Why don’t investment banks require interns to have a quantitative background like finance? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
If the purpose of an investment bank’s internship program was to bring in a bunch of relatively inexpensive additional staff to help out over the summer, then it would make sense to hire only interns studying finance or similar disciplines who might have the best chance of getting up to speed more quickly.
Except that’s not the purpose of the internship.
Its purpose, instead, is as a strategic talent identification mechanism, designed to fill the vast majority of the bank’s entry-level hiring needs. In pursuit of that goal, internship programs seek to identify those most likely to succeed, grow and make an impact in the firm over the medium to long term. And, as it turns out, that doesn’t always correlate well with field of study.
See, banks don’t really care whether the interns they hire know how to do the job already on day one (frankly, none of them do, even those in finance degree programs). What’s more important is how effectively they demonstrate their ability to get up the learning curve rapidly based on the material and the concepts they’re exposed to. Do they make the same mistakes twice? Do they need to ask the same questions twice? Do they work hard, act professionally, collaborate with and help those around them? Are they good to have around? All of these considerations have little to do with what they’re studying in college.
Now don’t get me wrong. If financial firms didn’t hire a solid number of finance graduates they’d be in a sorry state indeed. Finance students tend to make up around two thirds or more of the applicant pool, after all. Finance graduates, moreover, tend to be highly passionate and motivated about the subject matter (which is probably why they elected to study finance in the first place, and then pursue a career in the finance industry).
But leading firms know that there’s risk in homogeneity when hiring a large class of interns or recent college graduates. It’s smart to take what you might think of as a ‘portfolio approach’ to talent, in which you’re diversifying your bets - hiring candidates from a range of academic disciplines, backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, etc.
So as much as it’s necessary for a top bank or investment firm to hire a good number of finance students - it’s not sufficient.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:
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