Friday Interviews (name pending)!

This is the first installment of our Friday interview series! Every Friday a Sound Economics contributor will conduct an interview with a current student (or alumni). Some economics students spent the summer conducting research, studying abroad, or doing an internship. This is a chance to hear more about their experiences.

Since we’re still organizing interviews, I’ll start with my own internship.

I interned at a small company (Karson Management) in Boston over the summer – it offered financial services to a wide variety of companies. Initially I thought they offered some sort of financial consulting (i.e. risk management). This was true, but the firm did much more than that. The main facet of Karson Management was a patented bond that they were trying to sell to companies in need of cash financing. After the 2008 recession, stricter regulations were put in place to ensure that banks and other companies could handle economic stress (e.g. bank runs, disaster resulting in many life insurance payments, etc.). These global regulations focus on making sure companies maintain a higher level of liquidity so they are able to pay out quickly or have cash available in a pinch. The level of liquidity  is usually determined by the company’s loans and securities, and Karson Management’s bond allowed banks to hold a letter of credit (of sorts) in exchange for their securities. Since the bond is more of an insurance policy than an actual source of funding, the company using it mainly pays interest and a fee for a given amount of time to own the bond.

The issues Karson Management was tackling during my internship included: what arenas to market the bond in, getting approval from regulators (without approval the bond doesn’t count toward a company’s liquidity and is therefore useless), and finding large companies to actually use the bond. It’s a small company catering to a niche market, and there was a lot of work to be done. Karson only has around 8-10 employees, and the structure is very linear (meaning that the managers, accountants and CEO often worked together on various tasks and pick up slack where they found it). I was able to work on some projects that really helped the company. I did market research on banks, 401(k)s, and student loans – and was able to present my findings to senior management a few times. I was given many different tasks, and completed some substantial long-term projects. I still do research for them here at school! Fortunately, not once did I grab coffee, or make copies. I personally recommend smaller companies like Karson because there may be a better chance of getting some substantial work, but I’m sure larger companies have great opportunities as well.

Although it was a great learning experience, I didn’t enjoy working in such a specific and small company. Karson had lofty goals, the job almost felt like sales support, and the office was like a boiler room (the employees’ salaries depend on how many bonds they sell a year, leading to a high pressure sale focused environment). Again, despite not enjoying every minute, I gained some valuable skills, connections and learned how a company like Karson runs (it’s pretty surprising how little I knew about finance despite being an economics major). I definitely think internships and/or research are a great way to learn what is expected of you in an office or academic environment.

This was a more casual internship summary – but we have many more students with cool experiences in the department who we’d like to interview. If you or someone you know did something over the summer related to research, internships, studying abroad, etc. – please send us an email, we’d love to talk to them.

See you next Friday for another interview!

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