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A View On The Future: My Internship At Betterment

I have absorbed a valuable lesson I can pass on to other students: If you think you know Excel…think again, you probably don’t know enough.

Articles by Charlotte

By Charlotte Hummel
  |  Published: July 22, 2013

I am studying economics at NYU and about to start my senior year. As I orient myself for the job market after I graduate in 2014, the choice of work experience this summer was particularly important.  My goal was to broaden my exposure to the financial services industry. Having worked at Deutsche Bank last year, I wanted to get experience with a nimble, innovative provider of investment products.

Working as an intern here at Betterment has not just been a great career experience in that way, it has also given me insight on how my generation will be planning our financial future.

From a career perspective, Betterment has helped me to understand the role and structure of an asset manager in the 21st century, where it will be less about active portfolio management and more about optimization. Betterment’s investment platform makes it possible for each individual investor to earn the market return with a portfolio that reflects his or her risk tolerance – all while keeping costs to a minimum.

From a saver’s perspective, Betterment’s transparent, behavior-based platform has led me to re-assess my own use of financial services. Unlike my parents, I use Internet banking to pay for nearly all my bills and to wire funds. In fact, I have never met the banker in charge of my account. One day, when I have savings to invest, it will be natural and preferable for me to use an Internet-based asset manager such as Betterment.

As a student, I have not had the opportunity to save much yet, but Betterment’s vision to assist young people (along with established investors) in mapping out their financial future makes sense to me. Its simplicity and practical features like the asset allocation tool help users rationalize the decision-making process for investments. And the fact that the minimum investment is $0 means that everybody has the chance to invest his or her savings, however small, knowing that the returns will not be eaten up by excessive fees.

For me, interning for the company has been a challenge in every way. In contrast to working at the bank, where systems and structures have been in place for decades, providing a cozy umbrella for new employees, at Betterment everyone, including me as an intern, is expected to build, improve, re-assess, critique, and set new standards for excellence. It’s a tall order, but it is also the reason why Quartz recently named Betterment “the Apple of finance.”

Despite being frustrated at times because I feel I am always catching up – I think that’s part of the job title – I could not think of a better place to gain work experience.  At Betterment, I have learned about investing and seen firsthand the application of the axiom of my finance lessons, i.e. seeking market returns is one of the best long-term investment strategies.  I also learned about marketing strategies, data analysis and more data analysis, and in the process, I have absorbed a valuable lesson I can pass on to other students:  If you think you know Excel…think again, you probably don’t know enough!

Most importantly, the biggest benefit as an intern at Betterment has been to have the opportunity to work and learn from a fantastic team and I thank everyone for their help and support.

Now back to data analysis.

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