The Post-Internship Shuffle: How to Switch Banks, Groups, or Locations
As investment banking internships wind down each year, interns everywhere wake up and mysteriously come up with a similar idea:
“I want to switch banks for my full-time role! Or at least switch groups. Or maybe switch locations.”
Unfortunately, switching banks, groups, or locations after your internship is much easier said than done.
In most cases, you would be better served by winning a full-time return offer, working for 6-12 months, and transferring once you’ve proven yourself.
But this topic never seems to die, so I will give you the short version first and then dig into the details of how to switch banks, groups, or locations after an internship:
Why is the Post-Internship Switch Difficult?
In short, many factors are working against you:
- Everyone else interning at the same time is also thinking about moving, but many groups plan to hire only ~50% of their summer interns and do not want anyone beyond that.
- Demand for additional hires depends on the market, deal activity, and interns’ performance in different groups. You have no control over any of these.
- On-cycle recruiting to win summer internships is easier because all groups hire interns, even in bad years for deals and markets.
- If you want to switch, your top priority has to be performing as well as possible and winning at least one strong advocate within your team.
- To switch banks, you should have done some networking before your internship even began, and you should follow up with your contacts a few weeks into the internship to ask about opportunities.
- To switch groups or locations, you should wait until you receive a full-time return offer and then take that opportunity to ask casually about other teams.
- To switch to investment banking from an internship in a different field, you should… get very, very lucky because it’s exceptionally difficult to do this.
Why Switch Banks?
The most common reasons to switch banks are:
- You want to “upgrade” by moving from a boutique or middle market bank to a bulge bracket or elite boutique.
- You did not get a return offer, or you feel there’s a decent chance you will not get a return offer, so you want to interview around as a backup plan.
If your reason is something other than these two, you probably have a bad reason.
For example, if you’re working at a “lower-tier” bulge bracket and want to move to an “upper tier” one, that’s a bad reason to switch.
The only exception is if you don’t have to put in much effort or risk anything to do so (e.g., they contact you, and you go in for a quick interview).
How to Switch Banks via Investment Banking Accelerated Recruiting
Many banks run “accelerated recruiting” processes as summer internships are winding down, intending to win over a few interns from other banks.
These processes are almost entirely referral-based, which means your chances are close to 0% without networking.
To maximize your chances, you should follow this process:
- Pre-Internship: Ideally, you will have already networked with at least a few people at the different banks in your initial recruiting process. Once you’ve accepted an internship offer, contact them to let them know where you’ll be working, and follow up once or twice over the next year before your internship begins.
- First 2-3 Weeks of the Internship: Reach out to these contacts (maybe 10-15 total) and update them on how your internship is going. If you have time, find and research a few new contacts if certain banks are underrepresented. Don’t ask about “accelerated recruiting” or “full-time recruiting”; just say you’re interning at [Bank X] but also wanted to learn more about their experiences at [Bank Y].
- Last Few Weeks of the Internship: If you’ve done the steps above correctly, and at least a few banks are conducting accelerated recruiting, you should receive invitations to participate.
- No Invitation(s): If you don’t get invitations, reach out again in the last 1-2 weeks of your internship and ask for a quick call. During the call, spend a few minutes catching up and then ask directly about full-time hiring and see if they’re running an accelerated process.
Some people argue that it’s too risky to ask directly about accelerated recruiting unless you already have a full-time return offer in writing.
Different banks announce full-time return offers on different dates, and some are notorious for delaying these announcements, so it’s not always feasible to follow this advice.
That said, it is a bit risky to ask directly in an email, text, or LinkedIn message if you don’t yet have a return offer; in this case, it’s best to ask on the phone to prevent easy forwarding.
Another workaround is to use email but ask about “summer events” or “intern events” that the other bank is holding rather than asking about recruiting.
A few other process notes:
- Accelerated recruiting happens in both the U.S. and U.K., and banks often hold “summer events,” “intern events,” and “cocktail events” to kick off the process; these are all euphemisms for “recruiting.”
- For the best chances of being selected, you should have 1) already interviewed at the bank and won an offer but declined it; 2) interviewed at the bank and come very close to winning an offer; 3) networked with several people at this bank; or 4) done a closely related summer internship (e.g., in private equity), and gotten a referral.
What to Expect in Accelerated Recruiting and Interviews
Accelerated recruiting is much less structured than the normal internship or full-time recruiting process.
If a bank likes you and needs more headcount, they might extend an offer immediately.
If not, or you’re “good but not great,” they’ll interview more people and award offers based on a broader comparison.
The process starts earliest for those with strong internal connections and resumes and later if you’ve done less networking beforehand.
Interviews are not much different from standard investment banking interviews, but the questions will focus more on what you did during your internship.
For example, instead of asking you a random question about Equity Value vs. Enterprise Value, they might ask you how you calculated Enterprise Value for Client X in Deal A.
You shouldn’t need to spend much time “preparing” because the technical questions and your deal experience should be fresh in your mind.
And if you’re going through this process in London or the EMEA region, expect the usual assessment centers instead of Superday interviews.
Why Switch Groups or Locations?
Perhaps you like the bank you’ve been working at, but you want to change something else, such as your group or your location.
The most common reasons to do this include:
- You want to move from a niche group to a broader group (e.g., FIG to industrials or real estate to TMT).
- You want to leave a product group like DCM or ECM and move into something that gives you stronger technical/deal skills, such as M&A.
- You did not like the people or culture, desfpite performing well.
- You want to switch locations for personal reasons, such as taking care of family members or being close to a significant other.
- You want to leave San Francisco so you can stop getting robbed in the street and attacked by homeless people. Just kidding; it’s a great city!
If you want to switch to a similar group because you believe it offers better deal flow, exit opportunities, or prestige, you should re-think your reasoning.
Even if this is true right now, things change quickly in the finance industry, turnover at all levels is quite high, and by the time you join the group full-time, it could be quite different.
How to Switch Groups or Locations
Ironically, it can be riskier to switch groups or locations, especially if you’ve performed well and are set to win a full-time return offer.
If you start signaling to people in your group and other groups that you want to work elsewhere, the bank could change its mind about giving you a return offer!
If you’re trying to switch banks, yes, your current bank could find out, but if you never say anything directly via email, the chances are lower.
The process to switch groups or locations might look like this:
- Perform as well as possible as an intern – If you don’t do this, nothing else matters. See our IB internship guide for more. They do not let crappy or mediocre interns switch groups or locations. You need at least one strong advocate in your group, and ideally, a few advocates, to execute this move.
- Win a full-time return offer – When HR follows up to see if you’re accepting the offer, say that you enjoyed your experience at Bank X and value the mentorship and training, and you’re certain that banking and this firm are right for you. But you’ve also developed a strong interest in Group Y and wanted to see if you could speak with anyone to learn more about it. Do NOT say anything even remotely negative about your current group.
- Wait for HR to respond – In many cases, they will tell you that you can interview for another group or location, but you will have to give up your full-time return offer to do so. This is almost always a bad idea, so if they say this, you should probably thank them, decline the interview opportunity, and keep your current offer.
- Interview around if you can – If you’re at a bank that’s more open to this move, interview around; interviews will be similar to the format discussed above for accelerated recruiting, with more emphasis on why you’re switching groups or locations.
It’s almost easier to explain what not to do:
- Do not “volunteer” to work for another group – It’s OK if a full-time banker asks you to work on a deal in collaboration with another team, but if you want to switch to Group Y and you keep asking people in Group Y for work, you will not get an offer from Group Y or the group you’re interning in.
- Do not network too aggressively with another group – It’s fine to reach out to a few people before your internship or in the first few weeks, especially if you’ve had some contact during the recruiting process. But you don’t want to be seen emailing or speaking with another group all the time.
- Do not ask for anything directly until you have a full-time return offer from your current group – If you do this, the most likely outcome is no return offers from any group. Groups want to maximize their yield of good interns: if they know that you don’t want to be there, they will make it easy for you to leave.
If HR flat-out denies your request to interview with other groups, you could casually reach out to your contacts in the other groups and ask about it…
…but you should keep your request very casual and avoid saying much over email.
For example, you could say something like this in a phone call: “By the way, as you know, I’m interested in your group as well and just wanted to know if you had any openings for this coming year. HR said ‘no,’ but I wanted to see if anything had changed.”
While it can be frustrating to end up in a group or location you don’t like, the potential downside – losing your full-time return offer – far outweighs the potential benefits of a switch.
Can You Switch Into Investment Banking from an Internship in a Different Field?
I’ve also received questions from students who interned in completely different areas, such as private wealth management or private banking, and who now want to move into investment banking for their full-time roles.
It is extremely difficult to do this because you’ll have to answer the “Why didn’t you intern in banking?” question, and there is no good answer.
Also, you need to find groups or offices that need more full-time bankers but can’t find enough qualified interns looking for alternate offers… which is not very likely.
The best advice I can offer is to read this account of last-minute investment banking recruiting and follow everything the interviewee did.
- Experience: Even if you didn’t intern in banking, you need experience that looks somewhat relevant. You’re not going to go from a marketing or software engineering internship into a full-time IB role.
- Timing: You need to start networking and preparing before your internship begins. If you start the entire process in August, you don’t have a chance.
- Targets: Your chances may be higher if you target smaller banks outside major financial centers because the intern quality is often worse in these places.
Your chances are still low, but it is possible to make this move if all the stars align.
Switching Banks, Groups, and Locations: How to Avoid Death by Stupidity
Interns fail to get full-time return offers for plenty of reasons, some silly and some justified:
- Lack of motivation/enthusiasm.
- Poor attention to detail.
- Inability to work long hours or finish tasks on time.
- Office politics.
- Muted deal activity or poor markets.
- Poor social skills or low “EQ.”
But losing a return offer because you tried too hard to switch banks or groups is one of the dumbest reasons because it’s entirely your fault.
No matter how much you dislike your bank or group, you do not want to lose a full-time return offer – especially not in a tough hiring market.
And no matter how much you believe that another group, location, or bank is “better,” the external environment and your goals can change quickly.
Plenty of people start working full-time but then pick completely different career paths or leave the industry when they realize banking is not all it is cracked up to be.
And even if you’re 100% certain you want Specific Group X for Specific Exit Opportunity Y, your views might change once you’ve worked long hours for a year.
But to be in this position, you need to win a full-time return offer first – not lose it because you interned in one group but kept auditioning for others.
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