The Wall Street Summer Intern Diaries

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Photo: Andy Shaw/Bloomberg via Getty Images, iStockphoto

Back in June, we gave incoming Wall Street interns all the advice we could muster about how to succeed on the lowest rung of the finance ladder. Given all that’s gone on in the financial sector since then, we wondered: How did this summer’s interns actually fare? Did they see the flood of scandals wash over Wall Street, get scared, and run for the hills? Or did they ride their square-toed shoes all the way to glory?

Today, “Paul” (not his real name), a college student who interned at Barclays this summer, takes us behind the scenes of his summer analyst program.

On the workload: “The thing that hit me the most was the amount of time people expect you to be there. You might just be working on an Excel spreadsheet, and you might have already finished, but you can’t leave until 10 p.m. because that’s what everyone’s doing. If you leave before midnight, it’s like, What the fuck are you doing?"

On the reaction back home: “People from back home don’t really understand what you’re doing. Wall Street is, like, a fabled Land of Oz.”

On learning, mid-summer, that Barclays CEO Bob Diamond had resigned over the bank’s role in the Libor-rigging scheme: “It was insane. No one in the firm knew about it beforehand. I got to my desk that morning, and the guys on my desk were like, ‘Did you read The Wall Street Journal?’ So I go to WSJ.com and the headline is ‘Barclays CEO Resigns After Libor Scandal.’ That’s all we knew for the next three or four hours, and guys were just shitting themselves.”

On what happened next: “They called us in. This guy sat us down and was like, ‘Look, we’ve been through worse times than this, but this doesn’t reflect our reputation at large.’ But it was kind of like this big dent. Barclays is supposed to be this highly esteemed brand.”

On interning at a scandalized bank: “When you’re working in the bank, you’re just sitting there working on Excel sheets all day. No one felt morally responsible. The first concern on everyone’s mind was, Is this going to affect my pay in two weeks? And the answer we got from management was a firm no. As far as other people outside the industry, to be honest, nobody knew. My mom saw that it involved Barclays, but she didn’t even know what Libor stands for. A couple of my friends saw the Jon Stewart thing and were like, What the hell happened? But mostly it was quiet.”

On competition among the grunts: “The offer rate in our class was high. Something like 65 or 70 percent. So it’s not like we’re beating each other for spots and going crazy about that.”

On the culture shock: “For me, it’s weird. Like, having a black car take me home every night, having a $25 meal delivered to my desk. That’s over the top. But eventually, you start to expect more. You’re definitely seduced. You think, If I did this for two years, went to private equity, did the stair-step path that everyone does, I’d never have to think about money again.

On the perks of the internship: “The highlight was at the end. We went down to Chelsea Piers, and they catered the event. Open bar and all that. The whole summer, pretty much everywhere we went was catered.”

On what comes next: “We get a signing bonus if we accept the offer, but I'm thinking about law school and consulting. To be honest, even sitting here assessing law school, I’m thinking, Am I going to do banking and make $150,000 a year? Because even if I go to Harvard, the maximum you can get as a first-year lawyer is $160,000, at a Paul Weiss or something. But if you do investment banking, if you stay in it for three years, the pay keeps going up. It’s a machine. Once you take that dime, you can’t get out.”