The Bulge Bracket Rush: Banks Seeking Earlier Access To Biz Undergrads

Recruiting for internships at banks is occurring earlier than ever

At the Tippie School of Business at the University of Iowa, Brian Richman has had to adjust to a bracing new reality this year. Leading bulge bracket banks, such as Goldman Sachs and others, have told Richman, director of the school’s Hawkinson Institute of Business Finance, that they are already eyeing sophomores for plum summer internship positions for 2018. Some have even told him they will interview some of the institute’s “high potential” students as early as this spring for internships that will start 14 months later, he says, a first for the school.

“We’ve certainly had sophomores interview for post-sophomore year internships, but we’ve never had a situation here where sophomores have interviewed for post junior-year internships,” Richman adds.  “It’s all part of this cycle of firms leapfrogging each other to compete for talent.”

To prepare the handful of sophomores that he anticipates will participate in these interviews toward the end of spring semester, Richman has amped up the finance work that he does with the students in his institute, getting them up to snuff on concepts that they would normally master their junior year. He’s also bringing in for the first time an outside vendor, Wall Street Prep, a financial training firm, to run model and valuation boot camps for business students.

“This accelerated timeline definitely makes it more challenging and it means students need to develop a knowledge base outside of their coursework,” he says.

PROFESSORS & CAREER SERVICES OFFICERS CHANGE UP THINGS

Wall Street banks gradually shifting the needle on the internship recruiting timeline is a trend that is playing across undergraduate business programs all over the country this spring, and one that is starting to shift the way professors and career services officers prepare students for the internship recruitment and interview process.

Gone are the halcyon days when banks used to interview juniors in the winter months for summer internships. That all changed two to three years ago, when most banks bumped up internship recruiting from the winter to the fall of students’ junior year, causing schools to cancel winter finance treks and amp up interview prep to the summer or first weeks of the semester (see Intern Recruiting Of Business Undergrads Start Earlier & Earlier).

While fall recruiting is still the norm today on most campuses for official recruiting for junior year internships, career services officers at schools like Tippie, the Kelley School of Business, the McDonough School of Business and the McIntire School of Commerce, say that the Wall Street banks are increasingly pushing to gain access to sophomores through events like information sessions, conferences they co-host on campus and brand-building events. Once they identify the most promising sophomore recruits, they may interview them for post-junior year internships off-campus, inviting them to their offices for visits and potentially interviews, say career services officers.

MIXED FEELINGS ON THE PART OF BUSINESS SCHOOL OFFICIALS

Several of the career services officers interviewed say they have mixed feelings about this new recruiting trend, but are doing their best to prepare students for it by ramping up career training, trying to accelerate finance coursework and bringing in outside vendors like Wall Street Prep and Training the Street to run boot camps.

Another popular tactic banks are using to reach promising sophomores is pre-internship diversity leadership programs, where they encourage women, minorities and others with specialized talents to come to NYC to visit the banks for a long weekend in the spring or summer, allowing the banks to get a first look at top talent.

“All the big bulge brackets banks — Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Barclays — they are all doing it,” explains Susie Clarke, director of undergraduate career services at Indiana University’s Kelley School. “Once one person jumps on the bandwagon, all their competitors start doing this. It is a race for talent.”

KELLEY MOVES UP AN EIGHT-WEEK CLASS FOR A HANDPICKED GROUP

At the Kelley School, this new reality has caused the school to move up its Investment Banking Workshop, an eight-week intensive class for a handpicked group of finance students that normally takes place in the fall of their junior year, to the spring for the first time this year. The class gives sophomore students an overview of what it is like to work on Wall Street, and gives them insight into the interview process, which will start earlier for some students than ever before this year, Clarke says.

This spring, many of the Kelley School’s most promising sophomores are applying to the banks’ diversity leadership programs, with applications deadlines for these programs as early as March 19th, Clarke adds. Clarke says she hopes the school’s new timetable for the Investment Banking workshop, coupled with a mandatory set of career success classes called Compass, will help prepare these students if they find themselves being interviewed by banks’ recruiters this spring or summer.

Still, even with all that preparation, not all of the school’s top talent is necessarily ready to make decisions about post- junior year internships as sophomores, she believes. “The demand for top talent is starting earlier and earlier, and while it’s unlikely that official recruiting will move to the spring, I think the market is gong to try to push us,” Clarke says. “I think we need to push back a little bit, and we’re trying to do that to some extent. At some point, we have to slow down a little bit.”

MANY STUDENTS DON’T YET HAVE A FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE OPPORTUNITIES

Rebecca Cassidy, assistant dean and director of the office of undergraduate professional development at Georgetown University’s McDonough School, says that her school is also seeing Wall Street banks focusing their efforts this year on current sophomores for the 2018 internship season.

For example, the banks will begin conducting information sessions targeted towards sophomores beginning March 14 and running through early April, Cassidy says. This accelerated schedule can be problematic for students, as they often don’t have a full understanding of the different roles and opportunities available to them at banks, and are not fully prepared for how intense the internship interview process can be, she adds.

“Students at the sophomore level, and even at the junior level, don’t realize they are really interviewing for their full-time position rather than ‘just an internship,’” Cassidy explains.

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