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Business Insider: The CEO of a firm that trains 30,000 bankers each year explains how Wall Street is gearing up for virtual summer internships

https://www.businessinsider.com/finance-summer-internships-outlook-amid-coronavirus-training-the-street-ceo-2020-4

by Rebecca Ungarino

Wall Street firms are delaying their internship programs, but they’re not scrapping them entirely, according to Scott Rostan, the chief executive and founder of Training The Street.

“The general consensus you’re getting right now is that they’re delaying the start of the intern program by four or five weeks,” and planning for a fully virtual summer experience, Rostan told Business Insider.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, told many expected summer interns earlier this month that the investment bank would delay and shorten its summer internship, but would pay their full original offer.

The financial services industry is grappling with how to structure summer programs that are critical talent pipelines — including how to replicate training if junior bankers wind up working remotely.

The novel coronavirus has ravaged New York, the main hub of American finance, and firms from big banks to small shops are scrambling to re-tool their months-long summer training programs.

Like many industries that have adapted to the situation shifting by the minute, financial firms are trying to shift their usual in-person internships to virtual experiences.

That comes with unique challenges they’re facing even with their most experienced employees: compliance, for one, and having interns handle sensitive data like client information from home. There are also hurdles like measuring interns’ performance and engagement from afar.

“My gut feeling is clients understand that this is going to be a challenging experience, like the schools and universities and business schools that we coordinate with know as well,” Scott Rostan, the chief executive and founder of Training The Street, said.

On the whole, Wall Street firms are pulling back on their internship programs, but not scrapping them entirely, according to Rostan.

“The general consensus you’re getting right now is that they’re delaying the start of the intern program by four or five weeks,” and planning for a fully virtual summer experience, Rostan, whose New York-based company trains up new finance professionals, told Business Insider in a recent interview.

“It’s all still very fluid,” he said, adding that firms are largely planning for fully remote internships with the possibility that they might be able to flip to in-person at some point.

Many conversations Rostan has had with clients have focused on “when, not if,” they’re going to go through with internship training.

Training The Street, which Rostan founded in 1999 and counts banks and other firms as clients to educate their intern classes, hosts different courses on topics like valuing companies, analyzing financial statements, and mergers and acquisitions.

It offers training to interns in different forms, like virtual sessions and in-person courses at training centers and sometimes at the firms’ locations during the beginning of internships.

Citi, for its part, is guaranteeing its summer interns in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo full-time offers before their shortened five-week program kicks off this July, Business Insider previously reported. Morgan Stanley was the first major bank to make most of its 2020 internship programs fully virtual, Financial News first reported earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs told all expected summer interns outside of India earlier this month that the investment bank would delay and shorten its summer internship, but would pay their full original offer. The firm’s summer internship program is now set to start on July 6 and run for a shortened five weeks, while the bank considers possible “virtual components” to the program.

JPMorgan, also headquartered in New York, has pushed back the start of its internship program to July 6, and is exploring the possibility of a virtual format, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this month.

The incoming class has more than 3,000 interns around the world, and they will still be paid for the full nine-to-10 week internship program, the outlet reported citing a company spokesperson.

For instructors at Training The Street, which counts some 200 active clients around the world in any given year, the pandemic has meant executing lots of demos with clients on how delivering a virtual internship program could work.

The company, which is more Americas-focused but has full-time instructors in cities including London and Madrid, trains some 30,000 participants each year.

Setting up on the living room floor, not the trading floor

Some internships’ features may not change much.

Financial services firms will still provide weekly milestones that interns need to meet, and will be giving out modeling exercises in Microsoft Excel, for instance. But they’ll be done via video conferencing — approved methods, that is.

It’s also likely that some of the collaborative aspects of the internships will continue with small groups of interns still working together through video chats on projects.

Training The Street, for its part, has a web-based product that “looks like Excel and acts like Excel,” but can grade activity in the platform and provide instant feedback on speed and accuracy, Rostan said. A tool like that may come in handy during virtual internships.

Some firms are taking the current environment and trying to learn from what they might adopt once social-distancing measures are lifted. UBS, for instance, may be more open to remote work in its US wealth management business even after working conditions normalize, Business Insider previously reported.

“I think people will be more comfortable with virtual learning,” Rostan said.