Here, we interviewed our Analyst Prep Program alum, Julio Contreras, to learn how he secured an investment banking summer internship offer with BNP Paribas coming from Florida International University, a non-target school.
Please tell us a little bit about your background:
“My name is Julio Contreras, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University. I grew up in Lecherias, a small coastal town in Venezuela about four hours from Caracas. When I was fifteen years old, I moved to the United States with my family, finished high school in Woodstock, Georgia and more importantly, learned English. At FIU, I am pursuing a dual degree in Economics and Finance and more recently I received an offer to intern at BNP Paribas with their Asset Finance and Securitization Team.
As a sophomore, I interned at the Brickell office of Banco Santander International. It was not until that moment that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in banking. This full-time internship lasted about ten months and I was able to work with their Private Banking division and Active Investment Services team. Being able to work 40+ hours per week while also being a full-time college student gave me the confidence that I needed to follow a career in one of the most competitive fields out there.
As you can imagine, securing this offer was anything but easy. Being a first-generation immigrant means no connections at all in any industry. And if you add that FIU is not a “target” school for Investment Banking, the road gets even more complicated. However, I would not change a thing even if I could.”
Why Asset Finance?
“Growing up very close to my family business in Venezuela, I realized how important cash flow is for any business (no matter how small or large). It does not matter how much revenue you are generating or how many assets you have. If you are not able to have a solid and structured cash flow plan, your business is set for failure. By working with the Asset Finance and Securitization team, I will be involved with the funding of new and existing projects of all sizes in different parts of the world that will bring all sorts of benefits to many people.”
Why BNP Paribas?
“Choosing BNP was probably the easiest part of the recruitment process for me. I believe that you must work really hard to find a company that fits your core principles, whatever those are for you. Ever since I had my first interview with the team, I felt like this is a place where I can see myself working long hours and developing the skills I will need to be successful and help others. I think everyone should experience that feeling prior to accepting any job offer.”
How did you prepare for interviews?
“I highly recommend taking advantage of your school’s career and talent development department. They will typically offer things like mock interviews, resume seminars, and will give you advice on how to respond to typical behavioral questions. I also want to thank Romero Mentoring for exponentially improving my technical and soft skills such as valuation, financial modeling, and how to correctly present a pitch.
The internet also offers millions of resources that can help you nail your interviews; you just have to put in the work and give yourself a chance. Another thing that helped me succeed was reading books and articles about the economy, finance, etc.
Some of the questions I was asked:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why Asset Finance?
- Why BNP Paribas?
- What are the three principal financial statements? How do they connect to each other?
- Tell me about a time that you had to work with a group? What role did you take?
Most of these questions you can find online and you should practice beforehand how you will answer them during the interviews.”
Do you have any final tips or remarks?
“You have to think and decide very carefully if you want to pursue a career in this field. If you get the opportunity to intern as an analyst, take it. It is the only way you will really get a sense of what the environment is like and if you will enjoy it or not.
Lastly, do not just “study” to get the internship. The educational system has taught us to only study to get good grades and this has narrowed our abilities significantly. Study without an excuse, study because you are passionate about the subject. Read books and do research in your free time, this will give you a huge competitive advantage. Trust me, interviewers will know this from the moment you introduce yourself to them.”
More with Julio:
Check out our other interview with Julio in our Alumni Chat Series for further insights into his background and recruitment journey. Watch the interview on YouTube by clicking the thumbnail below: