THE INDUSTRY IN LONDON
London provides a superb, albeit highly competitive, atmosphere in which to gain internship experience in the interesting and challenging fields of finance and accounting. Serving as one of the largest financial centers in the world, London offers a truly global perspective on international business and finance. Britain’s English language environment is conducive to foreign investors and employees from around the globe and is also home to the headquarters of large multinationals, small and medium-sized enterprises, and dynamic up-and-coming entrepreneurial businesses.
The financial district has historically been centered in a small area of London called the City of London, and nicknamed The Square Mile or simply the City (a further 32 boroughs managed by separate local authorities make up the Greater London area). Founded on the Roman site of Londinium, this is the site where centuries later the first modern banks emerged (Barclays started as a goldsmith on Lombard Street), and popular coffee houses became the London Stock Exchange and the world-leading insurance market (Lloyds Coffee House became Lloyd’s of London). Recent decades have seen the development of the second financial district, Canary Warf, built on a site of what had once been one of the world’s busiest docks. This new financial and business center has not only changed the London skyline but helped move London’s center of gravity eastward. New construction continues in both of these centers of trade and business to accommodate seemingly endless demand from the growing sector.
As FIE works mostly with small to medium enterprises, few internships are situated within either the Square Mile or Canary Wharf. Most smaller and younger companies choose office locations in cheaper or trendier areas. Shared offices and workspaces are not only less expensive, but provide increased opportunities for networking and collaboration and the flexibility to expand rapidly as the business grows.
Working with a small- or medium-sized company gives finance and accountancy interns access and opportunities which are not available in larger organizations. Provided the intern demonstrates sufficient skill, aptitude, and professionalism, students can get much more involved, and more immediately see and measure the effects of their work. The intercultural opportunities are also not to be understated, as these form a key benefit of choosing to intern in London. While different from a finance and accountancy internship in your home country, work experience in London will provide you with unique and valuable insight into your future career.
|The companies we work with are mostly small-to-medium sized (not large companies). This is because most big financial corporations which are closed to overseas applicants who are only in the UK for a short time. Learn more here.|
|There are no placements available in banking, investment banking, or government financial bodies.|
|Very few opportunities are available in tax, auditing, and actuarial sciences. When available, they are limited exclusively to students with both an impeccable academic record and significant previous professional experience.|
Students who choose Finance & Accountancy may be placed in any of the opportunities below. If a particular sub-area catches your eye, let us know on your MyInternship form.
Finance & Accounting Departments (XX = Most Competitive XX = Significant Relevant Experience Required)
Interning for an accounting or finance department which operates within a particular company or organization is a great opportunity to develop a better understanding of how companies and organizations really work, where income comes from and how expenditure is allocated. All companies and organizations need to balance the books, so placements could be in a business from any industry, or within a charity or not-for-profit organization. Duties could include processing invoices and payments, preparing financial reports, completing balance sheets, analyzing data, researching and pricing service providers, and liaising with other businesses and creditors. The intern’s role may also include other business or administrative tasks, providing students with a big picture view of the placement’s operations and management.
Financial Companies (XX = Most Competitive XX = Significant Relevant Experience Required)
Interns with previous professional experience and a strong academic background may be selected for roles in companies in various aspects of the financial industry or companies which provide services to the industry, including private investor companies, financial news and research firms, online trading companies and financial executive search. Each company has its own area of specialization, and interns will be assigned tasks within the organization based on both their own past experience and the needs of the company. Potential tasks could include data entry and analysis, valuations, researching investments and markets, report and development work, preparing reports, reviewing and processing candidates, assisting with compliance or general operations and administrative duties.
Ethical & Community Finance Organizations
Increased scrutiny of ethics in the financial industry, especially in the wake of the financial crisis, has not only upped the pressure on traditional financial organizations to improve and communicate their ethical standards but further stimulated responsible and ethical financial organizations. These include investment firms which focus exclusively on responsible and ethical investments; organizations which score and rank firms on a variety of responsibility metrics; and credit unions, non-profit-making money cooperatives whose members can borrow from pooled deposits at low interest rates. Credit unions offer a viable alternative to banks, and as they are typically based in a particular community they have a vested interest in ensuring members increase savings and don’t over-borrow. Charities and not-for-profit organizations often seek interns to assist with their fundraising departments, processing donations or reviewing expenditures to ensure return on investment. Interns with excellent finance skills and a strong moral compass will find a lot to learn in an ethical or community finance organization.
Economic Policy Organizations
Industry membership organizations, pressure groups, think tanks and NGOs seek students with strong backgrounds in economics to assist in campaigns and projects. Such groups differ in focus, political orientation, and the methods in which they work, but all offer interns the opportunity to gain valuable practical skills and insight into the application of economic theories. Tasks may include research, fundraising, assessing the impact and development of organizational activities, liaising amongst companies and members, and marketing projects. Students wishing to work in this field are required to show a high academic standard with a demonstrated knowledge of economic theory.
REALITIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Previous experience is strongly preferred, so students looking to intern in this field should aim to apply to the program with at least one relevant professional experience on their CV. Students with no professional experience can still apply but should be aware that opportunities may be limited and so be ready to accept a placement in their other industry choices.
Companies expect students to be open to a variety of tasks to assist and support the work of the business as a whole. Tasks may include general business and administrative duties.
The taxation system in the UK means that the majority of individuals do not file their own taxes. As such, there are many fewer accountants of this nature in the UK market.
All interns within the area of finance may find their exposure is limited by confidentiality laws.
Interning within these sectors can be very demanding and students may find they are working to tight deadlines and performing rigid jobs where there is little room to creatively explore other aspects of the organization for which they are working. However, interns will be able to observe international businesses practices and gain practical knowledge in finance.
- Applied knowledge of finance and accounting
- Previous professional experience in the industry is strongly preferred
- Hard-working and willing to comply with a work schedule which may include earlier start times and longer hours
- Strong data analysis and reporting skills
- Strong computer and analytical skills, especially programs like Excel
- Excellent attention to detail and ability to problem solve
- Unquestionable professionalism and discretion in the workplace, especially when working with confidential or sensitive information
Relevant academic experience. Applicable majors include Accounting, Finance, Economics, and Business.
TIPS AND TRICKS: SHOWING YOU'RE A STRONG CANDIDATE
- Highlight your relevant experience on your CV. Students with less professional experience can include budgeting or financial responsibilities for clubs and volunteer organizations and then describe in the personal statement how these are applicable and transferable to the London internship.
- Commercial awareness is also valued, so be sure to include previous work experience and skills you have developed in customer service, working with data and following procedures.
- List by name any programs you are familiar with, like Excel, PowerPoint, customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as Salesforce, or project management tools such as Trello.