Name: Wangyu Koh (DIS, 2008)
Place of internship: Washington D.C. / Merrill Lynch
Duration: 4 Months (February-May 2010)
Q: Why did you apply for the internship?
W: I applied to the internship because of my curiosity with the field of finance. I also wanted to experience Washington D.C., which is not only the capital city of the United States, but also a world hub where powerful governmental, political and economic institutions coalesce. Additionally, I wanted to attend the development forums at the IMF/IBRD HQ to identify world economic trends and gain insights on the findings of leading economists.
Q: What did you mainly do in the internship?
W: Merrill Lynch, the wealth management division of Bank of America, is the world’s largest brokerage managing $2.2 trillion in client assets. I worked at Merrill Lynch, Washington D.C., Global Wealth Management Division, in a team comprised of a senior financial advisor and a client associate.
It was crucial that I familiarize myself with the Bloomberg workstation, which is a powerful information source that enables users to monitor and analyze real-time financial market data. The Bloomberg online training courses were extremely useful in helping me fulfill my daily tasks and at the same time allowed me to acquire the Bloomberg Essentials Certificate (Fixed Income/Equity/Foreign Exchange/Commodity).
I researched, analyzed and monitored the best performing stocks and mutual funds of target sectors. This involved using the Bloomberg workstation to gather and compile financial data such as stock performance, benchmark performance, asset allocation and holdings. For qualitative analysis, segments of analyst reports were also summarized, compiled and submitted to the client associate.
I analyzed the financial products of competitors and reported new investment opportunities to the group’s financial advisor. This required monitoring a set of financial products and attending meetings that took place in and out of the office. Other duties included reviewing annual statements of clients to help the financial planner set and meet his targets as well as managing client account information.
Q: What did you learn most from the experience?
W: There are around two hundred people working in Merrill Lynch, Washington D.C. They are finance experts not just from the US, but also from all over the world.
It was a great opportunity to experience the American corporate culture, which is nothing like that of Korean companies. In American organizations, being direct, even to the President or the CFO, is a virtue. If one wants to be heard, one is expected to be confident about oneself and one’s capabilities. Meetings are kept as short as possible and are not considered a success unless they result in a tangible action or decision.
I learned that being ‘professional’ is not purely about one’s expertise in the field. Rather, it is about one’s commitment in getting the assigned work done no matter what. In other words, it is important to finish all the work on the day it was received, even if it involves working late into the night. Being proactive in constantly finding work for myself was also a rewarding experience.
Q: How did you prepare for the internship?
W: Getting advice from senior students in the field of finance helped me the most. I talked to several seniors working in finance regarding what their job entailed and how to prepare for a career in the sector. Actively taking economics and business courses at school helped me acquire the basic knowledge required for the job.
Internship programs like TWC and WEST are the two main routes for students who want to work in the US. Identifying which program is the most suitable for oneself is crucial. Finding out the procedures of the program in advance and making a strategy to meet the requirements will significantly increase one’s chances of getting a placement.