the public for the first time in an initial public offering (IPO) or doing a merger and acquisition (also known as a “trade sale”) of the company. Alternatively, an exit may come about via the private equity secondary market.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: VC firms tend to be very small and therefore do not offer internships publicly. You are best off doing your own research and emailing the firm directly through contact email or finding a recruiter through LinkedIn.

Data Providers & Stock Exchanges:

Investors need the latest information in order to stay current with the markets. This data is valuable and can be highly time critical, demanding well-engineered data infrastructure and high degrees of automation. Stock exchanges face the same situation.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: Bloomberg, Morningstar, Reuters … London Stock Exchange

Financial Consulting Firms

Financial consultants provide internally-focused financial advice to corporations. This allows firms to sell advice without their own ‘skin in the game’. A financial consultant helps a business increase shareholder value and improve capital efficiency. These consultants support the corporate finance division of a business.  Firms often focus on a specific area of expertise incl. turnaround, M&A etc.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include: AlixPartners, Alvarez and Marsal, FTI … Most Management Consultancies i.e. McKinsey, BCG, Bain … Most Professional Service Firms i.e. PwC, KPMG, EY, Delloite …

Investment Banks

Last but not least, IBs. An investment bank is a financial intermediary that performs a variety of services discussed above, mainly trading. Furthermore, there are Investment Banking specific tasks:

The transactions include:

  • Merger: the combination of two or more business entities in which only one entity remains. (Company X + Company Y = Company X)
  • Consolidation: a combination of more than one business entity where an entirely new entity is created. (Company X + Company Y = Company Z)
  • Acquisition: the purchase of a business entity, entities, or an asset or assets. The acquisition is different from a merger since the acquiring company is typically much larger than the target.
  • Divesture: the sale of an interest of a business entity or an asset or group of assets.
  • Leveraged Buyout (LBO): an acquisition of a company using a significant amount of debt to meet the cost of the acquisition.

During these deals, Analysts will generate models that financially describe the deal, attempting to predict the outcome based on financial principles.

Firms hiring from Imperial Include:

Bulge Bracket: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citi, BAML …

Boutique: Evercore, Lazard, Rothschild, Greenhill …

Finance Jobs

Banks’ divisions are classified into three main categories: front office, middle office and back office:

Front Office: jobs that have direct client contact i.e  Investment Banking, Markets, Asset Management

Middle Office: jobs involved in supporting the people interacting with clients i.e. Risk Management, Compliance, Finance

Back Office: jobs that have functions behind the scenes that make the firm work  i.e. Operations, Technology, Human Resources

The specific jobs that belong to all three are fully explored in the following sections.

Front Office

As explored in the previous section, there are important distinctions among financial institutions. Among these categories, the largest distinctions appear in front office roles f.ex. a central bank and prop trading desk might face very different clients, yet they both need a solid database infrastructure to store their information.

We have analyzed the most common front office roles:

Investment Banking

Investment banking is a division within the investment bank itself. It is further divided into three main areas: Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), Capital Markets and Coverage.

M&A

Mergers and Acquisitions is the most popular group since it is model intensive, a skill junior bankers must develop to succeed in the industry. The objective of M&A is to advise clients on the potential merger or acquisition of another asset or corporate entity. The analyst is responsible for modeling the financial impacts of the transaction in addition to drafting memoranda, setting up conference calls and other tasks.

Capital Markets

Capital Markets is typically divided into Equity, Debt and Coverage. Each of these groups has the objective of raising capital or trading securities for a client. In these groups the analyst would be responsible for populating the presentation slides including data mining, market research and some modeling; this however not as intensive as M&A.

Equity capital Markets (ECMs)

The main activities of equity capital markets include:

  • IPO: an initial public offering is an operation where the ECM team helps a company issue shares traded the stock exchange.
  • Private Placement: the ECM team helps a company issue equity not traded in an exchange to a buyer or alternatively when shares are sold by an investor to a private entity.
  • Follow-on offering: the ECM team helps a company that has already previously issued stocks further issues new shares to raise further capital. This therefore dilutes existing shares as it means existing shareholders now own a smaller percentage of the company
Debt Capital Markets (DCMs)

A market where companies or governments raise funds through debt securities such as bonds or credit default swaps. Bonds are classified into two categories: investment grade and high yield depending on the score provided by the major three rating agencies: S&P, Fitch and Moody’s. The team dealing with high yield or “junk” bonds is known as leveraged finance. There is less emphasis on financial modeling and more on debt sizing, refunding and assumptive applications.

Coverage

This investment banking department is divided into industry groups: technology media and telecoms, industrials and retail. The objective of coverage groups is to contact clients in the particular industry of expertise and sell products to drive growth in the client business. The coverage team is in close contact with product team. For example, if a client intends to raise equity, the coverage team would collaborate with the equity capital markets team to further the potential of the transaction.

Markets

Sales and Trading (S&T)

This group consists of salespeople and traders. The former calls institutional investors with ideas and opportunities while the latter executes orders requested by clients. The trader communicates the bid price (the price at which the trader buys the security) and offer price (the price at which the trader sells the security).

Structuring & Origination

Making of complex financial products packages with derivatives or alternative investments. For example, the structuring division may assist a client to hedge against risk with a put or call option.

Research

Fundamental analyses on sectors and companies to make well-informed investment and strategic decisions, bringing clarity to complex situations.

Middle Office

Risk Management

In the course of their operation, banks are continuously affected by different sources of risk that must be identified and carefully evaluated for the success of the business. For this reason, banks have a very structured risk management system. Specific functions include:

  • Liquidity Risk: is the risk of potential occurrence of adverse effects on the bank’s financial result due to the bank’s inability to raise new funds (funding liquidity risk) or aggravated conversion of property into liquid assets due to market disruption (market liquidity risk).
  • Credit Risk: is the risk of potential occurrence of adverse effects on the bank’s financial result and capital due to debtor’s default to meet its obligations to the bank.
  • Interest Rate Risk: is the risk of possible occurrence of adverse effects on the bank’s financial result and capital on account of banking book items caused by changes in interest rates.
  • Financial Crime Risk: is the risk associated with enabling criminal activities unknowingly. This is most common in retail banks that must prevent money laundering, tax evasion and allowing the funding of criminal and terrorist activities.
  • Operational Risk:  is the risk of possible adverse effects on the bank’s financial result and capital caused by omissions (unintentional and intentional) in employees’ work.

Compliance

The Compliance division operates across the firm and develops solutions that balance regulatory requirements and the firm’s business needs. Advice is given on the impact of existing and future regulatory requirements, as well as independent input on new business strategies, product lines, policies and education, operation processes, risk mitigation and control.

Finance

The Finance Division contributes to the firm by partnering with each of the firm’s businesses to understand and manage risks, measure profitability, and create solutions through quantitative analysis, projecting and forecasting. There two main areas within Finance:

  • Treasury & Bank Finance: optimization of financial resources deployment and management of the firm’s liquidity, funding and capital.
  • Controllers & Tax / Accounting: responsible for the financial reporting, P&L and profitability of the bank’s complex financial products, working in close collaboration with Compliance to follow the most rigorous standards of US GAAP and IFRS.

Back Office

Operations

Operations partners with all areas of the firm to deliver banking, sales and trading, and asset management capabilities to all clients. Areas of Operations include:

  • Capital Market Operations: with the prime objective of providing excellent client service this team supports the life cycle of a trade by partnering with clients and other divisions.
  • Engineering Operations: through engineering know-how technical challenges in operations are solved.
  • Design Operations: execution of change programs to drive efficiencies and generate new business opportunities.

Technology / Engineering

Developing systems, leading-edge tools and software facilitating the bank operations and creating value. This division is becoming so important that it is considered front office by several banks. It includes:

  • Software Engineering: designing and implementing high-quality, scalable and smart solutions.
  • Quantitative Financial Modeling (Quant): Can belong to either the Risk or Technology team. Quants apply mathematical models to find trends in markets to engineer real-life solutions of complex problems.
  • Infrastructure Engineering: data center design, networks, storage, cloud computing, big data and application messaging.
  • Cyber Security: Prevent and respond to threat intelligence and incidents. 

Human Resources (HR)

Human Resources division has the great responsibility of hiring and supporting employees throughout their career providing them continuous learning and progression opportunities. The main areas of focus are:

  • Recruiting: Help identify and attract the best people to the firm, from college campuses to experienced professionals.
  • Diversity: Serve as advisors to leaders across the firm in helping them build and promote an inclusive work environment.

Talent & Leadership Development: Create and implement leadership programs and management training to help managers develop and grow throughout their career

Corporate Sturcture

Large financial services and investment firms typically have a clear corporate structure, although in smaller firms like boutique investment banks or smaller funds the structure is much less clearly defined. Knowing such, it is beneficial to understand the common progression paths that your career in finance entails.

As a fresh graduate, most likely you will be placed in an industry group or special team (e.g. M&A or LBO groups) as an Analyst. The Analyst is the most junior role in investment banks and in many other financial institutions, and you will be expected to perform most of the grueling and often times repetitive work on projects, making models, doing research, etc. In some cases, Analysts would also be given more responsibilities and have the opportunity to meet clients and present stock pitches in buy side firms.

After 2-4 years, most Analysts would have received a promotion to the Associate position. Although some firms split this position between Associate and Senior Associate, your main role would remain relatively similar. As an Associate, your job is now to lead the financial modeling and gathering of information in an industry or specialized group. From your experience as an Analyst, you now have the responsibility to guide new Analysts through the modeling and research process. As an Associate, you will also be given more responsibilities in dealing with clients.

In many financial sectors, to break into the Vice President position from an Associate is very difficult. Many are offered to take an MBA whereas others look to new opportunities elsewhere. As a Vice President, you will now be expected to lead projects and start to develop more client facing skills, as progressing further may require the work of personally bringing in clients, investors or deals depending on what sector you are working in. Though you will still be involved in projects and individual deals, your day to day involvement in the due diligence (e.g. modeling) will be significantly reduced. As Vice President, however, you will be responsible for the quality of work in the projects, as your role likely involves leading the Associates and Analysts on your team.

Finally, after Vice President, the final select few who have weathered the path will reach the levels of Non-Executive Director, Executive Director and finally Managing Director, in that order. You will be responsible for whole industry, geography or specialty groups, and will likely have a part in the overall assignment of deals and research/projects to the teams that you head. At financial advisory firms you will also be responsible for garnering a large portion of the deal flow, finding new clients and keeping good relations with old ones. In buy side firms, you will likely have some responsibility in the actual makeup of your fund’s portfolio, although this role is often replaced by the role of Portfolio Manager (PM).

Please note there is a key distinction between senior roles (i.e. Directors) and management of a firm (i.e. CEO, CFO, etc.). While Directors are responsible for manage the day to day operations of their specific function in the firm, the management of a firm presides over the running of the entire firm as a whole, factoring in concerns like cost, HR, risk, etc.

Throughout this process, the timeframe for someone to progress after the Associate level may vary widely by individual and by firm. However, at every level there are often exit opportunities for you to switch to another financial sector which many also help you progress faster. One notable example of this is the jump to private equity from Investment Banking Analysts.

Breaking into UK Finance

The Application Process

Click on CV to Download Finsoc CV Template

Cover Letter

The Cover letter is often required as part of an application with your CV. It is not always compulsory and can be in the format of a short email showcasing your interests with your CV attached. However, a good cover letter is the key to express your enthusiasm for the job or the company that you are applying to, and often the key factor in scoring the interview.

CV is made up of the facts while cover letter can be more tailored for specific jobs or companies demonstrating why you are motivated to apply for the company or division and how your skills and passion is a good match for the company.

Summary of tips:

  • Maximum 1-page long
  • Use a professional layout and appropriate font and size
  • Address to a person if possible
  • End with yours faithfully if addressed to Sir/Madam or your sincerely if addressed to a person
  • Even if the cover letter is not compulsory, it is highly recommended to add it. To get to the interview stage, every effort sets you apart.
  • For front office jobs, it is often essential to mention the Annual Report of the Firm
  • Read up on the firms performance on http://advantage.marketline.com (free on Imperial Wifi)

There can be various structures to use in a cover letter. The following is a recommended approach to compose a general cover letter. When applying to different firms, the general framework can be adjusted to each specific application.

The idea: Intro + You (Introduction and explaining why this firm/role/position is one you want to work for), Me (Justify why your personality/skillset makes you qualified), Us + Conclusion (Conclude by explaining what you can do for the firm)

  1. Start with stating the role you are applying for, how you learnt about the opportunity and briefly introducing your degree and stage of study. Here you could insert a sentence about an interaction you had with the company such as a networking event
  2. Second paragraph: why you want to do this specific job at this company. This is all about your motivation
  • how you developed interests in this sector/division
  • mention knowing someone from the firm in person and how they inspired you to apply
  • mention a company presentation that you attended or a networking event where the company was present
  • research the company in details, dig up their website and recent news, explain how their values echo yours, how you are particularly impressed by one of their recent deals or a strategic decision, why the charity work or diversity events they have done is important to you, etc.
  1. Third paragraph: how your skills fit in this role
    • Demonstrate relevant skills that you have developed from extracurricular activities, previous internships, part-time job, charity work, etc.
  1. Fourth paragraph: Conclusion
    • Recap what you being at the company could bring and reinforce the key points mentioned in the cover letter and conclude logically

Example Cover Letters:

Cover Letter Spring Week:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a first year XYZ student at Imperial College London, graduating in 2021.

Joining XYZ for 2019’s Spring Insight Program would be a privilege, providing an invaluable opportunity to apply my skills in a different environment and to initiate a career in Finance.

During the Program at XYZ I would briefly experience life at one of the world’s top financial

institutions, meeting and interacting with the industry’s top talent. As a hard-working individual, I value XYZ’s high professional standards and its demanding, fast-paced environment. I would prefer to join the Investment Banking division for this program

because of the breadth of exposure, I would have to various client services, such as

financing or advisory.

The financial services industry is undergoing a massive change, with an increasing

number of banks using technology and Big Data to improve their processes and to help

them make better decisions. I believe my engineering background and problem-solving

skills would be valuable in this context, maybe bringing a different perspective to financial problems.

I thrive in challenging environments and am able to deliver under pressure, such as at

Imperial College. At my internship in XYZ, I worked as a XYZ, researching and analyzing XYZ competitors and evaluating several dimensions of the market for XYZ. My knowledge of several languages (XYZ), would also be valuable in XYZ, a culturally diverse company that operates on a global scope.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

XYZ

Online Assessments

When application is received and you will be asked to complete some online tests in order to be proceed to the next step of the recruitment process.

Situational Judgement

You will be given some scenarios that you could come across when working at the company, and it is designed to measure your capability of solving the dilemma by choosing the best solution in your mind.

Strategy

  1. Practice situational judgement tests using online resources.
  2. Review the answers to the practice questions and study the solution.
  3. Know the company, the role, and read the job description carefully.
  4. Do not overthink your answers and keep your answers congruent.

Practice Sources

https://www.assessmentday.co.uk › situational-judgement-test

Verbal Reasoning

It is a form of psychometric aptitude testing that measures your English language skills, overall intelligence, judgement and business acumen. You are usually provided with a passage of information and required to evaluate a set of statements by selecting True, False or Cannot say.

Strategy

  1. Read the statement 2-3 times before selecting the answer.
  2. Stay calm and manage your time carefully.
  3. Make no assumptions and select choices based on the information given in the passage only.
  4. If stuck try to start at the end of the sentence and analyze the logic.

Practice Sources

https://www.jobtestprep.co.uk

Numerical

They are usually multiple-choice and timed. It is designed to measure how well you can interpret and manipulate mathematical data. Basic math skills involved: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages and ratios.

Strategy

  1. Find out who your test provider will be and use online resources to practice.
  2. Manage your time and read the questions carefully.
  3. Take your own calculator, notepad and pencils to help you do the calculations.
  4. Mute Phone and Laptop and work in a quiet place such as the library to avoid distraction
  5. Ensure you keep an eye on the time. If there is no negative marking (or accuracy marks) save time to click random answers at the end to maximize points

Practice Sources

https://www.wikijob.co.uk https://www.jobtestprep.co.uk

Video Interview (HireVue)

It is a pre-recorded video interview includes 3-5 questions with 30 seconds to prepare a response, and up to 2 minutes to answer. The questions will be designed by the company you applied to and based on the division and the role.

Strategy

  1. Find a quiet place free from possible interruptions.
  2. Ensure your internet connection is stable and test your computer’s webcam and microphone.
  3. Dress professionally and speak clearly.

Practice Sources

www.hirevue.com

Coding Test (Hacker Rank)

It is test designed to measure your programming skills in which you can choose the language you want to use and provide solutions to a few coding challenges.

Strategy

  1. Read the instruction carefully.
  2. Sketch out a plan and manage time wisely.
  3. Focus on the test input and the functionality at first, and then modify it to handle edge cases.
  4. Make your code is readable and logical. This will help you better understand what went wrong.

Practice Sources

www.hackerrank.com

Interview (Phone/In Person)

After passing the benchmark of the online tests, you will be invited to the first-round interview, and it is usually a telephone interview.

It is a chat with either the HR or people who work in the division you are applying for about 15-30 minutes.

Introduction:

You will be asked to summarize who you are and your experiences.

  • Basic information about you: university, subject, interest
  • Talk through your resume: key experience you had
  • Company, role and division focused questions: why this company, why this division 

Key Competencies:

Next, they will check how you ‘fit’ into the firm. They want to verify you are a good person to work with. Have a list of example stories prepared you can refer to that prove:

  • Self-awareness
    • Prove you understand yourself and the role you are applying to
    • ‘Why do you choose this firm over others’, ‘Tell me why you are interested in this role and why you are a good fit for it’, ‘List and explain your biggest 3 strengths/3 weaknesses’
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
    • Prove your ability to act in difficult social situations
    • ‘time you dealt with conflict’, ‘time you made a mistake’…
  • Teamwork and leadership
    • Prove your ability to both lead and follow
    • ‘time you took the lead’, ‘times you challenged a leader’, ‘times you challenged a leader’, ‘resolving conflict during team work’
  • Business acumen, Creativity and Innovation
    • Prove your ability to be entrepreneurial and innovative
    • ‘time you solved a challenging problem’, ‘time you showed entrepreneurial know how’ …
  • Client focus (Only client focused roles)
    • Prove your ability to handle client interactions
    • ‘time you faced a client’, ‘time you handled a client complaint’ …
  • Industry Knowledge (Front office roles)
    • Prove your understanding of the industry
    • ‘tell me about a recent news headline and how it will affect the firm’, ‘What will in your opinion cause the next recession’, (S&T) ‘What is Gold/S&P 500/Crude currently valued at?’ …
  • Technical Knowledge (Technology Roles)
    • Prove your high- and low-level algorithmic thinking
    • Low Level: ‘Count the number of unique letters in a string’…
    • High Level: ‘How would the firm ensure service to customers around the world is equally responsive’ …

Top tips:

  • Use the STAR method to structure your answer and have your resume handy.
  • Be polite, listen to the interviewer carefully and do not interrupt.
  • Have a check list of common competency questions and have your answers ready in bullet points form.
  • Do your research about the company and the role you are applying to.
  • Be prepared to take notes and ask questions if you do not understand.

How to structure your answer:

  • Situation: the challenge you were facing
  • Task: the task you needed to accomplish and the purpose of it
  • Actions: what have you done to solve the problem, make sure to focus on ‘I’ rather than ‘We’
  • Results: what did you achieve and learn from the experience

Practice makes perfect, make sure to practice with your friends and get ready for the interview!

Asessment Centres

If you have passed the initial CV/cover letter screening, online tests, video and phone interviews, you will be invited to take part in the assessment center. This is the last stretch of the application marathon. Make it count by reading our overview of what to expect, how to prepare and our top tips.

Every firm follows a different structure, so these are just some of possible segments. Read on to find out about firm specific assessment centers.

Strength Based Interview

This interview focuses solely on your skill set, strengths and weaknesses. You will be asked about how you would feel or how you would react in a given situation. The aim of this is for the interviewer to figure out whether you would fit into the firm or even a specific team. Some interviewers will have a paper with a list of qualities and go through that, which results in a less conversational interview style. Excel in this interview segment, by having examples prepared for the most common qualities or the ones listed in the job specification. When were you a good team player? When did you show entrepreneurship?

Innovation Interview

This interview is all about letting your creative side shine through. Unlike the strength-based interview, this is less predictable. Questions that can get asked, are of the sort: “If you were to create an app, what would it be?”. Apart from the initial questions, the direction of the interview will depend solely on the flow of the conversation. Our suggestion is to link your idea to previous projects you have worked on and how they relate to your creative solution. This could lead the conversation into familiar territories.

Technical Interview

The technical interview can test your numerical and problem-solving skills or financial knowledge. While you cannot prepare specific answers, practicing common interview problem-solving questions, will not only keep your worries at bay, but teach you the thought process involved in solving these. With problem-based questions, our top tip is just to think out loud during the interview. While this monologue might initially seem awkward, it will help the interviewer see your flow of thought. This can greatly work to your advantage, even if you don’t come up with the correct answer. Lots of candidates have been successful during the technical interview, even when they didn’t have the right answer!

To give you a flavour of what to expect, these are some example questions:

  • Approximate how many cities there are in France
  • Approximate how many airplanes are in the sky at any moment in time
  • You have a 3L, 5L and 8L measuring cylinder, with no measurements on it. How do you measure out 4L?
  • What is a bond?
  • What is the current share price of the firm you are interviewing for?

Regardless of what interview type you are faced with, whether its innovation, strength based or technical, you are likely to get questions about yourself at the start. Know your story well and as a STEM student from Imperial, be prepared to explain your transition into finance. Make sure to be up to date with recent events and it is always a good idea to have one market topic you are particularly familiar with. When they ask you what you have been following recently, you will have the perfect pre-prepared answer with memorized numbers.

Group Exerciese

The exact setting is very firm dependent, but as an example, during Morgan Stanley’s Sales and Trading assessment center, you are put in a group of four to present in front of two examiners. You are set with a scenario and have a set amount of time to prepare a presentation of the solution. An example of a problem you could be set with: “There is a chance of the Earth being hit by a devastating asteroid. Do you suggest moving to another planet or moving life underwater?”

Note that the examiners will be present during your discussion and preparation, so make sure to equally shine during this phase as with the actual presentation. Our suggestion for how to do this is to come across as the natural team leader. Don’t dominate the discussion, instead go out of your way to involve the quieter members into the discussion. You can lead by suggesting possibilities of splitting up the presentation and then offering to take the unwanted section.

Be prepared for a bomb shell mid-way through the presentation! The interviewers will be examining how you handle this change of scenario.

Numerical Test

This should be a familiar application segment, bearing resemblance to the initial numerical test you took at the start. This time around you will be doing the test on paper rather than on a computer screen and with other candidates in the room. However, you prepared for your first test, do the same this time around. Clearly it worked, because it brought you to the assessment center! For more information, read the “Online Tests” section of this guide.

Case Study Presentation

Unlike most other parts of the assessment center, you can prepare well for a case study. You will be given information at least a week prior and you will have to prepare a presentation on the back of that. At times, this segment may involve role playing, so be ready for it to result in a meeting style scenario, rather than just a presentation. Focus on knowing the topic well, not just memorizing a great presentation.

Just like with the group exercise, get ready to be hit with information that will change the whole scenario. This is when it will come to your advantage, if you did more than just memorizing a text.

Speed Networking Session

During your assessment center, you might be put in a room with employees and given a set amount of time to sell yourself and get to know them.

The feedback we have received is just to be easy-going and likeable. You will have shown off your technical abilities in other interviews, so this is where your social skills are meant to be on the forefront. The employees are simply looking at who they would want to sit next to for their 12-hour work days.

Our suggested strategy is to attend a few networking events prior to the assessment center. You can test which questions get a good reaction and get inspired by what others ask. By the time it comes to the assessment center, you will be well versed in the art of networking.

Firm Specific Assessment Centers

Morgan Stanley Sales & Trading– Strength-based interview, innovation interview, technical interview, group exercise and numerical test

Barclays Sales – Strength-based interview and technical interview put together in the form of a panel interview, case study and speed networking

Goldman Sachs Operations – Strength-based interview and technical interview in 3 panel interviews

Student Experiences

Linda (Asset Management at Barings)

Hi guys,

I’m Chenshihui (Linda) the Head of trips this year of Finance Society. Over the summer of 2019 I interned at Barings, an asset management company, in their equities investment team. It was actually their first year doing an internship program in their London office so some things weren’t as well structured but the HR really did put effort into our experience. To start with we had an introduction day with introductions to the firm and lots of compliance and legal forms to fill out due to confidentiality agreements. Then for the next two weeks we had training from Training the Street in financial modelling, accounting and valuation; as well as some Moody’s analytics teach us about corporate risk analysis. The training was really informative but because I didn’t try to apply it straight away, by the time I used it 6 weeks later I had forgotten almost all of it, so top tip is trying to consolidate your training either at home or when you start your desk job. My main project was to look at an emerging sector of industrial automation known as collaborative robotics (cobots), to scope out the investment landscape (advancement of the field, investment timeline, companies available). As I did not have prior knowledge of this sector I spent around a week just doing background reading through broker industry insights, news articles and lots of weird robotics Youtube Videos. My research was first done on the pure play companies where I found some had gone bankrupt, others had been brought out in M&A deals, therefore I was forced to look at either existing industrial automation powerhouses expanding into cobots or the companies that had brought/merged with cobot companies. I think my greatest value add during my internship was attending the Universal Robot (UR) roadshow as I was able to meet the sales and engineering team and at the roadshow I was the one doing primary access that few other investors had in the space. On the same day there was coincidentally another conference for surgical robots where I sat with over 30+ surgeons part of the University of Southampton Trust to discuss a future of surgeries performed alongside assistive surgical robots like those produced by Intuitive Surgical. UR are the market leader in cobots with 60% market but had been brought out by a semiconductor testing company Teradyne, so in order to investment in Teradyne, I would have to think that their dominating revenue stream would shift from component testing to cobots, which actually in my investment thesis is what I put forward!

During the entirety of my internship despite working on my project I was allowed to meet with all the different teams in the equities floor so all the different regional splits (Emerging/Developed) as well as separate sectors (technology, industrials and healthcare) through 1 to 1 chats with the analysts or even portfolio managers of the team. The HR team were keen to get us exposure to other parts of the business so we had lunch and learns with the ESG, operations and High Yield teams. Treats and trainings was something else we did and helped us to understand more about the quant and data science teams. We also did lots of fun intern events throughout like Gin tastings, Barings summer party, mini golf at Swingers, volunteering events.

I definitely think the biggest takeaways are to network your arse off! I organized several coffee chats with divisions I was interested in like Real Estate, private equity and alternatives team which is so important as I found that the equities team was on a hiring freeze and high yield didn’t hire non-experienced individuals, so it is possible to that one of the other teams could offer me a job offer if I needed it and called in a favor. Also one thing I thought a lot about during my internship was what my value add was, and in conclusion I found that the primary research I had done through meeting companies and taking a view on their strategy and management is the most useful thing and illustrates how important relationship building is. My mentor was very impressed that I spoke to friends about my project and actually I had a friend who worked at a start-up in this space that told me of the impending competition that toned down my forecasts for Teradyne in my final presentation.

Overall my biggest advice for internships is go in with an open mind ready to learn about anything and everything whether it be about your project, people at the firm, or the culture at the firm. Whether you get an offer or not an internship is a great way to spend your summer learning and lots of the problems you encounter come in as useful examples for when you answer competency questions, also the internship helped me realize some of the things I enjoy doing and what attracts me to a career in asset management.

TSR Anon (Investment Banking)

DO always show up on time. This seems obvious, but after a year of college it can be hard to realize that even 15 minutes of lateness twice a week will be noticed by that one chap in the office, and will be brought up in the evaluation meeting.

DO take your older co-workers out for lunch. This isn’t about paying (in all likelihood they’ll pay for you), but about developing a rapport. There are guys in the cohort who I feel are almost friends by the end of the Summer, and guys who I barely know the name of. If the guys in your team remember your name, they are obviously way more likely to take you. (And for female interns who don’t want to look like they’re ‘coming on’ to a male boss, don’t worry. Doing anything remotely flirtatious with an intern is practically grounds for immediate dismissal, HR sends about 10 email reminders about this every May, and most bankers are not, in fact, arrogant macho sexual harassers, but*relatively*decent family men who will likely have no interest in you in that way.)

DO say Hi to the senior guys in the elevator. Familiarize yourself with your regional (or if you’re at HQ, global) executive team. If you bump into the CEO in the lift, which is far from impossible, SAY Hello. Often, the senior guys love hearing from people just starting out, and will be happy to share their own stories. One intern we had a few years ago began a regular email correspondence with our country head over the summer. When he joined the bank full time a couple of years later, he was invited as a junior representative to several senior committees, and rose through the ranks like a bullet.

DON’T pointlessly overwork yourself. Every year, I find interns sitting at their desks until one in the morning, browsing the news, because they think they shouldn’t leave until we go. This is bull****. Come into the office, work hard, and leave at 6 or 7, unless specifically asked not to. I have sat in a ****ton of meetings in which HR complains that they received anonymous complaints about ‘having’ to stay in the office for 20 hour days. Every time, EVERY senior banker in room sighs, because no one is encouraging it in the slightest. Junior Analysts? Sure, welcome to the land of no weekend for the next three years. But interns? HR forces us to structure all programs so that there is no potential for overworking. And no senior banker thinks worse of am intern who leaves at 7 instead of 12 in my experience. On a personal note, I tend to believe the former is more intelligent and capable, and thus a better potential hire.

DON’T  be a super-competitive jerk. Every year I have to suffer the indignity of hearing intelligent 18-year old badmouth each other to management as if I’m a primary school teacher. We get it- you watched Wall Street and think you’re Gordon Gecko. Thing is, trying to step over your fellow summer interns as if this is the Hunger Games just makes you look like an *******. Be competitive, be hardworking, but let us decide who did the best job. Most banking teams are flexible. They might hire two great interns one year, but hire none the next because they are all substandard.

X
X