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Accounting and Finance – my placement year experience

What did I do?

I’m studying Accounting and Finance at Durham University Business School, for my placement year I worked as a Commercial Finance Analyst at IBM on a client account. The role was challenging and presented new tasks every day. I worked in a sub-team of three people within a greater team of ten. We worked together on the same client accounts to provide financials for the services they purchased from the company. My role was to bill the client for the goods and services they used through IBM. This was done by gathering multiple reports from our various teams that collect data, analysing the volumes for each product we supply, checking against past trends, and then finally creating the multimillion-pound invoices every quarter.


Challenges that I faced daily was resolving customer queries and issues with each report. Common queries included usage volumes rises month on month and the client then requiring justification. I would delve into the report and find specific evidence that would justify this rise, analyse this in terms of financials and produce this in a suitable format for the client. The reverse of this is also crucial for IBM as a supplier. For example, I would need to pre-empt a fall in volumes so that my department could factor in a reduction in revenue for a specific month and therefore create a provision.

lecturesOne particular struggle I found was tracking newly introduced products from the project stage into our billing. We introduced what we call the ‘left to right’ process. This led to my manager and I taking a step back by thoroughly sorting through data and raw material to find what our company was charged for using the product and take into account all the costs we incurred to produce the service, on the left side, and then match this with what we are then charging out to the customer, on the right side, and making sure everything is covered. Additional charges and products are always being introduced into our contract with the client and this always creates new challenges as it is easy to get caught up in the detail of our role. The great thing about this is that it brings a variety to routine tasks.


Achievements would include what my manager called ‘owning’ the role. After receiving handover sessions from the intern before me, it took me a while to get to grips with everything this complex role demands. I had a lot of responsibility due to the scale of the invoices I delivered and essentially the amount of revenue that was determined by the work I produced as well as how I dealt and interacted with the customer. After six months grasping the role I felt I had taken responsibility for my tasks and was able to comfortably work with the various teams onshore and offshore, within my department as well as those on the corresponding client site in order to maintain a professional yet friendly relationship.

The nicest part of my placement had to be the people that I worked with. With over 150 interns in the company, spread over different offices, IBM really knows how to welcome new interns and keep us occupied. Various workshops are constantly set up to involve interns in activities and learn new skills. Table tennis in the office and an employee discounted bar next door certainly helped in terms of the social aspect. I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement year and would highly recommend doing one.


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