November 21, 2014
Junior finance and accounting student Paul Bernstein is just about the most enthusiastic student you could ever hope to meet. He absolutely lights up when talking about his experiences in the classroom, as vice president for professional activities of Beta Alpha Psi and his recent internship at Fisher Investments.
His decision to head west from his native Pittsburgh to Camas, Washington, to intern for the summer was a game changer. Fisher Investments is a privately owned, independent firm with more than $50 billion in assets under management. Bernstein secured the internship through MountaineerTRAK, an online service provided by WVU Career Services and the B&E Center for Career Development.
“I wanted something that involved finance work. Many (local) opportunities involve insurance sales. But I wanted to do something more technical,” he said.
Bernstein had the opportunity to analyze and forecast financial statements and performance data of client portfolios. He won second place out of 30 interns in a written stock market strategy contest. He was able to shadow in many departments, and learned that his favorites are research and investment counseling.
“Investment counseling was cool because you get to be the liaison between the clients and those who make the decisions for the portfolios,” he said. “You get to explain to the clients what (the investment committee) is doing (with their money) and why. You also get to explain to the investment committee what is important to the client so they can implement that into their clients’ portfolios.”
He explained that his favorite part of finance, so far, is wealth management.
“You feel like you’re helping the clients. You’re working with them to build something positive. I like that,” he said.
Bernstein was able to bring several lessons learned at B&E into his internship.
“A lot of times you hear people say that you never use what you learn in school. But I was able to incorporate things I learned from Dr. Boyd, Professor DeGeorge, Dr. Hibbert, Dr. Dorminey and Dr. Hilliard. I had a chance to actually use those skills,” he said.
Conversely, the skills learned at his internship have helped immensely now that he’s back at B&E. In fact, the experience has helped him become more confident. In the past, Bernstein was somewhat intimidated by the professional world. Even sending a professional e-mail was a source of stress, and public speaking? No way. But not anymore.
“(My time at Fisher) broke the barrier for me. It upped my business acumen and my ability to talk to senior professionals. This has been so helpful, as I often interact with professors and firms,” through his work in Beta Alpha Psi, he said.
Bernstein was responsible for attracting firms for the annual Meet the Firms Night, an event that kicks off professional activities at B&E every fall semester. He began planning in May, and the work did not stop when he headed west. After working a 10-hour day, Bernstein would put in additional hours to plan and pitch firms. When it was all said and done, he was able to secure more than 25 CPA firms to attend.
“It was an ongoing process, but it built up an experience in me. It’s like one foot is in the college world and one foot’s in the professional world at this point. Before, both feet were in the college world,” he said.
Although Bernstein has already grown tremendously when it comes to professional development, there’s still more to do. As a double major, it is important to him to have an internship in both areas. During the summer of 2015, he will intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Pittsburgh office.
“Public accounting seems exciting because you get to help your clients and you’re also a fact checker. I’ve always been drawn to making sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” he said.
In addition to his involvement with Beta Alpha Psi, Bernstein is also a member of the Finance Club, the Entrepreneurship Club and the Ethics Club. Getting involved — the earlier the better — was only one piece of the good advice he had for underclassmen. Another was to build relationships with professors.
“You can learn something from every professor. These people don’t have Ph.D.’s for no reason; they have expertise in their field,” he said. “Get to know them outside of their quizzes and PowerPoint presentations. Every single one of them is an asset.”
He also stressed the importance of striving for your dreams.