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Babson College SPEAR students smile for a photo

Babson College’s SPEAR program prepares undergraduate students for an investment banking internship and builds professional skills.

Babson College

When Tyson Corner was a student at Babson College in Massachusetts, he knew he wanted to work in investment banking. What he didn’t know was how to get there.

After landing and completing a summer internship after his sophomore year, Corner developed a 13-week program to teach a cohort of his peers each semester how to get their own internship experience while building comradery and teaching professional development skills.

The program, Students Prepared Educated and Ready (SPEAR) Investment Banking program, has seen success in its five-semester history and formed a community of leaders and future bankers.

A foot in the door: Investment banking is a competitive field with acceptance rates of around 1 percent and “extremely accelerated compared to other industries,” explains Corner, a 2022 Babson alumnus. Most internships take place the summer before junior year, meaning students have to be prepared by spring semester of their second year.

During his college career, Corner spent years trying to find résumé templates, interview questions, skills and basic banking knowledge to prepare himself for a future internship and career in the field.

Incorporating what he learned, his own internship experience and industry expert feedback, SPEAR content offers a step-by-step process for students, distilling the best information, resources and contacts over three months to ensure they hold the necessary skills and attitudes to thrive in the field.

“This program is uniquely designed to overcome the obstacles that might prevent success and allows students to put more time and energy into the components of the process that will yield the largest impact in terms of receiving interviews and, ultimately, offers,” Corner says.

The nuts and bolts: Interested students apply for SPEAR at the end of each semester to join the program in the subsequent term. SPEAR student facilitators lead a blind review of the applicant’s résumé and essay, in which students connect SPEAR outcomes with their future careers. There is also a GPA screen, which factors into an overall scoring rubric across applicants. Following the application process, students complete an interview before joining the program officially.

The most recent cohort had 100 applications for 14 available positions, Corner says.

Prior to the start of the program, students read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and lessons from the book show up in each session.

SPEAR sessions are divided into four topics: behavioral preparation, software tools, modeling and the capstone.

Three behavioral preparation sessions are spread out across the program, one at the start, one at the end and another somewhere in the middle. This allows students to mark their own improvement over the semester and hone their abilities.

Three sessions cover software tools like Bloomberg, FactSet and CapitalIQ, and around three sessions teach financial modeling. But there are sometimes more sessions on weekends or one-on-one sessions to establish mastery of the subjects.

Across the program’s length, participants also host collaborative study groups for weekly technical quizzes and interview preparation.

The final meeting is a capstone presentation in which each participant shares a culmination of what they’ve learned in a five-minute stock pitch, followed by a question-and-answer session led by SPEAR participants past and present.

Building community: While SPEAR is designed to help students break into a difficult-to-enter field, the program is collaborative and supportive, Corner says.

“The goal of the program is for 100 percent of students to receive IB internships, and the participants know that we have not hit our goal until this is the case.”

Each session starts with a one-minute, seated meditation called “Banker Breaths,” which leads into a group sharing activity, in which members reflect on their lives and connect with the groups, which the cohort calls “Leverage Your Feelings.”

“Similar to how leverage in a company can boost returns, leveraging your feelings can boost the returns of the group,” Corner explains.

SPEAR student leaders collect feedback from participants each semester. Students shared that they felt supported, gained valuable technical skills and learned to face challenges head-on.

Students can also return to SPEAR after completion as a program facilitator, leading the next cohort of investment banking interns to success.

The bottom line: Since 2021, SPEAR has had 70 participants and 40 internships. The first cohort of SPEAR participants, the 2023 graduating class, has 11 SPEAR members, and eight are going into full-time banking analyst roles.

In the future, Corner hopes the SPEAR network will grow enough to add site visits to banks in New York City and Boston to increase networking opportunities for participants.

“This program has served as a launch pad to accelerate Babson finance, and we all feel lucky for the opportunity to participate in such a special group,” Corner says.

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