What’s a derivative again? Let me get this straight: When I started my first internship in UniCredit’s CTS, I had barely any clue what I was up to. I had just graduated University, having focussed in monetary economics and politics, not finance. But there I was, in the Summer of 2017, standing outside UniCredit’s branch in Hamburg. Ten minutes ahead of time, I realise that I was standing outside the wrong branch. By the time I made it to the right building at exactly 9 am, I was sweating profusely. I was greeted by Paul, my fellow intern and one of my closest friends to this day. After a short introduction, I sat down with one of my new colleagues. About 5 minutes into the conversation, I was completely out of my depths, and struggled to follow.
Jumping into cold water
With some basic training by Paul, and some more advanced lessons by our senior colleagues, I quickly got up to speed. More importantly, throughout the third week I found my niche. I had a unique skillset: I was a specialist for monetary economics and politics, two of the key determinants of interest and exchange rates. My colleagues soon recognised this, encouraged me to take on tasks that fit my skillset and dubbed me ‘Central Banker’. Somewhere along the line, the sense of insecurity I had experienced in the first week perished. I was confident, and I knew my role in the team. My development was rewarded with increasing responsibilities. By the end of the second month, Christian took me along to what should become the most treasured experience of my time in CTS: a meeting with key clients. I expected to remain quiet and observe. Halfway through the presentation, however, we had moved on to the monetary policy section of our presentation. My heart skipped more than one beat when Christian suddenly turned the floor over to me. My colleagues had prepared me for this though. I confidently laid out the ECB’s monetary policy and its repercussions for the client. When I left the office, I felt like an intern no longer. UniCredit had helped me take the first steps towards becoming a professional.
Take me home, country roads, to the bank, I belong
Through the course of the next year I became increasingly interested in mergers and acquisitions. So, when the time came to decide for an internship, I decided in favour of opting for UniCredit again. Upon my arrival, I was astounded by the flat hierarchy and the informal social intercourse. This was not the investment banking I had read about. The stiff, hierarchical order in which juniors laboured relentlessly in dimly lit cubicles. Where the apex-sin of an ‘early leave’ would take you straight to the eighth circle of hell (I appreciate that there are nine circles of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, but I heard that interns are not allowed in the ninth circle; you ought to be at least an associate). Instead, I was greeted by a welcoming team, introducing themselves by their first names. The only time I ever upset the Head of CFA seemed to have been when I instinctively addressed him by his doctorial title and surname.
The game is on
Nevertheless, expectations as to work results were high and the job challenging. My first presentation was sent back to me with a startling number of mark-ups. My colleagues demonstrated a remarkable hawk’s eye for details. I quickly realised, that I had to step it up. I was never discouraged though. The team was always there for me. Mistakes were pointed out in a supportive manner, tasks laid out clearly, and questions answered promptly. It was precisely the experience I had hoped for: a steep learning curve and rising responsibility. Research, pitchbooks, multiples, DCFs, IMs, IPO pitches, you name it. I worked feverishly, and pitches became my favourite past time. As I grew more proficient, I was permitted to work more autonomously on them. More than once, I worked directly with MDs, creating pitches for them beginning to end rather than being assigned a couple slides in someone else’s presentation. Towards the end of my second month I was even staffed on a mandate as part of a deal team, managing the data room, taking part in meetings and calls, and even a site visit had it not been for my fatal mistake of taking some days off in that particular week. Trust me, I still regret that holiday. Altogether, I was a full member of the team and encouraged to work as such. The sense of efficacy elicited by my work was something I had not experienced ever before. So, unsurprisingly, I even decided to extend my internship by a month to make the most of it.
Work hard, live good
More importantly, the team became a second family to me. When I moved to Munich I did not know anyone outside of work, but I never felt the need to. I spent a lot of my time at the office anyways and the occasional night out with the team was all the diversion I needed. From interns to MDs, when a team night was posted, they all appeared. The familiarly culture also reflected in the work place. Tough schedules and challenging tasks were eased by friendly banter on the open floor, where interns sat only a few feet away from analysts, associates and directors.
One Bank – One UniCredit
The above may merely be a corporate slogan to you, but after two internships at UniCredit it has become a feeling. To work alongside supportive colleagues, to be taken as a full member of the team regardless of my job title, and to be rewarded with greater responsibilities proportional to my commitment, that is what ‘One Bank – One UniCredit’ means to me. Both times I was given responsibilities that clearly exceeded my job title, and both times were among the most educational of my life. Having had this experience twice, there is little doubt that I will seek to return to UniCredit, hopefully on a more permanent basis!
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