Gaining experience is crucial for students to explore their desired careers so they can gain valuable knowledge related to the job and industry as well as identify different career paths and opportunities suitable for their specific interests and skillset. An internship can provide that experience and perspective. As a Finance major, I am interested in working in the financial services industry upon graduation. The financial services industry is a large field with many different opportunities. For me, being able to intern at two different firms on both the buy-side and the sell-side has allowed me to reflect on what career path would be most beneficial and most enjoyable for me. This past semester, I interned at England & Company, a boutique investment bank in Bethesda, focusing on energy, industrials, and healthcare. Working at England & Company enabled me to gain relevant experience and learn about investment banking. Additionally, I dwelled into processes within investment banking, exploring the nuances and complexities in the services provided.
Most people are unaware of the role that investment banks play in society because they tailor only to those working in corporate Finance. Having first-hand experience in an investment bank has given me a deeper understanding of the role and investment plays in financial transactions and many other facets of corporate Finance. Through my experiences, I gained knowledge about the services investment banks provide. Banks provide advisory services to companies and organizations on mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, and financing. At England & Company, I focused mainly on mergers and acquisitions. This process of buying and selling companies is a very intricate process, which can take months to complete a deal. For instance, at England & Company, I worked on selling a $47 million company and from that experience, I learned the procedure of representing a company. For example, one of the tasks I was assigned to do was to research potential buyers; examining how the company we were advising could benefit the potential buyer. This is a crucial part of the process because finding a buyer is ultimately the most time tedious and time-consuming part. I researched hundreds of companies, eventually breaking down the list to just a couple of companies that showed interested. From this, I learned that positioning your company is crucial in the sell-side process for a buyer to find value in the company.
The complex process of selling a company requires input from all fields of business. For example, projecting the financials of the company to properly value the company requires technical skills gained from accounting. BMGT220, Principles of Accounting I, provided me with a foundation to understand the financial statements of a company. On the selling process, it requires an outlook from BMGT350, the marketing class. At England & Company, I worked on creating presentations that would market the company we were advising to potential buyers. If a product has a bad connotation due to poor publicity and marketing, people will not buy it – the same concepts apply to companies. Additionally, the marketing mix (4 P’s) also plays a role in the process. The price of the company, the products it provides, location, and marketing of the company are all relevant aspects of the marketing mix in the selling process. Thus, concepts from marketing are extremely important in investment banking.
From working in mergers and acquisitions at England & Company, I was able to understand why companies undergo such a strategic task. Merging with a company will create a myriad number of opportunities that previously were not present. For example, while working in the healthcare space, I worked on a case where a certain healthcare services provider in Alabama wanted to be sold to a buyer. I explored buyers who did not have an office in the south-eastern part of the United States; this would allow the buyer to break into the market in that region and gain more market share. Essentially, companies merge to obtain some sort of advantage they previously lacked, and I was able to apply this thought process when searching for merger or acquisition opportunities at England & Company.
Interning at England & Company has created a strong foundation for me to build upon. Working at a boutique investment bank introduced me to careers in high Finance. Furthermore, because it was a boutique firm, I was able to directly work with senior-level directors and assimilate knowledge about the industry. For example, when news broke that HP rejected a takeover bid from Xerox, a smaller competitor, I immediately understood the big picture and Xerox’s reasoning for such an offer. The article “Xerox Threatens to Go Hostile with HP Takeover Bid” written by Dave Sebastian in The Wall Street Journal, walks readers through what needs to happen for this deal to be closed, such as a thorough due diligence process completed by both sides as well as going to shareholders with the deal (Sebastian 1). Although this is not an ordinary deal, I understood the rationale from both Xerox and HP. This would not have been possible without my internship experience at England & Company. I also believe this was possible because I was able to work on real projects and assignments to be used and analyzed by numerous full-time employees. I worked on projects and assignments for clients and had first-hand exposure to banking. By doing actual work, I was able to live the day-in-life of an investment banking analyst and reflect upon it. This experience has given me a deeper understanding of the investment banking industry and I can apply this knowledge to events I read about in the news.
Before I began working at England & Company, I was hesitant about working at an internship during the school year without being paid for the work I was doing. I read numerous articles on why interns should be paid and why interns should not be paid and through my own experience, I believe there is a middle ground that both employers and interns can reach an agreement. The article “Three Cheers for Internships” written by Andy Kessler in The Wall Street Journal, discusses both the positives and negatives of hiring an intern (Kessler 1). Although my internship was unpaid, the experience and skills I gained from this work experience proved far greater than any reasonable level of pay would offer. Ultimately, I was living on campus and had little to no extra bills to pay which was a result of my internship with England & Company. In the first handful of weeks, I proved little to no value add, but over time as I learned about the industry, I was able to provide research and insightful comments that were used by my Managing Directors.
Throughout my time at England & Company, my Managing Directors were extremely supportive of me and one was willing to serve as a reference for a summer internship position. Although I was just an intern, I wanted to make sure I could acquire a skill set that would serve me well in whatever career I’ll be pursuing. Whenever I would complete a task for an analyst or associate, whenever it was appropriate, I always asked for feedback. Stone emphasizes to “Always look for feedback as an opportunity to improve” (Stone 26). Understanding that this internship was a relatively short commitment, I wanted to be sure of myself that I was able to grow and develop as much as I could through this experience. Therefore, no matter if the feedback was positive or negative, I always used it to better my career and my skillset.
As a student, England & Company provided me with an understanding of investment banking that would not be viable to gain from a classroom setting. My Managing Directors were very knowledgeable and helpful, answering any questions I had. Additionally, the Analysts I worked with were also very helpful and provided guidance when needed. I learned how to create pitchbooks, which are presentations used explaining why a company should hire the bank. Also, I learned how to screen for potential buyers and analyze companies. However, I was not given much opportunity to create financial models of companies. This is a skill set that is very crucial in almost all aspects of Finance; whether it is investment banking, venture capital, or private equity. Another area I need further growth in is the fundamental side. Although I was able to get an introduction to the deal process, I would like to dive deeper into the process and learn more. Both skills can be obtained through more experience working in investment banking.
England & Company was my first real investment banking internship, and I am anticipating working at another financial services firm to further enhance my knowledge. Reflecting on my experience, there were several aspects I would do differently now. I was sometimes too hesitant to ask for relevant work. For example, I was given a short-term project to research a public company to learn more about the industry because there was no immediate work for me to do. Instead, I should have asked to do some modeling work, whether it was for a previously closed deal or not, because those are the skills I need to gain during this point in my life. Also, for future workplace experience, I would try to better connect with my peers. All the Analysts were located in New York, while I worked from the Bethesda office. Because of this, I did not network with other coworkers as much as I wanted to and only communicated with them regarding work. Whilst preparing for a summer internship, my experience at England & Company will allow me to resolve these concerns so I can benefit from future experiences as much as possible.
Working at England & Company has been very beneficial. It has given me a chance to experience what investment banking is and to learn about the industry. From creating presentations to plugging in numbers on excel, I find investment banking very exciting. There was never a time where I keenly was watching the clock because I was occupied. It was a great learning experience and my Managing Directors were extremely supportive. England & Company has given me a competitive edge for the recruiting process and will better position me to win a summer internship at a bulge bracket bank. My career path is evident and has begun being paved due to this Fall internship. I hope to expand on my successes and to continue gaining more practical knowledge of the industry.
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