Internships are a great way to get acquainted with the financial industry. Through an internship you can investigate large firms for opportunity, small firms for specialties, global firms for international travel, and regional firms for community impact.
Internships are great because they are expected to be short-term. If a role you’ve chosen doesn’t fit, you can respectfully conclude that job at the end of your rotation without having to resign. Internships usually run for a duration that matches the collegiate calendar, semesters from August until December and January until May. Summer internships bridge the completion of one academic year with the beginning of another and can be an excellent way to move from one level of study into the next.
Summer internships are most competitive since fewer students take classes during the summer term. Summer internships are often unpaid because the supply of students is so high that firms are not obligated to compete for talent. Even so, many firms find that offering paid internships enables them to be more selective and also to earn the very best applicants.
Choosing the Right Firm for Your Internship
Whether you’re looking to become a registered rep serving as a broker and executing trades, or if you’re looking to become an investment advisor offering advice on which securities clients should consider, or if you’re looking to intern for a finance position with a firm outside of the financial services industry altogether, internships are about exploring the opportunities in your field. It is a good strategy to apply to diverse firms of varying size, specializing in various different industries.
It’s a good idea to thoroughly research the firms with which you plan to apply for internships. Use the company’s web site, trade publications, and news outlets to get a full picture of the size, specialty, functions, and structure of the company. This will allow you to better evaluate whether you have the skills to be successful there.
What You’ll be Doing as Part of Your Finance Industry Internship
If you’re interning as a registered rep or investment advisor representative, your internship will involve quite a bit of job shadowing. Sitting with brokers as they sell securities and execute orders, or with investment advisors as they discuss investment options with clients, will provide deep insight into the daily work life of finance professionals.
Beyond job shadowing, internship work is usually entry-level or clerical in nature. The roles are vital to keeping a business running: data entry, records management, data maintenance, data refresh, organizational projects, and audits usually fall into the realm of internship labor. These tasks might seem like busy work, but they are vital business functions that can teach you a number of things.
For example, a financial team that asks you to update customer account data may suggest you contact customers using the information currently in the system. Once you’ve reached the customer, you’ll review account information with the customer to determine if the company has the correct phone number, address, email address and web site for the customer.
These calls may seem tedious but they provide you with experience in making warm and cold calls to clients for the purpose of business intelligence gathering. They also help the company update records to ensure invoices and notices are delivered to the correct addresses. Ensuring bills arrive correctly is a way of improving the company’s revenue stream.
Some companies ask interns to complete short-term projects that full time employees have been unable to dedicate themselves to. These projects may include evaluating new software. For example, perhaps the company is looking for a new web conferencing platform. You may be asked to review different providers and issue an evaluation of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, to help the decision maker narrow down the choice.
Keep in mind that all business operations are accomplished through proper communication and accurate data records keeping. Not only can you develop an appreciation for the fundamentals of data management through this type of intern work, you may also notice how customer management includes accurate communication capabilities.
Additionally, financial firms and financial organizations inside non-finance firms may have rules governing access to sensitive information. Customer credit reports, accounts receivable, and payment methods may be restricted information. If the company has privacy regulations, you may find that as an intern you are limited as to how many transactions you can process or witness.
Getting Sponsored for Exams and Landing a Job Through an Internship
In addition to helping you explore the opportunities available in the finance industry, internships can lead to securing full time employment. If you find an environment where you fit in well and are well liked, you’ll be offered sponsorship for the exam appropriate for your role, whether that is a Series 7 or Series 65.
Once you’ve been sponsored and registered with the firm, and finally given the ability to serve the firm’s clients, you’ll find your internship was vital in getting your foot in the door and beginning your career.
Some organizations believe volunteering for projects, collaborations, or events are a way to show your enthusiasm and dedication. Some organizations unintentionally underutilize interns. Especially if the interns are unpaid, some teams hesitate to ask an intern to do extra work. Being a willing volunteer can provide rewarding learning opportunities while also serving as a great way to develop relationships with future coworkers and managers.
Whether you plan to parlay your internship into a job with that firm or not, keeping your relationship with the company positive is the right approach. Complete the tasks you’re assigned, use courtesy and professionalism in everything you do, and finish your internship with a thank-you note to your colleagues and hiring manager. You may want a reference from someone in that organization to earn a new internship or a job elsewhere else. Whether or not you’re offered sponsorship and land the job, it’s a good idea to look at internships as a way of building your professional reputation.
What to Expect to be Paid in Your Finance Internship
While most internship experiences are unpaid, some business internships do carry small wages. Interns in the financial space can expect a nominal hourly rate. It goes without saying that you won’t want to expect any commissions on trades or assets under management, no matter how involved you may have been during your job shadowing.
Taking an internship during the academic year is a good approach if you need to be paid to work. Some internship experiences are part-time allowing you to continue undergraduate work, or you may find you’re expected to forego classes for a term while you serve your internship.
Internships pay richly in experience, so having a resume thick with financial internships can make you an attractive full-time candidate with the firm you want to be associated with after earning your degree.