by Brian DeChesare

Investment Banking Spring Weeks: The Full Guide

Investment Banking Spring Weeks

If you go by most online discussions, investment banking spring weeks in the U.K. are as essential as oxygen or high grades if you want to work at a large bank.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of “group think” here, driven by endless forum threads and student groups over-hyping and over-marketing the concept.

Banks are also to blame because they now market spring weeks to students as young as 16.

If you want to work in investment banking in London, these “spring weeks” (1-2-week mini-internships in your first or second year of university) are helpful but not necessarily required.

It is 100% possible to win internship offers without attending spring weeks, and they have some downsides that no one ever discusses.

But before exploring “the dark side” here, I’ll start with a quick summary:

Investment Banking Spring Weeks Defined

Investment Banking Spring Week Definition: In a “spring week,” students in their first or second year of university complete a 1-2-week internship at a bank, normally in London, which may position them to win an official summer internship the next year.

Spring weeks are mostly “a thing” in the U.K., but large banks in Asia-Pacific may also offer them.

They do not exist in the U.S., Canada, or Latin America, and in continental Europe, you normally go to London to complete the spring week.

The concept is simple: Apply to dozens of these “pre-internships,” win and complete a few, and walk away with a penultimate-year internship already set up.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple – due to massive competition, a fairly involved recruiting process, and low conversion rates at many banks.

Summary of Spring Weeks: Advantages and Disadvantages

My summary would be:

  • Spring weeks can be a good pathway into full IB summer internships because, depending on the bank, 20 – 40% of students might receive internship offers (and at a few firms, this is closer to an 80%+ rate).
  • Applications for March/April spring weeks open far in advance (August – October), and it’s “first come, first serve,” so apply as early as possible for the best chance.
  • Expectations for technical skills and work experience are lower, but the process is more random than normal internship recruiting and depends on fit, grades, and activities. Many spring weeks also have a heavy “diversity” component.
  • The odds of winning an individual spring week are low because many banks receive 2,000 to 5,000 applications for 50 – 100 spots. Since it’s a numbers game, you normally apply to dozens of spring weeks.
  • To convert your spring week into an internship, you will go through interviews or case studies on the last day; ~50% of interns will then be invited to an assessment center, and ~50% of those might win a summer internship for the next year (but, again, the odds vary, and more than 25% will win internship offers at some banks).
  • The main downsides of spring weeks are 1) Completing one does not guarantee you an internship, so you still need to keep networking, gaining work experience, and preparing even if you have won multiple spring weeks; and 2) Some students spend so much time applying to and completing spring weeks that their grades and activities suffer.

Which Banks Offer Spring Weeks?

All the bulge bracket banks in the U.K. run them, but so do many elite boutiques (Lazard, Evercore, PJT, etc.), middle-market banks (Jefferies, Houlihan Lokey, etc.), and “in-between-a-banks” such as RBC and Wells Fargo.

Outside of IB, various asset managers, hedge funds, consulting firms, and trading firms also run some type of spring week program, but we’re focusing on banking here.

The most important point is that the acceptance and conversion rates vary wildly by firm.

For example, Citi is known for awarding internship offers to 80 – 90% of spring week participants in many years, but other banks are in a much lower range.

You need to factor this in when making decisions because even if one bank is “better” on paper, a 90% conversion rate trounces a 15% or 20% conversion rate.

How to Apply for Investment Banking Spring Weeks

You need to pay close attention to application open dates and apply ASAP, just as with real internships.

You can easily look up banks’ “spring week,” “spring insight,” or “discovery” programs (they’re all the same), but you can also use various online trackers to find the dates.

In fact, here’s an example of one such tracker with dates and information by bank.

Applications normally open between August and October, offers are usually sent in December – January, and you get the scheduling information in February.

The exact process varies by bank, but you can expect something like this:

  • Online Application: This includes your academic and contact information, CV, cover letter (if required), and competency questions, which are written versions of the standard fit questions (expect 1 – 5 questions with answers of 150 – 300 words each).
  • Numerical / Verbal / Logic Assessment: These tests are very similar to those given at or before assessment centers, and you can practice the same way (we recommend JobTestPrep).
  • HireVue and/or Phone Interview: Expect mostly fit/behavioral questions and maybe a few simple technical/deal/market questions.

The biggest difference vs. the normal recruiting process in the U.K. is that you may not necessarily go through a full assessment center (AC) before the spring week.

Since ACs are expensive to administer, banks usually reserve them for candidates who have advanced further into the process.

Also, students applying to spring weeks are in their first and second years of university, so the group exercises often given in ACs may not be useful at this stage.

Who Wins Spring Week Offers?

The acceptance rates for most spring week programs are below 5%, so the short answer is “not that many students.”

If 3,000 students apply to Bank A, perhaps 100 – 200 will be selected for interviews, and 60 might get spring week offers.

Since students have almost no experience, the selection process comes down to:

  • Do you go to a target school, or at least a decently well-known school?
  • Do you have good grades, such as a 2:1 or above? What about your A-Levels, especially if you don’t yet have an academic record?
  • Do you have interesting hobbies, activities, or student groups?
  • Are you in one of our diversity categories (e.g., female, international, non-STEM/finance major, certain ethnicities, etc.)?
  • Are you personable?

Usually, at least 50% of the students who win offers are from target or semi-target universities in the U.K. (e.g., Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL, Warwick, and Imperial).

The remainder come from a mix of target and semi-target schools in continental Europe and lower-ranked schools in the U.K.

What Do You Do in a Spring Week?

You might wonder what you do at a bank if you only intern for 1 – 2 weeks, as most deals take months or years to execute.

Your tasks will include:

  • Shadowing a few bankers.
  • Attending workshops and training sessions.
  • Practicing some of the work skills with non-client companies.
  • And getting plenty of networking opportunities and attending social events.

You won’t be allowed to work on live deals for confidentiality reasons.

And if you’re in sales & trading, you won’t be allowed to trade or sell, just as you’re similarly restricted in S&T internships.

Therefore, most of your success depends on how well you network and how you perform in the final interview(s) or presentation.

How Do You Convert a Spring Week into a “Real” Internship?

This one varies by bank, but you’ll usually have to prove yourself with an end-of-week interview or case presentation.

If you do well enough, you’ll get invited to an assessment center, and if you perform well there, you’ll get a summer internship offer for the next year.

That’s a huge advantage because you won’t have to worry about applying or going through the entire recruitment process again.

The overall odds look like this:

  • < 5%: Your chances of winning a spring week from a single application.
  • ~50%: Your chances of doing well enough in the spring week to advance to the AC or other evaluation afterward.
  • ~50%: Your chances of winning a real internship offer out of the AC.
  • ~25%: Your overall chances of converting a single spring week into a summer internship, with huge variation by bank. The average range is probably more like 20 – 40%.

For tips on performing well at each stage, please see the articles on IB internships, internship preparation, S&T internships, and assessment centers.

The rates trading article has some tips for S&T assessment centers and interviews.

Bankers look for the same criteria as always: Reliability, decent industry knowledge, and evidence that you learned something during the week.

The main difference is that they can’t judge your “work product,” so networking and following up with everyone you meet are more important.

In other words, don’t just attend a social event and chat with people there.

When you meet someone, get their contact information and follow up with a quick call later if they seem receptive and helpful.

What If You Don’t Win a Summer Internship?

If you complete a spring week that does not convert, all you can do is apply for standard summer internships the next year.

Ideally, you’ll complete a finance internship before bank applications open in ~August and do the usual networking and interview prep.

If you have multiple spring weeks, your odds of winning at least one internship increase substantially.

However, if some of these spring weeks overlap, even by a few days, you can’t complete them all – so you’ll have to pick the firm(s) you’re most interested in.

If your SW does not convert, you’ll need a solid explanation before your next interviews.

You can refer to the article about what to do with no return offer from an internship, but I would recommend keeping your explanations short and sweet:

“I did well in the workshops and training but didn’t fit well with the team.”

“I liked the work but preferred a different industry or product group.”

“They were looking for people with a more extensive background in [X], so I wasn’t the best fit.”

OK, So What Are the Downsides of Investment Banking Spring Weeks?

Reading everything above, you might think:

“OK, so winning spring weeks is very difficult, and your chances of getting a full summer internship aren’t great, but so what?

It’s the same as normal IB summer internships at the large banks.”

There are a few problems, but I’ll start with the most obvious one: Some students spend excessive time on spring week preparation and applications when they could use their time and resources more effectively.

It’s like the downsides of studying for the CFA: The certification won’t hurt you, but it’s not necessarily worth the time and money required.

Also, completing a spring week mostly helps when applying to one specific bank for the same role.

For example, if you do an IB spring week at Bank of America but then decide to focus on corporate finance roles at Fortune 500 companies, this spring week will not help much vs. a 10-week summer internship.

Bankers in regions like the U.S. also have a low awareness of spring weeks, so if you decide to move or work elsewhere, the experience won’t help much.

Finally, completing a spring week does not guarantee an internship next year, so it may not reduce your workload.

In other words, if you win 2 spring weeks at different banks, you can’t just say, “OK, I’m done – time to relax and not worry about next year.”

You might not convert either one, so you need to continue preparing and networking, and you’ll need to gain some solid experience between now and internship applications.

By contrast, you could ignore spring weeks, do student activities and clubs, and network a bit to win a summer internship at a boutique PE/VC/other firm.

You would be under less pressure because there’s no expectation of return offers there, and you could still leverage the experience to apply to internships at large banks afterward.

Final Thoughts on IB Spring Weeks

The bottom line is that investment banking spring weeks were more useful a long time ago – before every finance/economics student in Europe became obsessed with them.

Due to over-saturation and obsessive-compulsive behavior, the odds have worsened, and the value proposition has fallen.

If you want to work in IB in London and you’re starting early – before you arrive on campus in a 3-year degree or in Year 1 of a 4-year course – yes, apply to spring weeks.

But also realize that:

  1. A 2-week internship does not determine your entire life’s destiny.
  2. There are other paths into banking (do 1-2 internships and a good activity, do off-cycle internships, pursue lateral hiring after graduation, etc.).
  3. At most banks, most summer interns have not completed a spring week at the firm.

If you understand these points and avoid freaking out over your acceptance status at 50+ banks, your spring week experience might be almost as much fun as a spring break.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, running, traveling, obsessively watching TV shows, and defeating Sauron.

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