We sat down with Lauren to find out about her time at Smith & Williamson – she completed a Business Tax Internship last summer and will join their Graduate Programme in 2020.
Why did you choose Smith & Williamson for your internship?
I chose Smith and Williamson for my internship largely due to firm size. It was quite easy to get caught up in applications for the most well-known big firms, however I soon came to conclusion that perhaps this wasn’t the best idea.
Smith and Williamson is a firm that is big enough to have impact in the large financial market, but at the same time small enough that there is a friendly atmosphere in the office. You’re able to get to know everyone and feel like one of a team, not one number in hundreds of employees. In this respect, I think that Smith and Williamson makes an ideal choice for an internship.
I also chose Smith and Williamson because they were offering an internship opportunity for penultimate year students, for 8 weeks. I personally feel like this length of internship is ideal, as it’s long enough to be impactful and provide good experience, but not so long that you spent your whole summer working, perhaps returning to uni in need of a break!
What was the application process like?
The application process was admittedly long, but not dissimilar to that of any other application processes I have experienced. The first phase involved uploading a CV and cover letter, then answering some short essay style questions which were asking more specifically about the firm and the role I was applying for.
Following this phase, I was asked to complete online testing and was subsequently asked to attend an assessment centre in London.
After successfully getting through the assessment centre phase, there were two more separate interviews in London to follow; a competency-based interview and then a personal 1:1 interview with a partner of the firm.
Tell us a bit about Business Tax
The Business tax department works with the tax affairs of companies, as opposed to private individuals. The department’s goal is to ensure that complex tax legislation is fully understood by clients, and to communicate to them how to best proceed/what the best decisions would be for them to make when taking such legislation into account.
Some key things we work on in business tax are: tax compliance – ie. completing tax returns, tax credits and reliefs – for example how firms undertaking R&D can benefit from tax credits, how firms can set up tax effective incentive schemes for company employees and also in general, ensuring that clients and informed and explained when complex regulations might change or be introduced throughout the year.
What’s a day in the life at Smith & Williamson?
As an intern in business tax, a typical day was 9-5pm. As new employees with the firm, during the first week we were lucky participate in a number of introductory talks and events in order to learn how the firms and its separate departments worked, as well as to make sure we met the people we would be working with.
Often there would be some sort of morning meeting or update – whether that be firm wide, department wide or simply between smaller groups. After that most people would work at their desks throughout the rest of the day, sometimes heading off to other meetings or to meet clients either onsite or off site.
How would you describe the company culture?
I would say that the company culture was very open and friendly. Everyone was always willing to help and no-one was ever too busy or senior to explain something to me. It felt like there was a genuine mix between work colleagues and friends. This was particularly evident in the post-work summer events that were organised- for example a firm cricket match at Hyde Park! It was so enjoyable to be involved with these activities and it really emphasised the culture of the firm outside or traditional working hours.
While working, I felt that every employee put huge emphasis on putting the client first and considering what is right for them, as opposed to viewing all decisions from a company perspective.
What did you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoyed that my role was varied. The nature of tax is very dynamic and it is always changing which I love, as it means that there are always new things to keep up to date with. It never got repetitive or boring.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I felt like I was treated as a permanent member of the department, despite only being an intern. I was involved with lots of different projects and developments, with those around me ensuring that I was properly included and immersed in the company’s typical working culture.
Looking at the internship as a whole, I also enjoyed the fact that whilst my role was in business tax, I was allowed the opportunity to explore all different areas of the company, so that I could get a good understanding of all their lines of service which I think will be very beneficial for me when I return to the firm.
What are your top tips for people applying to roles at Smith & Williamson?
My top tips for people applying to roles at Smith and Williamson are: do your research! Having strong commercial awareness – ie. knowing what is going on in the industry and specifically within the line of service you are applying to is really important. General commercial awareness is vital for many applications and I would argue this is no different. Whilst it can be difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, try to research the firm, what they do and who their competitors are.
Also, be yourself in interviews and try to get across who you are as a person, on top of the specific skills and values you have which align with the role. At the end of the day, people in the firm have to be confident that they can comfortable work with you; this includes your general personality as well as your skill set! Being able to get on with people and be an effective part of a working team is always an essential skill that I wouldn’t overlook. Make sure you give examples that prove you can do this- however simple they may seem.
Want to know more about Smith & Williamson? Check out their live opportunities here.