Coronavirus means thousands of Wall Street internships may be virtual this summer

The bulls are losing, for now.
The bulls are losing, for now.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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Wall Street has already seen significant losses and stock selloffs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now thousands of interns might have a dramatically different summer than they imagined, as investment banks like JPMorgan Chase consider virtual options in response to stay-at-home orders and reductions in clients.

A survey of 22 financial services companiesconducted by the Ivy Research Council, a hiring and consultancy firmfound 54% of the respondents, or 12 companies, were considering a virtual component for their summer internships, according to the Financial Times. Four of the companies are considering implementing a “fully virtual” internship program, while another eight were looking into internships that started remotely and would move to a conventional format as the pandemic progressed. The survey didn’t disclose names but JP Morgan, Citigroup, UBS and Goldman Sachs were identified by the FT as banks considering some remote elements of their internship.

The move to remote work would be a huge cultural shift for the newest class of staffers on Wall Street, an industry that has already been hit with historic declines over the last few weeks.

The internships are viewed as a crucial first step for young people pursuing careers in finance.  Internships can provide not just technical skills, but can offer bonding opportunities with like-minded peers, and the chance to network with industry leaders.

In addition to the move to remote work, the Financial Times also said JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Citigroup are looking into later start dates, shorter durations for the same amount of pay as the traditional 10-week internships, and virtual mixers for students. However, a survey of student internship participants also done by the Ivy Research Council found concerns about the potential loss of in-person meetings, reduced interactions with clients, as well as network connection issues and inadequate training.

Whether they are done remotely or in-person, the biggest issue for Wall Street summer internships might be the actual workload itself. It is still too early to know how much of the financial sector will be affected by the historic unemployment rates, significant downturn in the retail, transportation and energy sectors, as well as the long-term effect on supply chains for medicine, manufacturing, and agriculture. After significant contractions in corporate spending on advertising and air travel, financial services might be the next industry to take a serious hit.