Features - Alum of the Month
August 2007 Intake
What and where did you study before your Mountbatten internship?
I received a B.A. (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Spanish and Political Science from Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, VT. I spent two semesters overseas studying at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain and the Universidad de las Americas, Puebla in Mexico.
What made you apply for the Mountbatten programme?
My undergraduate academic experiences were very internationally focused, so following graduation I sought out work opportunities with firms that were globally oriented. This was difficult given that I was living in a small city in Vermont and that my background was largely in modern languages and the humanities, rather than business, economics and finance. After working with a couple Vermont-based professional services firms with a global presence and international activities, I decided to find direct opportunities to work overseas. The Mountbatten programme was an excellent option as it offered not only a year of work experience with an internationally respected company, but an academic component focusing on international business.
Describe your sponsor company and your role within it.
Mountbatten placed me with Citi Private Bank, Citigroup’s high net worth banking arm, where I supported a small lending team in an analyst/product specialist capacity. I managed a $40 million portfolio of loans that were held by target clientele comprised of top-tier international lawyers and law firms. I primarily spent my time on underwriting (risk analysis and loan structuring) and documentation for tailored credit facilities and also gained exposure to residential real estate finance.
What was the highlight/most memorable moment of your working experience during this year?
My most memorable experience at Citi Private Bank was not a professional highlight. My intake had the unique misfortune to work in London during the peak of the financial crisis. Three weeks into my time in London, British bank Northern Rock became the first bank in 150 years to suffer a bank run. A year later, Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy. These events were notable 'bookends' to my year with Mountbatten. Unfortunately, halfway through my internship, on a particularly dismal day, nearly half of my colleagues were let go as the full impact of the financial crisis spread to Citi. I was fortunate to have the security of my Mountbatten contract. However, I learned a great deal about the personal and social impact of recessions and 'right sizing.'
What was the social highlight/most memorable moment during this year?
The highlight of my year was actually in Italy, where my girlfriend and I spent a week travelling from Venice, Florence to Rome. It was January and the weather was damp and cold. However, with hardly another tourist in sight, we felt as though the cities were ours alone to explore. Venice—without the hot stink of summer canals or the mobs of tourists—was a foggy, mysterious, decaying, yet charming, labyrinth of cobble stone streets, canals, palaces and churches. Rome’s decadent monuments were stunning and on every corner we found good table wine and grappa!
Please share a little wisdom/philosophy that you acquired during your internship
For me, Mountbatten instilled the belief that life’s most rewarding adventures are about actively seeking new, unknown and promising challenges. It starts with the application process: participants really don’t know much about what they’ve signed up for until about a month into the programme. The year is full of new challenges and opportunities that require a ‘leap of faith.’ I, for instance, was thrown into an entirely unfamiliar sector (banking) without ever having taken a business or finance class. I worked with and lived with strangers (who became fast friends). I travelled (by bus, train, plane and boat) to cities that I knew virtually nothing about. I coped with the impact of having half of my work colleagues laid off as the 2008 financial crisis peaked. The excitement and confidence that these experiences engender have a lasting impact on the way in which Mountbatten participants approach future opportunities. For instance, when I finished Mountbatten, I made the decision to return to the U.S. and attend graduate school in a state I had never visited, sight unseen. This was risky, but like previous experiences, I weighed the pros and cons, made a firm decision, and set out for my next adventure.
If you could change anything about your internship, what would it be?
In hindsight, I would have travelled more throughout the U.K. and Europe. This would have required more personal budgeting restraint than I was comfortable with at the time. However, some of my fondest memories of my time in the programme were trips taken with fellow Mountbatten participants and friends visiting from the U.S.
What happened after completing the year - what did you do next?
The week after I completed Mountbatten I started graduate school at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. It was difficult to apply to graduate programs while in London, and I was not able to visit the 10 programs that I had applied to. However, I found that 1) my experience in London made me a strong candidate for top-tier graduate schools in international affairs and 2) that graduate studies are a natural follow on activity to Mountbatten. On the second point, graduate school requires balancing course work, internships and other professional and networking endeavors, so Mountbatten put me in the right frame of mind and gave me useful skills to be a successful, professional minded student.
Where are you now in your working life and what do you do?
I am an Analyst at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution. OPIC offers loans and political risk insurance to mobilize private-sector investment to help solve critical development challenges and advance U.S. foreign policy in emerging markets. As a member of the inaugural intake of the organization’s Rotational Analyst Program, I will serve a three year term and have the opportunity to work investment deals and projects in several departments: Structured Finance, Small & Medium Enterprise Finance, Investment Funds, Political Risk Insurance, Investment Policy, and the Office of the CFO.
Do you have any future plans that you would like to realise & what are they (career & social)?
I hope to work and live full-time overseas again, especially in Europe or the U.K. London is a center of global finance, so I’m optimistic that I may someday return to the U.K. Furthermore, I think that my experience with Mountbatten will strengthen my candidacy for a London-based position as it demonstrates both the professional and personal qualities that are essential for a successful transition to London’s banking and finance sector.
Is there any other information that you would like to be included?
Over the years I have kept in touch with a handful of my friends from the Mountbatten programme. I recently caught up with former roommates in Florida and San Francisco, and a number of people have stayed on my couch when passing through Washington, DC. I will see a handful of Mountbattens when I attend the wedding in Colorado. Not only was the bride a Mountbatten, but she is marrying a former coworker that she met while in the programme. I think these examples are illustrative of the strong relationships that people form during their year in London.
I am reminded daily of my Mountbatten experience. On my final work day in London, my coworkers presented me with an original piece of art work, a modern rendition of the Canary Wharf sky line. My colleagues had all signed it and written a few nice words. I have since framed the momento and it hangs above my dining room table.