How Goldman Sachs builds relationships with young talent through its summer internship program

How Goldman Sachs builds relationships with young talent through its summer internship program

One of the key structural changes in the financial services industry right now is the shift to flexible or remote working arrangements, which has emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic. While this remains a hotly debated topic, with traditional banks generally resisting the change, institutions like Synchrony are solidifying remote working as a permanent option.

Traditional financial institutions are also stepping up to stay relevant, especially to the younger generation, albeit with different strategies. That’s the direction Goldman Sachs (GS) is taking with its summer internship program.

Goldman Sachs is focused on providing skills development opportunities for aspiring professionals through its internship programs. We take a look at Goldman’s summer internship project, covering everything from the recruitment and training process to the challenges of finding the right talent who can potentially grow into a professional role while also trying to meet the expectations of a younger generation.

Explaining the structure of the Goldman Sachs summer internship program

The Goldman Sachs 2024 summer internship program began June 10 in New York, enrolling 2,700 new hires from 315,126 applications, or a 0.9% acceptance rate. About 40% of the Class of 2024 come from STEM fields. The program is organized on a rolling basis, with internships ending Aug. 9 for some interns from the Americas and Aug. 16 for others.

The Global Internship Program is designed to provide young professionals with a foundation for a career in banking or other professional services industries. Interns begin with pre-program training on financial markets, modeling and business applications, and a detailed orientation in the first week to prepare for their summer roles. This is a five-day office-based internship per week, during which interns receive hands-on training to help them expand their specialist and practical knowledge of financial services and build relationships with experts, clients and company leaders.

“Our interns work on real, complex problems for our clients,” Omer Tanvir, global head of campus recruiting and diversity at Goldman Sachs, told me.

Elaborating on whether interns are involved in internal operations, take on client-facing roles, or manage both, Tanvir explained, “We have interns embedded in all aspects of the company – from our Global Banking & Markets and Asset & Wealth Management divisions to engineering and operations – where they work hands-on every day to serve our clients.”

Interns are integrated into the firm through the One Goldman Sachs ethos. OneGS is the firm’s cross-industry strategy that aims to break down silos between business lines to deliver a more cohesive and integrated approach to client service.

“We bring that same operational approach to our interns, showcasing all of the firm’s businesses, client spotlights and community service through an educational series,” Tanvir said. “Interns can also participate in our networking events and intern showcases, which provide access to further opportunities across the firm.”

Eligibility criteria and internal selection process: According to Tanvir, the recruitment process for interns at Goldman Sachs involves assessing several factors, with particular emphasis placed on diversity and cultural fit with the company.

Intern Registration – Photo Source: Goldman Sachs

Each year, the bank selects interns from more than 500 global universities who advance to the interview stage after passing a selection process. To help students familiarize themselves with a career in financial services and the internship interview process, the bank hosts events on campus, in its offices and virtually throughout the year.

The interview process is structured to enable assessment of candidates in three key areas:

  • Candidate alignment with Goldman Sachs’ core values ​​of customer service, partnership and teamwork
  • Their expertise in the position they are applying for
  • Communication skills

Who trains the interns? “Training is a responsibility across the company, across several touchpoints,” Tanvir notes. “We have training sessions before interns come to their desks, as well as those throughout the program.”

Traditional banks often have a clear management hierarchy within their branch structures. Goldman Sachs also emphasizes the value of the managerial relationship by directing interns to regular points of contact with their direct managers.

Former Interns Panel in New York City — Photo Credit: Goldman Sachs

The summer internship is designed to offer challenges that build skills while still being rewarding enough to keep interns motivated, much like the teacher approach combines discipline with encouragement. With this in mind, interns are provided with both a buddy and a mentor to guide them throughout their internship.

“Interns are encouraged to develop their network across the organisation, and alumni from their universities often play a key role in facilitating contacts and offering informal support,” Tanvir added.

Cultural fit: Receiving more than 300,000 applications from over 500 international universities means evaluating candidates with a wide range of experiences, talents and adaptability levels. This raises a key question: How does Goldman Sachs confirm that selected candidates are a good cultural fit for the organization?

“It all starts with our recruiting process. We attract candidates and strive to hire interns—and really every hire—who embody our core values,” Tanvir said.

The internship period is also a time to assess these qualities in candidates while also providing feedback on their performance through formal and informal interactions. This approach helps clarify performance expectations, identify areas for improvement, and highlight opportunities for development.

“This way, trainees and managers can clearly observe their evolution from beginning to end,” he noted.

Reflecting on the expected five-day-a-week presence in the office for interns, Tanvir stressed the importance of company culture on the overall intern experience. Company surveys show that this is also a preferred choice among interns, probably because they are new to the banking world and want to gain first-hand knowledge and experience.

These surveys are designed to gather feedback from interns to give them the same weight as their experiences at the company, as well as the bank’s expectations of them. In 2023, the bank sought to better understand what types of interactions benefit most from in-person contact as it transitioned out of the pandemic. The survey results showed that its culture of practice aligned with 87% of respondents who value in-person work in terms of coaching, training, and impromptu connections.

“We survey our interns every year and over the years we have found that 99% of respondents believe that the best relationships are formed in person,” Tanvir said.

Requiring interns to be in the office follows the bank’s decision to reinstate the five-day-a-week return-to-the-office model for permanent employees that was introduced last year.

Expectations of the young generation and Goldman’s reaction

An internship can be a springboard to exploring the possibilities of a full-time role in a company, but it does not guarantee permanent full-time employment. Moreover, it is a reciprocal situation: while the bank tries to hire the best, young talents have also developed their own preferences for what they are looking for in a job or employer.

Even for established names in the industry, attracting top talent is not a given and requires more than just a strong brand. Creating products and services for younger generations is already a hot topic of discussion, and financial firms are grappling with how to connect with Gen Z. Much like their expectations of financial products, this generation also has specific expectations of how established banks approach recruitment practices and career opportunities.

The programme includes sessions that showcase the diverse career paths of individuals within the company and in the industry, giving trainees a practical understanding of the things to learn and the mistakes to avoid in order to achieve a long-lasting career. The bank believes that Generation Z values ​​this type of professional knowledge and guidance on career development.

Goldman Sachs also recognizes Gen Z’s desire to advance the organization’s mission through their own contributions. The bank offers interns a global volunteering initiative, Community TeamWorks, where younger generations can use their time and talents to support nonprofits and make a tangible difference. There are broader opportunities for those transitioning into full-time roles at the bank.

Imagining what will happen next

Goldman Sachs sees AI as a leading trend that will shape the future growth and evolution of the financial services sector. The bank’s 2023 Intern Survey found that 86% use AI tools in their personal lives, and 34% believe AI will have the biggest global impact over the next ten years.

To keep up with industry-wide technological advances, as well as to keep younger audiences engaged, Tanvir emphasizes that the Wall Street bank is taking a deliberate approach to AI based on three pillars:

  • Supporting business growth and improving customer experience
  • Improving developer productivity
  • Increasing operational efficiency