Here you will find posts detailing helpful information on Spring and Summer applications, as well as all of the potential different areas of finance that you can apply for!
Spring Weeks vs Summer Internships
To help you start, here is some information on Spring weeks and Summer Internships:
Spring weeks (or Springs) are experiences run by banks and other financial
institutions in order to give an idea of what that firm is like, what they do, and to get
you into the pipeline towards a career with that firm. Spring weeks typically last a
week, and are aimed at First year undergraduate students - your course does not
matter, as many firms will take in students from a variety of diverse courses, from
History to Economics. Spring weeks are generally recommended for a career in
highly competitive industries, such as Investment Banking (IB), although not
absolutely necessary. Many people undertake a Spring week in aim to 'convert' it
into a Summer Internship.
Summer Internships (or Summers) are longer internships run by banks and other
financial institutions in order to provide you with on-the-job, real world tasks and
assess your abilities in the workplace. These typically range in length, from 4 weeks,
to 10 weeks, depending on the firm. Summer Internships are aimed at Penultimate
year students (i.e. 2nd year summer for 3 year course, 3rd year summer for 4 year
course), and like Spring weeks, firms will hire from a range of diverse courses.
Summer Internships are generally harder to accomplish than Spring weeks, but
they are vital if you are looking for a career in a big bank or financial institution, and
especially so if you are looking for a career in IB. A Summer Internship is generally
the first or second stage in the pipeline to a graduate scheme, and so there is a
heavy emphasis on obtaining one.
Here's a summary of the differences:
First Year Undergrad
Penultimate Year Undergrad
1 Week (usually in March or April)
Between 4 - 10 weeks in Summer (June/July to Aug/Sept)
Taster for life at the firm
Real life work that would be accomplished with a career in that firm.
Not vital but recommended for obtaining Summer Internships or Graduate Schemes
Crucial for obtaining Graduate Schemes
Can be converted into a Summer Internship.
Can be converted into a Graduate Scheme
Spring week applications tend to open in September/October and close in December/January.
Summer internship applications tend to open in August/September and close in November-January.
Many firms will have rolling deadlines, meaning they will intake a certain number of applications at specific intervals within the overall application process, so the best strategy is to apply early!
Areas of Finance
There are a multitude of areas within Finance that can be experienced, whether for a permanent, life-long career in that area, or for the sole purpose of career progression into a different area. The following will take you through some popular ones, and the costs and benefits of each;
Investment Banking (IB)
Investment banking is a form of banking primarily concerned with raising money for companies, governments, and other entities. This can be through underwriting Initial Public Offerings (IPO; aka when a private company goes public and gets listed on a stock exchange) or advising on Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A).
Generally the most popular and competitive area of banking and finance, IB is very well paid, with grads earning between £30k to £40k and the potential to earn 6 figures as you move up the firm. IB also has plenty of exit opportunities, and can be used as a stepping stone in your career to move into Private Equity (PE) or Hedge Funds (HF).
However, IB has a reputation for being long, hard hours, and it's not atypical for a grad or lower level analyst to work 14 hour days. This can lead to a lot of analysts becoming burnt out over time. However, the workload and burden tends to ease as you spend more time within the firm.
Many investment bank graduate schemes will provide you with a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification, which can be very useful in your career.
Private Equity (PE)
Private Equity describes investment partnerships that buy and manage companies before selling them. Private equity firms operate these investment funds on behalf of institutional and investors. Private equity funds may acquire public or private companies in their entirety, or invest in such buyouts as part of a consortium. They typically do not hold stakes in companies that remain listed on a stock exchange.
Private Equity is generally considered more prestigious than IB, and comes with many of the same benefits as IB, although with a higher pay ceiling.
However, this comes at the price of competitiveness, as PE firms are generally more restrictive in their hiring than banks.
Asset Management (AM)
Asset Management is a subfield of finance focused on the strategy and allocation of assets within a portfolio, in order to increase total wealth over time, generally for institutions.
Similarly to IB and PE, Asset Management is a very hands on and customer-orientated field. However, generally, AM hours are much more workable than IB, and can range from a standard 9-5 to a 7-7, depending on the firm.
However, the pay for AM is lower than that for IB and PE.
Hedge Funds (HF)
Hedge Funds are actively managed alternative investments that commonly use risky investment strategies. Hedge Fund investment is often considered a risky alternative investment choice and usually requires a high minimum investment or net worth, often targeting wealthy clients.
Careers in Hedge Funds are very highly looked upon, and are therefore highly competitive, even more so than IB and PE. The pay associated with HFs is also significant, similar to that seen in PE. There are also plenty of exit strategies.
However, job security is a big problem in Hedge Funds, and you must always stay on the top of your game. It is not unusual for firms to lay off multiple people if they are underperforming the market. Secondly, the hours are similar to that of IB and PE.
There are a broad range of other finance sub-sectors outside of the Buy and Sell sides of banking, that can still be a great move for those who want something different out of finance.
Investment consulting is a division responsible for providing investors with investment products, advice, and/or planning. Investment consultants do in-depth work on formulating investment strategies for clients, helping them fulfil their needs and reach their financial goals. Many people will work in one of the 'Big Three' or 'MBB' consulting firms - McKinsey, BCG, Bain & Company.
Consulting generally has fewer hours than that of IB, but its pay is still relatively good. Consulting is generally also less competitive than its banking counterparts, and requires greater soft skills than technical skills.
However, consulting has lower pay than that of IB, and you can still expect to work 60-70 hours a week. It can also be considerably more difficult to break into banking from consulting due to the skill gap.
Private Banking/Wealth Management
Whilst similar to Asset Management, Private Banking and Wealth Management consist of providing personalised financial services and products to high-net-worth individual (HNWI) clients of a retail bank. It includes a wide range of wealth management services, and all provided under one roof. Services include investing and portfolio management, tax services, insurance, and trust and estate planning.
The difference between Asset Management and Private Banking or Wealth Management is that Asset Managers select a portfolio for an institution, whereas Private Bankers select a portfolio for individuals, and can change and customise this portfolio to fit the client's wants and needs.
Private Banking can be a good way to get your foot into banking if you want to move into IB, PE or HF. It generally demands fewer hours than IB, PE and HF, and allows you to meet and work closely with high net worth clients.
However, the pay in Private Banking and Wealth Management is generally lower than that of IB, although some argue that the per-hour wage is likely similar due to the disparity in hours worked.
Accounting is the process of recording financial transactions pertaining to a business. The accounting process includes summarising, analysing, and reporting these transactions to oversight agencies, regulators, and tax collection entities. The financial statements used in accounting are a concise summary of financial transactions over an accounting period, summarising a company's operations, financial position, and cash flows. Many people go to work for the 'Big Four' accountancy firms - EY, PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG - in order to gain accountancy qualifications and then move into banking.
Accounting can be a good way to gain an understanding of the fundamental financial information that surrounds companies, and which are vital when used to analyse and valuate in banking. This, along with the accountancy qualification (CA - Chartered Accountant) that many Big Four firms provide within their graduate schemes, can allow you to move into banking after qualifying. Accounting is generally less competitive than banking, and you can expect to work a 9-5 the majority of the time, especially outside busy periods.
However, accountancy salaries are not substantial, especially in the first years of the graduate schemes - they can range from £22k - £30k within your first year. However, this does tend to rise quickly, and partners are known to earn 6 figures, although this can take a while. Furthermore, accounting is seen as a very tedious and boring job, especially within audit, although this is subject to personal preference.
We must note that some information may have been unintentionally excluded from these descriptions - we do not know everything about each subsection of Finance, but this should be a good general overview!