30 August 2023

How an internship at Carbon changed my views on Financial Planning

Having just finished my 3rd year of Economics at the University of Glasgow, I was faced with an overwhelming number of possibilities with which to pursue an internship and financial planning was something I did not really know all that much about other than what I had read online. However, when I came across Carbon, who claimed to take a different approach that was centred around the client, I was intrigued. After a great interview with Shireen and Alison, I was pleased to accept an internship.

My first week consisted of meetings with people from every part of the business – client services, planning, investment etc. I was given a full overview of how they go about business here and I was amazed at how different it was to how I had imagined. Some of the standout meetings were meeting the Investment Director Barry and getting a better understanding of how Carbon invest, and with financial planner Polly Reaves to understand the client first ethos.

Barry, took the time to understand my level of investment knowledge and tailored his presentation as such. I already had a decent understanding, so he went into to more detail about how they try to capture better returns from value and small cap equities alongside capturing the return offered by the broader market.

Polly, one of the planners, ran me through how she would go about meeting with a new client. At Carbon, their philosophy is to always do right by the client: they listen to their story; note everything down; and then present them with a plan that encapsulates all those things that will be meaningful to them. This is in stark contrast to what I had experienced with wealth management in the past, which was simply about generating the best returns possible, regardless of the situation. But Polly showed me why this doesn’t work with a graphic they have on the wall of every meeting room.


The thinking goes, if you simply grow your wealth endlessly or mismanage your wealth, you miss out on the opportunities it may bring you.

In week 2, I was given my investment team project - to compare Carbon’s regular and sustainable portfolios, find differences between them such as performance and volatility, and try and attribute these differences to how the portfolios were made up. This was quite a challenging task even though I already had some prior investment knowledge, but I was really pleased to be given the opportunity and challenge. It got me researching a topic I had been curious about in the past but now with invaluable access to real portfolios and data. In the end I came away with a much deeper knowledge of investing and specifically how Carbon chooses to invest.

They follow the academic literature that points to the market being efficient, that is, investing broadly across the entire market in order to capture overall market returns. This is opposed to active investing where fund managers pick and choose which stocks they think will perform well. It turns out that over long periods of time, less and less active managers achieve greater than market returns, and in fact, during my chat with Barry, he showed me that over 10 years, 93% of active managers performed worse than the market!

While this project took up most of the rest of my time, I was still able to get some exposure to the work that the client services team do. I was involved in an SOS (Second Opinion Service) which is a one off, free review of a client’s current finances so that they can see if financial advice is the right thing for them. It was nice getting some hands-on experience and the team were very supportive in including me and helping me learn.

One thing that was evident throughout my time there was how helpful everyone was. At Carbon it really feels like you are working towards something greater than what’s in front of you at any minute. It isn’t intimidating talking to senior members of staff as they understand the importance of every part of the business. Many of the senior people I spoke to, started their journey at Carbon and worked their way up. Even some people who left Carbon, found their way back, as nowhere they worked after matched up. Carbon feels like it was built from the bottom up rather than from the top down and you can feel this when you’re there.

Looking back at my time with Carbon, it’s hard to believe that it was only 3 weeks long. The amount I have learned and achieved in that time is testament to how much they care to foster growth in their people. Carbon, and all the people of Carbon, have changed my views on the business of financial planning and I can firmly see myself pursuing a career in it.

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