As the coronavirus continues to halt the economy and job markets across the globe, financial firms are beginning to make decisions about their incoming classes of interns. Normally at the start of June, major cities begin to welcome these young professionals in droves for the summer months, and it is an unfortunate reality that many students will not get to participate in this quintessential experience.
This year, most banks are shortening their programs, with delayed starts set to begin in late June and early July. For those who plan to start on time or delay, almost all firms plan to incorporate remote solutions as the future of in-office work remains unclear. Some employers, like Citi, have publicly announced that they are guaranteeing full-time offers to their 2020 class for when they graduate next year; however, many firms still plan to evaluate their interns over the shortened program and make merit-based decisions on full-time employment. At Suited, we are proud to be a part of this community that clearly takes their commitments to students seriously and is adapting as necessary to provide these crucial opportunities for their professional growth.
And while it won’t be a perfect replacement for a full in-office experience, we believe there is an effective and fulfilling way to run summer intern programs virtually for however long it is required. We’ve put together some useful ideas for those HR professionals looking for some inspiration for their first-ever virtual summer ahead, focusing on the goals of every good internship: to provide on-the-job training, to offer a positive learning experience, to help foster connections and loyalty, to provide insights into your firm’s unique culture, and to fairly and accurately evaluate their potential as full-time hires.
Provide computers to those who need them and reimburse for broadband internet
As we have discussed before in reference to video-interviewing, there exists a “broadband” gap between students who have consistently strong internet connections and those who may have spottier service in highly-dense urban areas or hard-to-reach rural areas. Inadvertently penalizing those interns who don’t have adequate technology and 24/7 internet access may lead to inequity in their ability to shine. Send around a survey at the beginning of the program to determine where the needs are among your interns.
Create an Interactive Orientation with Real-Time Q&A’s
Design an orientation that is largely the same as it would be in the standard program. Invite speakers from different areas of the business to virtually present on the work that they do and allow the interns to submit questions in real-time. You can invest in a live-webinar platform where questions are automatically sent to a moderator, or if you are not interested in another tool, you can send the interns a SurveyMonkey link to submit their questions as they think of them during the presentations.
Incorporate Technical Training Checkpoints
Since technical training can no longer happen in person, seminars can be conducted live virtually by full-time staff or firms can implement a virtual training vendor to provide technical training videos and study materials. To ensure the experience is engaging and that no one feels left behind or confused, firms should incorporate checkpoints in the form of short graded assignments (ie; build a set of public comparables) or quizzes (ie; what is the calculation of unlevered free cash flow?). You could also consider pairing each intern with a full-time analyst to provide support and to act as a resource as the interns develop their skills.
Let Interns Shine with Pitch Presentations
As with every summer, interns should still be required to work on a pitch. While it may be more difficult to include interns on real pitches because of the virtual working structure, you could consider having interns work on a mock pitch for companies of their choosing. This would enable each person to learn and practice a wide range of skills such as how to research and position a business, how to value a business, and how to consider various strategic alternatives for a company. Some firms ask interns to present their pitches in front of bankers, while others don’t. In a virtual work environment where interns are not as easily able to demonstrate their abilities on a daily basis, having interns publicly present will add an additional level of seriousness to the project, but will also help them shine in a very critical way.
Require Daily Stand-Ups
To keep interns engaged and connected, team members should take a page out of the tech company playbook and hold daily stand-ups with their assigned interns. Everyone, including the interns, should provide updates one what they are working on so that others can give them direction, advice, or more tasks to complete.
FOSTERING FIRM LOYALTY
Institute A Shadowing Program
Summer analysts should be paired with employees at different levels of the firm for half-day shadowing sessions. They should be afforded the opportunity to listen in on client calls, sit in on internal meetings, and screen-share to watch analysts and associates work on their pitches and deals.
Schedule Senior Leader Coffee Chats
Once a week, a different Managing Director should be paired with a small group of summer analysts for a casual “coffee chat.” Interns should come prepared with questions related to the firm, specific deals, market trends, or career guidance. The goal of these chats should be to provide interns with an opportunity to converse with senior leaders in a friendly and low-pressure way.
Hold “Quirky” Competitions
For interns, one of the best and most memorable aspects of a summer program is the connections made with fellow interns. In a virtual environment where everyone is working for different deal teams, there is a chance those friendships won’t be made if there is no deliberate effort made by the firm to help foster them. To maximize acceptance rates, it is critical that firms put in the effort to provide their interns with a sense of the firm's culture, camaraderie, and connectedness.
Keep in mind, these incoming interns are largely Gen Z, and to put it very bluntly (and lovingly!), the Gen Z cohort enjoys all things absurd, surreal, and unique (what older generations may refer to as “quirky”) — so the fun, culture-boosting initiatives your firm deploys should attempt to include their tastes and interests.
Something unique we recommend is to hold a competition to see which intern can keep a company-bought plant alive until the last day of the program (you can easily get plants delivered via services like Bloomscape or the Sill). When an intern kills their plant, instruct them to send a photo of their fallen WFH comrade to a collective email chain, and provide prizes to those who are able to keep theirs alive until the end of summer.
Another fun idea to get people talking to one another is to run a networking scavenger hunt. Interns should work to virtually meet 1-1 with as many people in the firm as possible. To document the meeting, have the interns take a selfie screenshot of themselves and the person they are meeting with.
Provide Paid Lunches on Friday’s
Every Friday morning, send your summer analysts a digital food delivery credit or gift card so that they can have lunch on the firm’s dime.
Administer Assessments to Determine Overall Fit
Some firms have decided to give full-time offers to 100% of their intern class for after graduation, though most firms still plan to go through their normal evaluation and offer making process. With dramatically shortened and heavily virtual programs, firms are in need of additional data points in order to make those decisions. Assessments can certainly play a role here in determining the overall fit and general abilities of a full-time candidate. By providing the same assessment to everyone, you are able to level the playing field and not cause any adverse impact to any particular group of people.