My Summer Internship at William Blair by Yasmine Frimpong Manso, Generation 2020 Ambassador
Covid-19 has changed every single aspect of our lives including my internship. I was slightly apprehensive about my summer internship at William Blair but my virtual experience was incredibly insightful and a great learning opportunity.
Prior to even beginning the internship, the application process began differently to others. The role was advertised anonymously, stating “Two roles within a premier global investment banking boutique.” The word ‘premier’ in particular stood out to me, and I liked the idea of a banking ‘boutique’ since I ‘d never heard of the term before.
Once I applied and passed the first stage, I then had my telephone interview. The next stage was supposed to be an ‘in person’ interview, however at this point, the virus’s severity had become alarming. As a result, my second interview was conducted by telephone too. Even though I had successfully passed this stage, uncertainty followed about whether or not my placement would take place. If the whole office was working from home, how do you offer an internship? But in June, I got the call to say William Blair would go ahead and host my placement.
On my first day, I woke up full of excitement and slightly anxious about the month ahead. I wasn’t alone in this experience though, and I was introduced to some of our key contacts during the internship and thrown straight into the Investment Management (IM) team. Our mentor for the week was Gurvir, and he introduced our project for the week: a bull vs bear debate on Tesla. I picked the bear side of the debate and got the chance to delve further into the fundamentals of company analysis. Gurvir taught me about the importance of fundamentals and investigating stock drivers, porter’s five analysis and the power in a strong rebuttal. Outside of our project, we were involved in their European team meeting and also connected with many interesting individuals within the IM sector. My favourite team was the Emerging Market Debt Team where we spoke with Daniel Wood. I loved the idea of analysing investment opportunities in countries with differing business culture and protocols and could definitely see myself working in a similar team in the future.
My next week was spent within Equity Sales and Trading, and there was a definite cultural shift compared to IM. The key thing I noticed was that everything felt very fast-paced and meetings were scheduled ad-hoc, rather than in advance with plenty of notice. Leo and Davide took care of us for the week and assigned us with the task of preparing our own individual stock pitches, which would be presented to Analysts, a Managing Director, and the European Head of Equity Sales at William Blair. I chose to do my pitch on Quidel, a healthcare company, which was completely unknown territory for me, but I decided to just go for it. I got to speak to the associate working on the stock within William Blair, I learned the typical process of stock pitches and prior preparation, and also learned much more about drug manufacturing. Presenting the pitch definitely tested my ability to think on my feet, as I was asked many questions from the MD at the end, and I had to come up with immediate responses. On the Friday, everyone at the firm was given a personal day off which I found to be a really nice break in the middle of the internship.
My final two weeks were within Investment Banking. Once again, culturally there was a shift and I definitely felt the intensity that is typically associated with the sector. However, I found that the firm’s welcoming culture meant it wasn’t overwhelmingly intense. Our mentors for the week were Stewart, Maria, and Rami. The last project I received was broken down into two parts: an analysis on a merger and acquisition process, and then proposing a potential private equity firm that would have been an interested buyer. I chose the deal between ConvergeOne and CVC Capital Partners, which was again unfamiliar to me, but I’ve recently been having a growing interest in technology, so I thought I would explore this further. Once again we had virtual meetings with many interesting people, from interns, to partners and even sat in on actual client meetings. An interesting comment I took from one of our meetings with an Managing Director called Julien Darmon, was that when you work on a Mergers & Acquisition process, you can essentially change someone’s life. Once you look past all the numbers and see the actual people behind it, you see that you can help someone pass on their life’s work to a new parent. On the Thursday, we also got to the visit the office and have lunch (albeit socially-distanced) with Stewart, a Managing Director, and Jo, an Associate, which was a nice end to the whole experience.
On the whole, William Blair was an amazing experience. I met such a wide range of individuals, and it definitely showed me that not every single investment bank is as cut-throat as Wolf of Wall Street makes it seem. I would like to thank both The Brokerage and William Blair, for putting this all together. Even though the current situation made an internship seem borderline possible, both companies showed that it’s very much possible if you have the desire to make it happen.
If I were to give advice to anyone who wants to do an internship within an investment bank, I would say (in the most un-cheesy way possible) be your authentic self. If you’re chatty and ask a lot of questions like me, then refine that and use it; if you’re analytical and reserved, then capitalise on your perceptiveness. You need every type of person in an investment bank, and you will find your space.