How to succeed at a buy-side internship
Over the past three years, I've managed to secure internships across all aspects of the buy-side - I've interned at hedge fund Perry Capital, private equity firm BayBoston and am currently spending my summer at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
For those of you working as an intern or summer analyst, especially if this is your first internship in finance, here are three simple ways you can make the most of your summer and set yourself up for success on the buy side down the road.
1. Write everything down
I was able to sit in on calls with very important people whose companies were a part of the Perry Capital investment portfolio I was working on. All of the individuals on these calls were financially astute and spoke about economic concepts and their company’s figures and objectives at a very high level. It was common for me to hear industry jargon and acronyms like “QE” and “ECB,” which made it difficult for me to understand the bigger picture.
Writing everything down helps tremendously – once you get back to your desk, you can look everything up and put the pieces of the meeting or conversation together. Then if you still have questions, you can bring to the table a better understanding of the concepts to your team and get a better idea of the specifics of the call, rather than just the basics.
The most senior people at financial services firms genuinely want their interns to learn, so take the opportunity to build your financial vocabulary to get a leg up when you’re looking for your next internship or first full-time position post-graduation. You can always refer back to your notes and have pertinent examples that help put each thing you learn into context.
I would also recommend keeping a career journal of all the projects, both big and small, you work on throughout the summer. You'll be surprised how much you can accomplish in one summer. If you don’t write anything down, then it can be very easy to forget some of the specifics by the end of the summer.
At the end of my internship, I put together a slide that had details of all the ways I added value to my team throughout the course of the summer to show the owner of the hedge fund and all of the other people on my team how much I had learned and contributed to the firm. It really helps to set you apart when you can go back and explain exactly what you did during the summer with the facts and details to back it up.
2. Find a way to take initiative on every project
Hedge funds invest in public companies, so odds are you’ll be doing research within a certain industry to help with a possible investment pitch.
I spent roughly half of my internship at Perry Capital researching a company within the grocery industry, knowing that at the end I would be pitching the company to the owner of the fund, my analyst and the investor relations team. I knew this was my opportunity to prove my worth and show that I was a valued member of the team, and I was able to participate in every part of the research from start to finish.
The two main catalysts for the pitch were the rise of organic groceries in traditional grocers and the rise of e-commerce within the grocery space, so I wanted to see the effects of these first-hand, as opposed to just reading about them in the sell-side reports that my analyst gave me. Twice a week I would visit these stores and put together a basket of essential items to compare prices throughout the summer, in addition to checking how much that basket would be from an online grocer like FreshDirect or AmazonFresh. My analysts didn't ask me to do this, but they absolutely loved the idea.
I was able to provide real data that we added to the pitch to corroborate our thesis, and it showcased how much I cared about the work I was doing. Taking that extra step is huge in showing that you are more than an intern and have a unique skillset that helps you think outside the box and adds value to the team you are working on.
3. Build relationships, not a “network”
One of the biggest and most surprising lessons from last summer was the friendships I made as a result of the Girls Who Invest program. In addition to the professional relationships I forged interning at the hedge fund, the Girls Who Invest program introduced me to 29 other girls who were just like me: hard-working, smart, interested in finance and looking for a unique experience that would bring us one step closer to figuring out what we want to do with our careers.
We had a built-in support group while we were all going through our internships, with people our age to turn to whenever we had questions or tips we wanted to share with the broader group. I wasn't expecting to become so close to the girls in the program when I first started. I was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone was collaborative and willing to help each other, even during recruiting when some of us were applying for the same jobs.
I am currently an intern at J.P. Morgan in the asset management division, and during the recruitment process I called up several of my friends from the program to hear about their experiences. I had friends who interned at private equity firms, hedge funds and large asset managers. It was so helpful to hear about their experiences so I could put myself in their shoes and picture what my life would be like at their firm.
My advice would be to take the time to get to know your fellow interns, professionals of all levels at the firm where you’re interning and people you meet at other firms over the summer. You can learn from their mistakes and lean on each other, but that’s only if you really take the time to get to know one another. These are the people who will advocate for you later on in your career and potentially become some of your best friends if you put the time in, so get to know your fellow interns, find mentors who are willing to answer your questions and treat your internship experience like it’s more than just a 10-week gig.
Meagan Loyst is a student at Boston College and a summer analyst at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Previously, she interned at Citi, the hedge fund firm Perry Capital and the private equity firm BayBoston. Loyst participated in the Girls Who Invest program at Wharton in 2016.