Coronavirus forcing banks to retool summer internships

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The summer internship program at JPMorgan Chase typically begins in late May or early June. But this isn’t a typical year. This summer, the 2,000 college students hired into the program won’t get started until July 6 — and even then, there’s a chance the entire program will be moved online.

The nation’s largest bank is one of many financial firms trying to figure out the logistics of maintaining an internship program in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Some have already committed to conducting their entire programs online in order to ensure the safety and security of interns. Others say they will hire and pay their interns, but they don’t yet know if the programs will be delivered in person or online.

JPMorgan Chase has delayed the start date of its summer internships while Capital One has moved its entire program online.
JPMorgan Chase has delayed the start date of its summer internships while Capital One has moved its entire program online.

Whatever banks decide to do could have long-term effects on their ability to develop entry-level talent. Not having interns this year or bringing on interns who end up not having good experiences could shrink the talent pool, and for some banks it could lead to a shortfall of managerial talent years down the road, bankers say.

“Our decision to be prepared to deliver a virtual internship program signals how important we think interns and entry-level talent are to the firm,” said Matthew Mitro, JPMorgan’s head of campus recruiting, which covers the United States, Europe, Asia, India and Latin America. “The goal is to not just deliver some kind of experience and pay them, but to deliver a very rich experience and pay them. That’s a standard we set for ourselves and we’ll do whatever it takes to make that possible.”

For many banks, summer internships are the lifeblood of their talent recruitment strategies. Banks usually visit college campuses in the fall to nab the best and brightest students for programs in areas such as retail, commercial, wealth management and technology. Those students then spend 10 to 12 weeks at the bank, immersed in the firm’s culture, learning from managers and working on projects.

If things go well, some interns will get an offer from the bank for full-time employment after graduation.

Gwen Appelbaum, an assistant dean and director of the Career Resource Center in the University at Buffalo School of Management, said a variety of banks — including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, M&T Bank and Citigroup— come to campus to recruit both undergraduate and graduate students.

None of those banks have canceled their internship programs this year, Appelbaum said. Instead, they are talking about pushing back start dates, shortening their programs and moving to a virtual format.

And though they are keeping students and the university in the loop, there’s a lot up in the air, she said.

“These are important decisions that have a lot of future implications for the talent pipeline that will feed into their organizations,” Appelbaum said. “For the banks that recruit with us, they are really working hard to maintain the status quo with their programs. That’s the predominant message they’re sending.”

For now, some banks are committed to hiring and paying summer interns as planned. JPMorgan Chase will pay interns for the full internship duration and will equip all interns with the proper technology to make sure they have full access to an online program.

Like JPMorgan, Citigroup is delaying the start of its program until July 6 and thinking about converting it to a fully virtual experience. Notably, the New York bank, which plans to hire 1,500 interns this summer, including 750 in the United States, said that interns stationed in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo will receive full-time job offers from Citi upon graduation, “as long as [they] meet minimum requirements of the abbreviated program.”

Meanwhile, Capital One Financial has already decided to go online and last week notified about 1,000 interns that its program would become remote. Students will still receive pay and housing funds according to their offer letters, the McLean, Va.-based company said.

“This change allows us to continue to provide a rewarding and impactful learning experience for our interns while prioritizing the health and safety of the entire Capital One community,” the bank said.

Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C., has guaranteed the hiring and paying of more than 2,000 summer interns and more than 1,000 full-time campus recruits across the globe. The bank did not provide details about possible delayed start dates or whether or not the internship program would become virtual.

PNC Financial Services’ internship program won’t start until June 22 — a month later than the usual start date — and leadership intends to keep it an in-person experience for the 475 students slated to come onboard for six weeks. A spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh company said the program “remains a critical component of [the bank’s] early career hiring strategy and serves as the primary pipeline for [PNC’s] full-time rotational development programs” that draw 400 recent college graduates every year.

“We believe it is important for our interns to have an in-person internship where they can experience firsthand how we live our values and serve our customers,” the bank said in a statement. “This delay helps us to preserve their experience while prioritizing their safety.”

Depending on the status of the pandemic, the delayed start could be altered, the spokeswoman said.

Some banks shifted their spring internship programs online last month. The $3 billion-asset Canandaigua National Bank & Trust in New York has a pair of IT interns working remotely for the rest of the semester, said Michelle Pedzich, chief human resources officer.

What happens this summer is unknown. The bank — which last year employed eight interns for six to eight weeks over the summer — is trying to determine in which departments it needs help and then figure out if and how an internship, including a virtual one, is even possible, Pedzich said.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to place students in a position where we need help,” she said. “It may not be exactly what they thought they’d be doing … but we will definitely be able to work out opportunities for them.”

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Workforce management Commercial banking Consumer banking JPMorgan Chase Capital One PNC Financial Services Group Citigroup Coronavirus