Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Goldman Sachs is one of the most prestigious names around. The investment banking and financial services company is one of the largest and most successful in its industry. It has an enduring reputation of success, and employs only the most ambitious, hardworking, and talented candidates. Therefore, I'm delighted to be able to present to you all an interview with Goldman's legal investment banking analyst, Ben Markham.
Q: Good morning Ben! Thank you for joining us and agreeing to share some of your thoughts and experiences with us! Why don't you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself and what your role is at Goldman Sachs?
A: Of course! No worries! I've just finished my PPE degree at the University of Warwick, and am an incoming legal investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs.
In terms of my role and what it will entail, within the IB team and the Legal Department there, I will effectively be supporting all of Goldman's investment banking operations in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and liaising with external law firms. For analysts, work is mostly on the capital markets and financing side, reading through documents, and often talking with other banks as well when numerous banks are involved with a deal.
I was very unsure about whether or not to pursue a career in law or banking, having completed a spring week, and attended numerous open days at law firms. However, having done PPE, it meant that I was limited to which law firms I could apply to (with a non-law degree). Therefore, I chose the middle ground at Goldman!
Q: Really fascinating to hear that! With regards to your role, did you have any prior involvement with Goldman Sachs? If you completed an internship or similar program with them previously, can you tell us about that process?
A: I completed a summer internship with Goldman Sachs last summer, which was a fantastic experience. Through that work, and the interviews that followed, I was hired full-time as an analyst. The internship application process is notoriously challenging among banks, but with Goldman, it was simple - a normal application online, a video interview, and finally, a face-to-face interview.
The video interview was a standard competency-based one. Following that, I had two rounds of three interviews at Goldman - one for the Structured Products Legal Team, and then one for the IB Legal Team. Each interview was 30 minutes long, and generally speaking, involved competency-based questions. The one thing I found strange about the interview was that I was questioned why I didn’t want to pursue a law career, but still wanted to do law at Goldman, which was quite interesting.
The interview process was about me as a person, and the fact that each interview had two people leading them meant there was nowhere I could hide. I was being judged on how well-suited I was to the company, and it allowed me to show my true colours. This was my first summer internship, and a truly great experience!
Q: Wow Ben! I know how challenging the application process can be, but it sounds like you thrived! I'm sure you must get this question a lot, but why did you choose Goldman Sachs?
A: Goldman was one of the few banks that offered a specific legal internship, as most other banks offered only a compliance-based one, rather than legal. I did not really think that compliance was something I would be interested in, so I mostly focused on applying to specific legal internships.
There was also the Goldman element to it - everything I had read about the firm and the people who work there instantly made me want to apply. A firm that places so much value on its people is very easy to say on its website or annual report, but having spent 10 weeks there, I genuinely saw that. Reading the deals that Goldman Sachs did with some major household names and having the deal flow they have, it was a firm that I was naturally attracted to.
Q: A perfect match! Would you be able to share some insights from the internship itself? How long did it last for? What were the working hours like? What were some of your tasks?
A: The internship lasted 10 weeks, and my hours were not too bad, I was getting in around 7.30 - 7.45 am, and was normally there until 7-8 pm. I was mostly shadowing the full-time analysts on their deals, and often, the summer is quite a quiet time. We were also given a lot of projects to get on with and work with other departments within the legal team.
Goldman offers an incredible team environment and everything we did was based around the team. While we were there, we moved into GS' new office, and we were all sat on desks next to each other, rather than in isolated offices.
Q: What was the most important lesson that you learnt during the experience?
A: I learnt to always ask for help. It is very easy to think you can do everything, and people tell you before these internships that the best way to convert it into a full-time job offer is to do the most work, etc, but that should be balanced with being yourself and collaborating with others.
Q: I think that's a really valuable lesson! For our readers looking to gain experience at one of these large financial firms, what advice would you give? How can they stand out?
A: As previously mentioned, being yourself is the most important thing you can do. It is very easy to walk into a firm like Goldman and think you do not deserve to be there (that you got lucky), but you were picked out of thousands of others for a reason - most likely how well you performed in an interview. It is also important to just do the basics. Complete the work you are assigned efficiently and make sure to eliminate silly mistakes. Everyone will make mistakes but the most important thing is realising the mistake and learning from it. A lot of the time, the most cliché piece of advice you get given turn out to be the best advice.
Q: Obviously, you've succeeded in gaining a full-time job offer with Goldman. I assume this is very competitive among interns and there are only a few positions available. Can you elaborate on this?
A: To be honest, my department was quite strange as there were only 5 interns, all with slightly different career aspirations. Some were not looking for a full-time offer, and so it is difficult to be objective. However, in general terms, if you perform well during your internship and show that you deserve to be working at the firm, you stand in good stead to be offered a full-time role upon graduation.
Q: One final question for you! Do you have any other general tips for students looking to break into the financial word?
A: Networking is very important, so do not be afraid to message professionals on LinkedIn and talk to people at your universities who have worked/are working at the kind of companies you want to work with. Try and participate in wider university societies, as a lot of firms place teamwork as one of their most important recruiting values, and the best way to prove you can work in a team is by being in a sports team or on a university executive committee.
Q: Ben, it's been an absolute pleasure chatting with you, as always. I wish you the best of luck in your future career with Goldman Sachs, and have little doubt that you'll be a great success there! Thanks for your help!
A: My pleasure! Thank you!
If you'd like to learn more about Ben, don't hesitate to connect with him via his LinkedIn:
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