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Matt Levine

A Virtual Internship Just Isn’t the Same

Also ESG, bank capital, dividends and the discount window.

As jobs go, investment bank jobs—investment banking, sales and trading, etc.—are pretty well suited to being done from home. The work is basically typing things on computers and talking on the phone. You are not making a physical product or having any necessary physical interactions with clients. Obviously there are a lot of advantages to being in the office (or to flying to see clients); the computers are faster and the phones have more lines and there’s the convenience and serendipity of in-person collaboration. I am not saying that doing investment banking from home is easy, or that it is as effective as doing it from the office. I am just saying that it’s relatively easy, compared to, like, manufacturing or retail or dentistry or a lot of other businesses.

But there is another aspect to investment bank jobs, besides the doing of the jobs. That other aspect is the transmission of investment bank culture. Particularly for the most junior bankers, the point of being in the office all day is not just to format pitchbooks and type numbers into spreadsheets; it is to hang around the other bankers and learn how bankers behave and get made fun of and acquire a nickname and generally get hazed and indoctrinated. That element exists in a lot of jobs, really; every company does some amount of hazing of new employees. But investment banking self-consciously serves as a finishing school for a lot of smart college graduates who vaguely want to work in business or finance, so the cultural element is particularly important there. One thing that lot of high-powered business people have in common is that they spent two years of their early 20s in an analyst program at one of a handful of big investment banks, which gives them a shared base of knowledge and skills and vocabulary and experiences.