Farah Mandich (MPP ’17) is submitting this field report from her summer 2016 internship at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London, United Kingdom, where she worked in the Office of the U.S. executive director.
Hello from London! I’ve just finished my internship in the U.S. executive director’s office at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and reflecting back on my 10 weeks here, it has been a truly amazing experience.
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The EBRD is a multilateral development bank, established to help post-communist countries implement necessary reforms and finance private investments to facilitate the transition to market economies. This could mean banking system reforms, frameworks for lending to medium and small businesses, and support for privatizing state-owned enterprises. The bank started with a clear focus in Eastern and Central Europe and, building on its success in places like the Baltics and Czech Republic, has expanded into new countries that are ready and willing to make the transition to open markets.
Many developed countries across the world have major shareholdings in the bank, and the United States is, in fact, the largest individual country shareholder. The money each shareholder country contributes is used as a base of capital from which the bank finances investments in its countries of operation, and all shareholders and investee countries have representation on the bank's board of directors.
The board oversees all aspects of bank operations, but I spent most of my time this summer reading project documents the banking teams assemble to provide board members with the information they need to decide to vote for or against an investment moving forward.
This was a fantastic learning experience for me, for a variety of reasons:
- I learned what makes a good investment from the bank’s perspective. It must have an acceptable profit margin, but also achieve substantial transition impact for the client or country (e.g. corporate governance reform or improving market competition). The bank also is intentional not to crowd out the private market, so teams must also justify why the bank specifically is adding value to the project. Shout out to Professor Kathryn Dominguez for teaching me all about foreign exchange movements so I could understand these project documents!
- I also learned what makes a good investment from the U.S. government’s perspective. While the bank’s and our objectives often align, this is not always the case. We regularly liaised with the U.S. Departments of Treasury, State, etc., to make sure projects were meeting objectives and not running afoul of any U.S. requirements.
- The project documents provide a great opportunity to learn market context of every country and industry in which the bank invests. My former career was focused on North American energy markets. I had no insight into the sugar processing market in Central Europe, for example, before I reviewed a project in this sector. The bank has experts working on so many countries and industries that virtually anything I wanted to learn was at my fingertips.
- Finally, I learned about priorities for the other countries represented on the board. Meeting and working with people from so many different countries allowed me some insight into how U.S. priorities align (or don’t) with others on various economic and political considerations.
As is often the case, my colleagues were my favorite part of this internship. I pursued an international internship this summer because I wanted to learn about other countries and cultures. Reading project documents about the bank’s country strategies helped, but I believe the best way to learn about a country is to meet and talk to its people. My colleagues come from nearly every country in Europe, indeed all over the world, and everyone in the U.S. office has extensive international experience as well. From lunches, to coffee or drinks after work, to watching Euro Cup soccer together, I’ve made friends, and learned about more places than I could have imagined when I started. This truly made the internship experience the most special for me.
And I can’t forget to mention that London is a fantastic home base for the summer! Admittedly, moving from Ann Arbor to a massive metropolis induced a bit of a culture shock at first. But I spent my weekends touring fantastic museums, beautiful parks and neighborhoods, and having some really great food and drinks from all over the world. It was also a fascinating summer to be in Britain, as the Brexit vote and Prime Minister transition took place. Observing that process from the inside and discussing it with people who are directly affected is a once-in -a-lifetime experience for an economics and policy geek like me (as may be expected, they are largely keeping calm and carrying on). Finally, it’s incredibly easy to get elsewhere in Europe from here, so I’ve gotten some new passport stamps this summer! As I’m writing this, in fact, I’m waiting to leave on vacation to Croatia to experience a whole new part of Europe.
In sum, working in London at the EBRD is a fantastic and unique experience, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in international economics and policy. Huge thanks to the Ford School’s Graduate Career Services office, the Office of the U.S. director, and the International Policy Center for establishing such a cool partnership and allowing me to experience it!
Farah Mandich (MPP '17) graduated from Texas Christian University with a bachelor's in economics and a minor in political science. Her policy areas of interest include international trade and economic policy, natural resource policy, and policy's role in combating human trafficking. Her internship is made possible through generous support from the Ford School's International Policy Center.