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Off Cycle Investment Banking Internships: Is This The Best Way To Enter The Industry?

Wall street

Many students are asking me if they should aim for an off-cycle internship to kickstart their career in investment banking. 

They’re not sure if these internships are as valuable as traditional internships such as Summer Internships, and they’re wondering if it’s easier to secure an off-cycle compared to other programmes. 

I had the chance to go through pretty much all kinds of processes – including Springs, Summers, Off-Cycles, Graduates, and Industrial Placements – so I have a good understanding of what you can expect from each of these programmes. 

In this article, I’m going to help you get a better understanding of investment banking off-cycle internships, by explaining what they are, how they differ from other types of internships, how much value they’ll add to your CV, and how to secure these positions.

What is an off-cycle internship? The no-BS definition
offcycle definition

There are many programmes on the market that could fall under the category of “off-cycle” internships. That includes:

  • 4-6-month internships at a large global investment bank, starting at any time during the year except the Summer (even though off-cycle may in fact start during the Summer, but this is a rare case)
  • An internship of any duration that is not listed on any website, obtained in an informal way, notably through networking. Typically, IB boutiques may offer internship offers on a case-by-case basis, without promoting any offer on their website. 


While there is no converging definition on off-cycle internships, we could define them like that: off-cycle internships are internships of variable duration that either occur outside the traditional recruiting cycle (late Summer/Autumn for Summer Internships), OR internships that are not published online and which can be obtained via informal ways (networking).

Off-cycle offers at large investment banks (GS, MS, JPM and the others) are typically listed on their websites. That means that it’s possible to apply to these offers directly, just like you would do for any other types of internship. 

With that being said, most “off-cycle” internships are NOT listed, meaning that you cannot find them anywhere online. There are a number of students that manage secure internship offers at IB boutiques without having to apply on any website. Technically speaking, these “hidden” opportunities are off-cycle internships, which can only be obtained through networking (more on that later). 

Now, you may wonder: which one is harder to get? A listed off-cycle internship at a BB bank or an unlisted internship at a boutique? 

As you may suspect, it’s generally easier to secure an unlisted off-cycle at a boutique, for several reasons:

  • Competition is lower for unlisted internships, because getting access to these opportunities require a great deal of proactiveness that most candidates don’t have. The majority of candidates naively thinks that all internship offers are published online, and that if they can’t find any offer on the bank’s website, it means there is no offer (which is obviously completely wrong, but hey, that’s good news for you!)
  • Even for those who are proactive enough to send “spontaneous applications” to boutique investment banks, very few have the networking skills to actually get an interview. And without interviews, you can’t get offers. 
  • When you belong to the minority of candidates that 1) understands that most internship offers are hidden/unlisted and 2) knows how to network effectively to land interviews, your number of competitors will be significantly lower compared to listed offers. 
  • Finally, boutiques tend to be less obsessed about your background (including university, grades, and previous experiences) than large, top-tier investment banks, so it’ll be slightly easier to pass initial CV screens. 


That being said, both listed and unlisted off-cycle internship offers are hard to obtain (I would say that bulge-bracket off-cycles are just as hard to secure as Summer Internships – there may be less candidates but the caliber of candidates is higher, as we’ll discuss in a moment). So don’t expect the recruiting process to be any easier compared to Summer Internships, or worse, Graduate programmes (by far the highest in the echelon of difficulty).  

Are Off-Cycle Internships worth it? Are they as valuable as a Summer Internship?
offcycle summer

The question that I get very often from students is: Should I do a Summer or an Off-Cycle?

Many students believe that Summer Internships are more valuable or “prestigious” than off-cycle positions, in the sense that they send a stronger signal on the CV. 

From experience, having worked at a bulge-bracket for several years, I can tell you that off-cycle internships can be just as valuable as Summer Internships to help you break into this industry. 

But it’s only the case if these off-cycles are listed offers that can be found on the websites of top investment banks. 

There are two ways to compare off-cycles with Summer Internships: from a recruiter’s perspective (how recruiters will perceive your CV market value if you go for either of these routes) and from a skill development/learning perspective (how much you’ll learn during your internship). 

The recruiter’s perspective: no major difference between Summer and Off-Cycle, unless the Off-Cycle is an unlisted offer

From a recruiter’s perspective, Summer Internships signal stronger value than UNLISTED off-cycle internships – internships that are not managed by any centralized recruiting process (typically in boutiques). 

Summer Internships add a lot of value to a CV because recruiters know how difficult it is to get them, and they think “OK, if this candidate managed to get a Summer role at this firm, it means that he went through some very selective process, and therefore he must be good”. 

On the other hand, if you did an off-cycle internship at a boutique bank, the recruiter has no indication about the real selectivity of the recruiting process you went through. 

If your uncle is a partner at ABC Bank and you got a 6-month internship in M&A thanks to him, you could still say “Off-cycle internship in M&A” on your CV, even though you might have secured the job just by saying “Uncle, I love you! Please help me…” 

For that reason, recruiters automatically place a lower value on off-cycle internships obtained at boutiques (NOT talking about elite boutiques, which should be put on par with BB banks in terms of selectivity perception), because they have no way to estimate how difficult it was for you to get this opportunity. 

With that said, there is no real difference in perceived value between a Summer Internship and an Off-Cycle Internship at a large, global investment bank. 

In other words, an M&A Off-Cycle at Credit Suisse should have the same “prestige” or perceived market value on your CV as a Summer Internship in M&A at the same firm. 

Why? Because the recruiting processes at these top banks are very similar, as long as these offers are listed. You can have 3-4 rounds of interviews for an off-cycle at a large bank, just as many as for a Summer Analyst role. 

The only difference is that there are generally less candidates for off-cycle roles compared to SA roles, BUT the caliber of candidates tends to be higher for off-cycle recruiting. 

They typically have more experience, are more prepared on the technical side, and have more differentiated profiles than the average SA candidate, which offsets the fact that the number of candidates per off-cycle offer is lower. 

I’ve been to both SA and Off-Cycle processes, and I can tell you that off-cycle candidates are much deadlier opponents…

The skill development perspective: Off-cycle may offer a faster learning curve

If you’re a proactive person, you have a chance to learn way, way more during an Off-Cycle compared to a SA role. 

Why? Because off-cycle are much less structured than summer internships. Summers typically offer interns the opportunity to work on several pre-defined tasks, like building models, writing memorando, building PPT deck, etc. 

Summer Interns roughly know what they’re going to work on in advance, because the responsibilities of these interns are defined much more clearly than those of off-cycle interns. 

On the other hand, off-cycle interns enjoy a significantly higher degree of freedom with regards to the range of tasks they can work on. 

What they do at work largely depends on their level of competence, their proactiveness, and their manager ability and willingness to delegate tasks. 

As a result, an off-cycle intern who is very proactive and competent will be able to take on much more responsibilities than the average Summer Analysts. The downside is that they don’t have any pre-defined sets of responsibilities (or at least this set will be defined less clearly), so they will usually have to ask for work all the time. 

Another benefit of off-cycle internships (which can also be a drawback, depending on how we see it) is the longer duration of these programmes. Since these internships last longer than SA roles (typically 4-6 months), you’ll get exposure to more projects, giving you the opportunity to accumulate more experience. 

After 6 months in M&A at GS, you can expect to be more competent than a different version of you who’ve done a 2-month Summer Internship at the same firm. 

The downside of off-cycle internships
downsides min

A major downside is that since you work for a longer period of time, you’ll also have more opportunities to f*** things up. In 6 months, you are likely to make more mistakes than in 2 months, assuming an equivalent level of diligence and attention. 

The number one rule to get a full-time offer after an internship is: don’t make mistake. Or at least do your absolute best to minimize the number and gravity of mistakes you make. 

To increase your chances of getting an offer, it’s better to be a good intern who makes zero mistake than an exceptional intern who made one or several big mistakes. 

Another drawback of off-cycle is that you’ll have a lower likelihood of securing a full-time offer. Summer Analysts generally have the priority over off-cycles when it comes to landing the few available full-time offers. 

Conversion rates for Summer Analysts (percentage of interns who receive a FT offer) can vary, but they are generally between 50-80%. For off-cycle interns, it can be less than 30%, but sometimes over 50% for excellent promotions of interns. Just know that Summer Analysts will have structurally higher chances than you to get a FT offer if you’re working as an off-cycle intern, even if they might be less competent than you.

Finally, another major drawback of off-cycle internships is that there is no guaranteed training programmes. Summer Analysts typically go through an onboarding process that includes some extensive training on financial modelling and various software that are useful for investment banking. 

While off-cycle interns at large investment bank may also benefit from these special training courses, you probably won’t get that level of training if you’re interning at a boutique bank.


A word about the author

Aurelian Tran is the founder of Alpha Lane and an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst who has spent 4+ years working in the investment banking industry.

He founded Alpha Lane to help students and young professionals achieve their highest professional ambitions, by securing offers at top-tier financial institutions.