What I Learned From My Time at the SEC

What I Learned From My Time at the SEC

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I accepted my internship offer at the US Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2020. Just a week later, COVID-19 hit the Bay Area harder than almost anywhere else. It forced most of my school work from UC Berkeley online and all but guaranteeing that the internship would be virtual too. 

Nevertheless, I had an incredible experience this summer working at the San Francisco Regional Office of the SEC. I was located in the Office of Compliance, Inspections, and Examinations (OCIE). That means that I was working alongside federal investigators all summer. Even though I never went to the office at 44 Montgomery Street, or was able to really visit any of the companies we examined, I learned a tremendous amount about investing, accounting, and the financial industry. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

The Experience

As soon as I was registered as a federal employee, and set up with all the IT equipment I would need to do the job, I was led right away into an examination. That first one was much like the other four or five that I would participate in throughout the summer: the team and I went through all of the company’s information and financial records with the intent of ensuring compliance with federal securities legislation. Then, we engaged in interviews with the executives of the firm. One of the best parts of being an intern in the OCIE was the ability to interact directly with the top management of prestigious financial enterprises. Unlike most internships, where the work might seem meaningless or detached from the important work of the organization, the SEC’s program put me right on the front lines. 

Understanding the Financial Industry

Another incredible opportunity available to me this summer as an intern was access to the wide range of SEC training and information tailored to help employees of the agency understand and interact with critical parts of the financial industry. I emerged from my internship this summer with a wide range of knowledge about private equity, financial exchange markets and product variants, and much, much more because of the time I invested in making sure I understood the focus of our work. For someone interested in getting a better idea of what the financial industry is or how it works, an internship at the SEC is invaluable.

Yet perhaps the best part about my job this summer was my close interaction with fiercely intelligent and honorable public servants. Each and every SEC employee I met acutely devoted themselves to their tasks and the agency’s mission to protect investors. I learned a lot from these people, about investing and finance, yes, but also about how to do the right thing. 

My time at the SEC will be memorable, but not just because of the chaos of the pandemic. I will remember what I learned, and who I worked with, every time I interact with a financial statement or the stock market from now on. I am now a much more intelligent investor, and student, and am looking forward to what comes next. 

If you have any questions about my SEC experience or this article generally, feel free to contact me at andreasmaass@berkeley.edu.

About the author

Andreas Maass
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Andreas is a third-year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley majoring in Business Administration and Political Science. He is interested in the intersection between business and government, looking forward to a career in consulting for politics.