I entered the second rat race of my life in August last year, sitting in Malaysia, while interviewing for a consulting firm, only to realise that Skype calls were not made for a case interview. Amidst filling IAFs and refreshing the internship blog, one starts questioning how a PoR or a piece of paper can determine their skill set. Then some random guy puts everyone in silence by asking, “Do you have a better metric?”
Hey there! I am a fourth year undergraduate pursuing Civil Engineering. This summer, I interned with the Corporate Finance team at Standard Chartered, India’s largest international bank. Here are a few words about my experience, the selection process, work and takeaways from the internship.
Like many of us, I was inclined towards non-core from my second semester. I started exploring analytics and consulting, took a course on ML, did an operations internship and concluded that I did not want to write code for life. I was introduced to finance via some MOOCs during my 2nd year and actually started liking it when I took the course on Accounting and Finance offered by SOM, in my fifth semester. The course covers basic concepts of corporate finance and accounting, something I would highly recommend to someone looking forward to explore the field.
There are very few companies that offer a finance profile during internships in our institute (at least via PT cell). Most companies expect a coding background while offering analyst roles, mostly in the Risk Department. If you’re looking for finance without coding involved, the number of companies are really less (I think only SCB offered the profile this year)
SCB – Getting there
Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) is a British multinational bank operating in over 70 countries. The bank usually hires interns pursuing their MBA but it decided to change the procedure and hire undergraduates for the first time in India, starting with IITB and DU.
The IAF opened in September (pretty late, since they were unaware of the institute timeline for internships). This was followed by 5 rounds (with shortlisting at each stage) – psychometric, aptitude, logical reasoning tests, an online video interview, and a final campus interview. The interview was HR-based and knowledge of finance was not expected as such. There were around 7 profiles of which I was interested in Corporate Finance.
The whole process was unusually stretched over 2 months and the results were declared in November end, marking the end of the frustrating internship season. A total of 5 interns were hired for 3 profiles. Never did I know that those 2 months as a Corporate Finance Intern were going to be one of the best learning experiences that I’ll have.
Corporate Finance and Investment Banking
Investment banking is a specialised branch of corporate finance which helps companies issue equity and debt securities in order to raise capital or facilitate M&A transactions. Essentially, investment banks serve as middlemen between a company and investors/buyers.
The corporate finance department at SCB has broadly 3 parts – Leveraged & Structured Solutions (LSS), Project & Export Finance (PEF) and Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). The first two are related to lending whereas M&A is the advisory arm equivalent to investment banking. I worked with the LSS and M&A team as part of my project. The job demands long working hours which vary between 70-100 a week. People often used to come to the office or work from home on Saturdays (and even Sundays at busy times!)
Work and Culture
My work hours extended from 10 AM to an average of 10 PM depending on the workload, except for the last 2 weeks when I had to wait post-midnight to finish my project. It seemed a lot in the start, but after I started working, I developed interest and the time didn’t seem like a big deal. Giving ownership to an intern in an ongoing deal was almost impossible due to privacy issues and the short period of my internship. Therefore, I assisted the team in their deals alongside the internship project I was given. Since I only had a basic idea about finance, I had to learn concepts on the go using online resources like Investopedia and apply them simultaneously in my work.
The first week was more of learning than application. My project was about selecting a company based on certain criteria and then pitching it to a possible private equity buyer, after conducting a valuation and an acquisition debt analysis for the company. Valuation is an important process used to determine the economic value of a company. Using the value I got, I determined the maximum debt (in the form of a loan issued by SCB) that could be given to our buyer in order to acquire the target company.
I spent more than half of my time in doing work other than my project, i.e. in assisting the team in their ongoing deals. The work included valuation, collating financials of some public and private companies, creating company profiles, market and industry research, which not only contributed a lot to my learning but also helped me know my teammates better. The internship concluded with a presentation which included my pitch and a few slides about the work I had done in the past 8 weeks.
The culture at SCB is one of the most welcoming things you will find. Every intern was assigned a mentor and buddy apart from the line manager to whom we had to report to. The team used to take out time from their busy schedule to clear my doubts. Fridays came with outings to blow off some steam. The bank also has a coveted International Graduate (IG) Programme in place for interns who perform well (equivalent to a PPO). It promises to provide international exposure and a great opportunity to work in different departments of the bank.
If I had to summarise what I learnt into one statement, it would be – “Keep Exploring”. The internship process like every other process is not (or rather cannot be) foolproof. It is really important to know what interests you and there is no better method to know it, other than getting your hands dirty and experiencing it. Courses, both online and in the institute, competitions, institute clubs, projects and experienced alumni/seniors can be really helpful to get you started in the non-core sector. Go for it!