Student diary – Internships

Tim van den Hoek Eklund graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2009 with a degree in Economics.

So here is the final installment of my diary (the others are here and here). I’ve gone a full circle explaining the problems and benefits of university life – from talking about how to deal with strange economic terms that really mean simple things, to discussing the issues after graduation. Now I’m back at square one myself, learning new things daily on my internship with Ernst & Young (EY) in Manchester.

This diary is very focused on the internship, although it’s unconventional completing the internship after graduation I think EY made the right choice in changing their policy to allow graduates on board.

For those of you considering applying or even in the process of applying for any internship, I recommend you think a little about the day-to-day tasks you might have to complete. For me EY’s key strength is its people, not only the fact that people on all levels respect and are considerate to both junior and senior staff but that it seemed that ideas didn’t just come from the top down; managers were willing to listen and take on board ideas of the junior staff as well.

My placement was in the Business Tax Services department (don’t switch off, stay with me!), and although tax might sound regular, I can reassure you it isn’t. The first project I worked on was in the International Tax Services department. We used methods that were, without a shadow of a doubt, intellectually stimulating, and didn’t simply involve counting numbers but rather problem-solving. At the beginning of a project, you are given a brief as well as an idea of what you need to achieve. Then you have to set about doing it. The problem is that no two companies are the same so it’s never going to be a simple copy and paste job, but rather a process of building ideas into practical solutions.

I also had the opportunity to work with the Entrepreneurial Services team, this involved researching firms that have been successful and could be a potential recipient of the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award. This task was really interesting since I learnt a great deal about entrepreneurs, and how they’ve built their success.

So, how does economics tie into all this? Well, to start with, what is the purpose of having fair and true financial statements? To reflect the operations of the business, but why is this important economically? Well, to solve the basic economic problem we need to be able to make rational decisions based on good information and to distribute scarce resources. Ultimately accountants are important!

The experience also reinforced my perception that the real world of tax is so much more complex than how the government or economic theorist would have us believe! Recently they announced that Britain is open for business and the government reduced the headline corporate tax rate, while also reducing capital allowances (the tax equivalent of depreciation), so the effective tax rate hasn’t necessarily fallen so much.

Practically, if you would like an internship with a firm, like everything else, do your research. For example, the big four might sell similar services, and the end product might be the same, but don’t jump to the conclusion that how they get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ is the same. I think EY operates in a very different way to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), and I’m sure KPMG and Deloitte will do things differently too!

From my experience, Ernst & Young take a very people-oriented approach. The impression I had from my brief encounter was that from an early stage people will be encouraged to play to their strengths and develop their weaknesses. I certainly recommend applying.