13 September 2016

Course books have their place, but nothing beats practical experience...

This Summer we have very much enjoyed the company and talent of two university interns, one from the University of St Andrews, and one from the University of Aberdeen. Minna Bergland, our most recent intern, is a second year Business Management and Finance (MA Hons) student at the University of Aberdeen, now going into her third year. Minna won Carbon’s Best Performing Student Prize this year, and also secured a three-week internship at our Edinburgh office. Here she reflects on her experience of stepping out of the classroom into the ‘real’ world.

In January this year, I received the Carbon prize for Best Performing Student on my course, Personal Finance and Investment. The course mainly focused on personal financial management, how to increase lifetime wealth, long-term investing, and the role of being a financial advisor. I was very honoured to receive the prize from Carbon’s Investment Director Barry O’Neill at the prize ceremony, and it was here that I also learned about a potential three-week insight internship at Carbon’s Edinburgh office, which I later applied for and won.

During my time at Carbon I welcomed the chance to learn what financial planning is all about and, in particular, how Carbon operates, from both a financial perspective and a management point of view. I also had the opportunity to observe the different roles and responsibilities at Carbon, as well as to participate in two on going projects.

A highlight of my stay was going on a full day visit to one of Carbon’s closest partners, Standard Life. The day included a tour around both of their offices in Edinburgh, an overview of the WRAP platform, meetings with the managers who are cooperating with Carbon, and learning about the value of their relationship. It gave me an invaluable insight into how both firms work. On another occasion I got to participate in an Investment Storyboard delivered by Barry and also in a presentation about Dimensional Fund Advisors and their investment strategy.

I often receive the question, “what do you want to do in the future?” and, since I am studying Finance, most people expect me to answer, “banking”. But what I really want to do is work with people and help them. I thought this would be hard to do in finance, but now I am pleased to know that it is not. Working in an advisory firm gives you the opportunity to meet different people as well as to help and advise them on their financial situations on a daily basis, which in my case is the solution to my own dilemma! The job requires both skills with people and also financial knowledge.

intern-booksWhen I compare my university experience to that of my friends who are studying elsewhere in the UK and Europe what I notice is that for business students in Aberdeen there is much less of an emphasis on practical work. My experience has taught me, however, that practical work beyond the lectures and tutorials is very important. It is only via the practical work that students can begin to understand the real-life context of what they are studying, the functions of our financial world and how it operates. Believe it or not, learning from the course book is not the same as seeing what you are learning about put into context!

I am extremely grateful to Carbon for giving me the opportunity to work with them during my internship. I was treated and welcomed in the best possible way and the knowledge that I have gained has gone far beyond what I have experienced before and has exceeded my highest expectations. I have had the chance to develop my understanding of the business and its challenges, and all of the topics I studied on my Personal Finance Course I have been able to apply, increasing my understanding of financial planning.

So thank you for a great experience and for letting me be a part of Carbon these past three weeks. It has been a privilege working with you and getting to know so many of the team.

Minna Bergland is now a third year Business Management and Finance student at the University of Aberdeen.

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