Sunday, June 24, 2018

World Cup Wins; Week Six

I've just finished up my sixth week and it seems like everything is just flying by. This week I was tasked with more of the same work I've been doing in the past weeks. This includes market research, website fixes, and other little jobs that need to be completed.

Aside from the regular tasks I was given this week, I was also able to attend a committee meeting for the World Traders, which Michael is master of this year. This meeting was a sub-committee that dealt with allocating funds for charitable & educational experiences. The meeting took place at the Guildhall which is a classic English building with more than 800 years of history. During the meeting, there were debates as to whether or not funds should go to various applicants and their projects. I had no personal opinion on the applicants since I hadn't read over the applications like the committee members had before-hand, but I still enjoyed observing the style of civil debate and hearing their reasoning. You can see a picture of the Guildhall courtyard below.

On Sunday England played in their second world cup match, this one being against Panama. After a late winner against Tunisia in their first one, the team needed a convincing win in order to carry their momentum and confidence into their last match which will be against Belgium.

Both of my cousins are back from university for the weekend. One just graduated from Cambridge, and the other has just finished up his first year at Oxford. They hosted a small viewing party with some of their friends, complete with food and drink of course. England played an excellent match and ended up winning 6-1. It's been incredible being in the UK, and London specifically for the World Cup. Everyone is always watching the football while its on and the passion for the game here is incredible. I have a bit more going on next week than I did this week, so I'll have more to write about. Until then, enjoy this picture of my cousin with his subtle England attire for the match. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Back To Work; Week Five

   Last week makes this week seem very dull, but only in comparison. I've yet to experience a dull moment here in London. There is always so much going on in the city, and there is a constant sense of energy present. I didn't attend any events this week, but I had a very productive week at work which is always a satisfying feeling. To cap off the week all the interns had a gathering at "Beckenham Palace", the esteemed residence of Luke, Kat, and Dalton.

   After a long, relaxing weekend, I was ready to get back to work at Z/Yen. I spent this week performing a mix of tasks including market research for a project I can't go into depth about, but all I can say is that it's VERY exciting to work on a project of this scale. I got to present what research materials I had gathered thus far to the person I'm working under and I received positive feedback with a splash of criticism that will help me improve.

   The new website has been coming along nicely and the end of that project is finally in sight. There have been some radical design changes for the better and I'm excited to see what the final product will look like. I spent a bit of my week fixing some issues we're running into with the website transition, which is just as fun as it sounds. Overall this week seemed to fly by, but I imagine this is mainly because I was always doing something. 

   Once Saturday arrived I made the trip to Beckenham on the national rail. South London is an interesting place that seemed to have a much different feel than the two parts of London I've become accustomed to (West and Central). This is probably because most of Southern London is cut off from the Underground. Luke lives in a lovely home right next to a massive park full of open fields and hills. I wish I would've taken more pictures of the park, but I was trying to conserve my phone battery to make sure it would last until I made it home later in the night. Hopefully, the pictures below gives you a good enough taste as to how the rest of the place looked. 

   I spent my Sunday relaxing and getting some errands taken care of. I did all my grocery shopping for the week and picked up some fresh fruit from a local produce market for next to nothing. I'm going to miss how fresh all the produce here tastes when I get back to America. All the fruits and vegetables are considerably smaller but full of much more actual flavor.  I wish I would've taken some more pictures this week because now this post looks a bit boring.

   I'll be sure to add more pictures next week for week 6, for whatever that may have in store.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Action All Around; Week Four

This past week was easily the most exciting week I’ve had thus far. Z/Yen hosted a report launch, we attended another CSFI event, got to enjoy a night on a yacht, and then I got to travel to the Netherlands.

The report launch took place at Gresham College (put exact address) and wasn’t the most exciting presentation since I had already proof read through the report and helped finalize the end product, but I met some interesting people. I met the man who is currently founding Bitcoin Embassy London which is "is a place for the general public, connoisseurs, enthusiasts, developers and entrepreneurs that make up the bitcoin ecosystem in its various categories, to share and feel part of the community, strengthening the identity and image of bitcoin technology and making it grow to reach every day more people and expand their benefits to each corner of the country and the region." It's a bit ironic how a "decentralized" currency has a centralized organization that makes things like these possible, and I think it shows we have a long way to go before we truly live in any decentralized way.

Later that same day I had the privilege to attend another CSFI event where Kay Swineburn (MEP) spoke about Brexit and the implications of it for financial services. Her constituents reside in Wales, but she was able to easily field questions from London business people & domestic politicians eager to hear the state of discussion for what Britain’s future may hold. It was an interesting time to have the conversation since it correlated with political unrest in Spain & Italy as Euro skeptics are seeming to creep closer to power. The venue was Armourers' Hall which was incredible (pictured below).

Luke was kind enough to invite a few interns including myself aboard a party hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of promoting Atlanta as a business hub and convincing companies to expand or relocate to Atlanta. I had an incredible time getting to speak with some influential people from both London and Atlanta over food and drink.

The next morning I was off to Amsterdam, flying out of the very inconvenient Luton airport in “London”. I landed very tired with just about no sleep but Nish and I managed to walk around a large chunk of the city to see what it had to offer. The city was covered in bike paths and the bike traffic easily outweighed the car traffic. There are actually 250 miles of bike paths in the city itself and over 2 million miles are biked everyday by city locals.


We finally made it to our Airbnb later in the day which was in a coastal town called Wijk aan Zee. Wijk aan Zee was an awesome place to stay since it showed you what the Netherlands is actually like, as opposed to Amsterdam which in my opinion seemed far too touristy. Our Airbnb was in the basement of this Dutch couple’s villa and they were incredibly helpful & sweet. Their house is a 5 minute stroll from the beach and the weather was lovely on the last day so we spent our entire day in the village exploring what it had to offer.

I know this past week was probably one of the most enjoyable weeks I’ll have here while I’m abroad, so I’m doing my best to soak it all in, but ready to get back to work this week.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Industry Insight; Week Three

This week provided more of the same as far as our assignments. I don't want to sound repetitive about my work because nothing new has yet come along beside a large overarching project I am working on throughout the rest of the summer that pertains to the energy consumption of cryptocurrencies. I am still spending the majority of my time working on the website since there are many little things that must be fixed. The best part of my week was easily a CSFI panel discussion I had the privilege of attending.

The panel was hosted by the CSFI (Center for the Study of Financial Innovation) and it covered the current state of P2P lending, along with what the future may hold for the industry. The panel consisted of Giles Andrews of Zopa, Sarah Walker of KPMG, and Daniel Lanyon of Altfi. Giles is the current chairman and ex CEO of Zopa which is the largest P2P lender in the United Kingdom. Giles was very impressive with his answers, crafting them to be extremely clear and concise. The other panelists were very well spoken, but none of them had nearly the same industry knowledge and know-how that Giles had become equipped with since 2004 when he Co-founded Zopa.

To give a bit of background, P2P lending stands for peer to peer lending, and it is exactly what it sounds like. Peer-to-peer lending is a method of debt financing that enables individuals to borrow and lend money without the use of an official financial institution as an intermediary. While it removes the middleman from the process, it also becomes more time consuming and includes more risk than a traditional loan from a traditional financial institution. I think it is a very cool idea that grants more power to the individual over their money. I think P2P lending has loads more room to grow and evolve as the middlemen and trusted third parties, in general, become less involved in all sorts of transactions.

If you take a step back from everything and think about it, there has been a long-standing trend of power shifting towards the consumer, or the individual, in more ways than we initially realize. This is probably rooted from a mix of our political and economic systems. A democracy offers "power" to the people who in turn get to elect those who write our rules. On the other hand, capitalism and free markets have slowly but surely put the interest of the individual, or in this case the consumer, at the forefront of their priorities. A company is basically just a middleman between an individual and their wants and needs, and if the consumer decides that said middleman is no longer reliable or trustworthy, then said middleman will cease to exist if the dissolving of trust reaches scale. I think banks and financial institutions in general realize this which is why they spend millions of dollars on advertising their name along with scooping up tech talent to help them reach consumers on a more personal level to better meet their wants and needs in the digital age.

Giles offered some insight as to how new "alternative" financial institutions such as Zopa can capitalize on the weakness that burdens traditional banks. He suggested that the most important thing Zopa is concerned with is to be fully transparent and honest with their customers. That means demystifying terms and conditions to where anyone who isn't a lawyer can read and comprehend what they say, allowing customers to fully understand what kind of financial risk they are putting themselves at when they engage in the peer-to-peer loaning process, and any other grey areas where customers may feel uneasy. I fully agree that those are important aspects and I think that many other businesses could benefit from such ethical standards. 

Overall the panel discussion was an incredible experience. The amount of insight I'm obtaining at such a young age is hard to wrap my youthful mind around, but I'm trying to soak it all in the best I can. I take notes at all my meetings and then go back to review them later in the evening. I can't wait to see what this coming week has in store for me.

A Weekend Away; Week Ten

Everything seems to be slowly winding down, but I'm still enjoying all the opportunities presented to me while I'm here. This week I...