Q&A With Victor Arribas, a Three-Time Morgan Stanley Summer Intern

Published: Oct 14, 2014

 Education       Finance       Grad School       Internships       Interviewing       Job Search       
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Victor Arribas, a senior at the University of Michigan, recently accepted a full-time offer with Morgan Stanley, the global financial services firm. In his conversation with Vault, Victor provides perspective on the interview process, what he thinks employers are looking for from candidates, and the roles he held over his three summer internships. He also highlights how he worked on several big deals, built strong relationships with mentors, and even met one-on-one with Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman.

Q: Where'd you grow up and go to school? How'd you find your way to Morgan Stanley?
A: I grew up in Lake Orion, Michigan, about an hour north of Detroit. As a junior in high school, I was interested in micro and macroeconomics, and that led to my interest in business and a job in sales with AT&T. I really enjoyed sales, especially the client-driven component.

When I entered the University of Michigan, I joined a business and economics fraternity, which surrounded me with like-minded driven people. After sitting down with older members to discuss my career interest, I found myself passionate about banking and consulting. I was fortunate to land a research position on campus with the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy. I looked at incubators that helped spur business in Michigan, which made me want to pursue a career in finance.

I investigated diversity internship programs for freshmen, but only one was 10-weeks long and stuck out for its commitment to developing talent at an early age: Morgan Stanley's Bridging the Gap program, which is now called the Freshman Enhancement Program. I applied and was extremely humbled to be accepted for the summer analyst program.

Q: What was your first internship like?
A: I joined debt capital markets in the securitization group on the commercial paper team. It was the steepest learning curve I'd ever experienced and a terrific way to spend my summer.

Part of my job was putting together a weekly update for a thousand investors on inflows, outflows, and trends in the commercial paper market. This was the summer of 2012, when a lot of banks and issuers were getting downgraded, which added to the fast-pace and intensity of the trading floor.

Q: How did you get your second internship with Morgan Stanley?
A: My manager in debt capital markets had previously worked in investment banking, and she recommended it as a next step for me. At that point, I knew a lot about commercial paper but wanted a more holistic understanding of capital structure, M&A, and other areas. The last week of my freshman summer, I interviewed and received an offer to return the following summer.

Q: What were those interviews like?
A: I mostly fielded questions about my first internship, including my experience in commercial paper and asset-backed securities.

Q: Can you talk a little about your second internship?
A: The second internship was a two-part rotational program: for the first half, I worked for the East Coast Technology team, before moving to the Global Power and Utilities team. It was a wonderful experience to gain exposure to two different investment banking groups. The highlight was getting to work on one very large deal that was recently announced—I worked with the team that drafted the management presentation delivered to potential buyers.

Q: How'd you get your third internship with the bank?
A: I really enjoyed advisory work that visibly impacted our clients' businesses but wanted to see how Morgan Stanley operates as a business. Internal consulting roles provide the opportunity to see how Morgan Stanley formulates its strategy and looks for growth. I interviewed for an internship with the Firm-wide Strategy & Execution group and was offered a position.

Q: What was that third internship like?
A: As with my sophomore summer, I was fortunate to split my time between two fascinating seats. For the first half of the summer, I worked in Strategy & Execution; the second half of the summer, I worked in the office of Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman. James has a small team that supports him in prioritizing his time and client focus. He met with us regularly to track our progress and give feedback. James has been a role model of mine since high school, so being able to sit with him and learn about how he tackles problems was a once-in-a-career opportunity.

Q: What kind of work did you do for Gorman?
A: This past summer, James attended the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. Attendees included President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as over 200 CEOs and 50 African heads of state. To prepare for James’ attendance, I collaborated with experts from across the firm to help create a briefing document that discussed opportunities in Africa and Morgan Stanley’s presence on the continent. I presented the briefing to him during my last week.

Q: Did anything surprise you about Gorman?
A: James trained as a lawyer so he asks extremely thoughtful questions and listens well. He also has a strong presence. I knew he was tall (six-two) but when I was in a room with him he felt much taller. The other thing that struck me was his sense of humor. He's easy to have a conversation with and took an active interest in my background and summer experience.

Q: Did Gorman give you any advice?
A: I had a one-on-one meeting with James at the end of the summer. We discussed the financial crisis, Morgan Stanley's business mix, and its strategic goals. He also offered career advice, specifically the need to pace myself, which is contrary to how a lot of people look at careers. In thinking about professional development, James recommended working overseas to provide cultural perspective and meet people of varying backgrounds. James took a genuine interest in me, and his support was invaluable.

Q: You recently received a full-time offer with Morgan Stanley. Which group will you be working for?
A: I'll be returning to Strategy & Execution, a small group that advises Morgan Stanley’s senior leadership on the firm’s strategic priorities. It's a really unique group and a great fit for me because it handles consulting and M&A projects that touch multiple business units across Morgan Stanley. I'll have the opportunity to work on projects that drive the firm’s direction and its profitability, which is exciting.

Q: How has your experience been working with other Morgan Stanley interns?
A: I've had nothing but the best experiences working with other interns at Morgan Stanley. The firm cares deeply about its interns and offers many chances to get to know each other informally, which translates into stronger working relationships. We had several events outside the office, including Yankees and Mets games, dodgeball tournaments, and a barbecue at the firm’s Westchester campus. During the school year, we keep in touch on a regular basis.

Q: What are the hours like for interns?
A: Every experience varies. It can be a very demanding job, especially when there are a lot of deals in the pipeline. Each summer I've had numerous challenges.

During my freshman internship, for example, I was asked to put together a spreadsheet to give to a client at about 10 or 11 a.m., and I had until the end of the day to finish it. That evening, I handed it to an associate who looked at it for a few seconds and then told me to pull up a chair. She recreated the entire spreadsheet in 20 minutes and said, "Don't let that happen again." I learned quickly that accuracy and efficiency were paramount, and I improved because my associate pushed me. I was thankful for the experience later, but at the time I thought, “She probably doesn’t think I'm a very good analyst.”

Q: Have you ever considered or interviewed with other firms aside from Morgan Stanley?
A: I had opportunities to interview elsewhere after my first internship. I knew that I really wanted to be in finance, but I was also interested in consulting and did a short externship with Boston Consulting Group. I enjoyed my time at BCG but it ultimately wasn’t for me. Morgan Stanley was simply the right fit—I knew that from day one.

Q: This is going to sound like an interview question, but where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Since I just signed my return offer, I know I'll be at Morgan Stanley for at least the next two years, and hopefully beyond that. The luxury of three summer internships has provided friends and mentors throughout the firm, so I'm very excited to join as a full-time analyst and see where my career takes me.

I would also be interested in doing something in the technology world at some point given that I've taken many computer science courses to supplement my business curriculum at Michigan.

Q: Any recommendations to students who want to intern at Morgan Stanley?
A: First, be passionate—not necessarily about finance, but about something, be it political science or another area of study. Morgan Stanley wants you to bring your passion to the workplace. The firm doesn't narrowly focus on those with backgrounds in finance, either; it's more important that you've performed well in your degree of choice.

Second, know your story. A lot of people spend all their interview preparation studying the technical questions; these are important, but you also have to ask yourself if finance is really where you want to be, and if Morgan Stanley is the firm for you. Focusing on investment banking because people tell you it's a good way to start a career isn't a good enough reason to pursue it.

Q: Any recommendations for students once they get an internship with Morgan Stanley?
A: Don't burn any bridges. It's extremely important to have good relationships with everyone you work with, from senior managers to your fellow interns. Managers will be observing you to see if you're someone who gets along with others. You also need to find at least one person (ideally a manager) that you feel comfortable asking tough questions, such as: "What am I doing wrong? How can I improve?"

I would note that interns are rarely surprised about receiving or not receiving a return offer, as there are formal evaluations midway through your internship and constant informal evaluations where you learn about areas for improvement.

Q: Last question: How do you think Morgan Stanley's different from its competitors?
A: Definitely its culture. At Morgan Stanley, they don't want you to change who you are; they want your personality because it adds to the firm's identity. Additionally, Morgan Stanley has done things a certain way for very long and very well. There's so much history here. I love to hear the stories and experiences of people who've been with the firm for 25-plus years. That's not something you'll find at many places.

This post was sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

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