My two month stint as a banker

by Bhavna Sharma on Saturday 4 August 2012, 10:16 PM | Category: Summer Internship Contest| View: 6210 views

 Aah! The internship, the time of the year when a few clueless, 1 year old, student slash marathon runners take the preview into the corporate world they are supposed to conquer someday. And conquer we will just as soon as we undergo a little expectation management. I guess thats really the point of an internship, it puts into perspective what we really got ourselves into. So if writing CAT and getting through those grilling interviews wasnt cutting it for us, here is another chance to be pitted against the brightest minds of the country (yes! Thats what wed like to think of ourselves) and rise as the most promising future employees of the year. But my internship story is a bit more interesting than that.

So I had somehow managed to land an internship with Bank of America (BoA), trust me I was as surprised as you are. Here I was just another average Joe (Jane actually) fresh out of college, into an IIM, rambling on about all the events I organized, all the events I won, my strengths, my internship at kandla port which I am extremely proud of and the next thing I know, they like me, ask if I need any help finding accommodation in Mumbai. Uhh! What now! So you mean I am IN! SWEEEEET!

Fast forward to April next year. I wouldnt lie but the fact that my internship started on April fool's day was a little too ominous for my comfort level. I actually refused to pay the deposit to my hostel warden before I spent a day at the bank, I had to be sure. So this is day 1, I enter the building; there is a short distance hurdle race to get to the lifts. The lifts go so fast they make my ears hurt. Did I mention I was working on the 19th floor, express towers and my desk looked over the marine drive! But more on that later. First day was spent in a conference room. I came face to face with the OTHERS. Honestly the fact that I was from one of the newer IIMs was a little unnerving. It was as if the other interns were giving me that superior look and asking- so how many alumni do you have here, Id say everyone from floor 16 is on my turf. Intimidated? yes I was, but I wasnt backing down, because I had something none of these old goats had. THE IPMs. Its like the playground from when we were kids, its always the kids with the shiniest and the newest toys who call the shots. And so did I. Indore: 1, A-B-(yawwwwwwn)-C: 0.

Day 2: the office, so I was lied to, they said they were a bank, but I never in the 2 months actually saw any teller windows. What is THAT about? My first interaction with my mentor who I now know is a very patient guy went a little something like this

Mentor: so how do you like the office?

Me: its great, but where is the bank?

Mentor: this is the bank; I dont understand your question.

Me: no I mean where do people come and queue up for cheques and cash and stuff

Mentor: you mean the operations floor, that's on the ground floor of this building, but we rarely get people queuing up these days.

Me: so, the bank isnt doing well, say, will that affect your hiring? (Fingers crossed)

Mentor: no, we cater to corporate clients and most of our work is done online, you know NEFT, RTGS.

Me: so you do NEFT, RTGS

Mentor: no, RBI does that.

Me: so what do you do again?

Mentor: what do you mean?

Me: like if RBI does the NEFT, RTGS why do clients need the bank?

Mentor: we offer services like cash and liquidity management. (after my zonked out expression, he continued) which is to say we handle their surplus cash in our current accounts and partake in overnight lending.

Me: so you take cash off the hands of our corporate clients to lend to other clients and make money off it to give back to the clients

Mentor: oh no, we dont pay interest on current accounts.

Me: uh-huh, but……..

Mentor: moving on, this is your desk, this is your buddy. Good luck!

Though he was looking at my buddy, Im sure he meant to wish me luck. After that for about a week while we had something like a crash course in trade finance and cash management, I saw less and less of my mentor until one fateful day I think about a week into the internship when he popped in during these sessions and approached me very cautiously. He asked-do you now know what the bank does?

Week 3:

By now the project had been defined, the work had begun and I was running around the city meeting clients. One day I was in Powai, next I was in Kandivali. Sometimes I was closer home in Pimpri, Pune and on some occasions I was just next doors to my office meeting clients on the 8th floor of Air India building. My mentor accompanied me during these visits, finishing my sentences whenever I would mix up a usuance LC with a on-sight LC. The objective was to collect information on the daily payments and operations cycle of these clients. BoA felt that treasury products were becoming commoditized as every MNC bank offered the same set of services. All large local corporate had banks they banked with and cutting in was a challenge. Also the bank looked towards expanding its portfolio of clients by focusing on many new fast growing companies. The only solution for them was something that has been hammered into us in every marketing and strategy class- DIFFERENTIATION. BoA felt that if they could pro-actively pinpoint areas of inefficiencies in their clients transactions and venture new and innovative solutions, they would make the cut. Thats where I came in. Armed with a questionnaire, I marched into the offices of one client after another. The task was daunting and we were short on time. Clients were no sitting ducks, they wanted some immediate value addition. We promised to share with them the best banking practices in their specific industry on a no-name basis ofcourse. Though we did manage to placate our clients, my workload increased manifold. Now I had to target a larger pool of leading companies most of which we did not bank with.

What followed was weeks of cold calling, coordinating with the TSOs (Treasury Sales Officers) from Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai to schedule intense conference calls with clients. My mentor and I worked weekends to get time from F&A people. This is where I learnt the importance of relationships with clients. As days passed I saw myself maneuvering through the 150 questions we had drafted in under 20 minutes. I was grasping the concepts of Letters of credit, bill discounting, channel finance etc, which till about 3 weeks ago were greek to me.  So immense was the learning during the first month that everytime I relive my first conversation with my mentor, it leaves me embarrassed. What did I know!


The month of May had 239.....82374 days

If you disagree, it sure felt like that. My mentor wanted to expand the scope of the project. BoA had hired a consultancy firm to look into the importance of shared services for local conglomerates. As India Inc grew, it made sense to centralize functions like F&A, wages, HR, etc. And as these conglomerates centralized these functions, their banking needs changed. And so another excel sheet was added to my questionnaire. We wanted to see what opportunities lay for BoA.

In May I was calling upon more clients than ever, most of them were unbanked names. Certain companies started to recognize my voice and hung up before I could so much as get through, Good morning my name is….life of a salesman! I swore to be extra nice to every salesman ever since. But I have to admit that all the let downs made those few successful calls taste even sweeter!

My mentor and my buddy who I now know have to be the most patient and helpful people in the world saw me through it all. I was particularly impressed with the amount they could do in a day. I mean my mentor could go sailing and my buddy was riding his own entrepreneurial streak. They made it to office everyday at 8am sharp even during the Bharat Bandh. And there I was thinking- woohoo! Paid holiday!

Professionalism, punctuality, facing clients, and diligence were just a few skills that rubbed off on me. And hey, who can forget the Friday evenings when the entire sales team went out and partied. Some call it networking, I think these people on 19th floor of Express Towers just love their jobs.

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