Isobel Cottam

Isobel Cottam

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS). VWFS are responsible for providing finance and insurance schemes to all Volkswagen Group (VWG) customers. A common misconception is that VWG are strictly the Volkswagen brand, however the Group includes Skoda, Audi, MAN, Seat, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley brands too, meaning VWFS have almost 1 million customers nationwide.

What is your role within the company?

I’m part of VWFS’ Internal Audit team, a function who provides the Board of Management with independent advice on the organisations’ risks and controls. We work with the business to identify and implement improvements where needed through performing audits on different departments within VWFS.

I assist a Lead Internal Auditor in conducting audits and following up on past audits to ensure the actions which have arisen from them are closed. I also prepare the monthly Board of Management reports which inform the Chief Officers of the progress of the team’s audits.

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

On a day to day basis, I attend meetings with people from all over the business to discuss their processes and how they operate. I conduct testing on what they do which includes their procedures, reports they issue and the systems they use.

I’m in contact with key members of the business inside and outside of the areas we’re auditing daily, whether it be through email or face to face. We need information to do our job and it’s the business that holds it, so forming good relations with everyone I meet is essential so as the audits go smoothly.

I’ve taken part in seven audits so far including the following main audits; a Controlling (Finance) Audit, a Procurement & Outsourcing Audit and a Residual Value Risk Management Audit. I’ve also been lucky enough to participate in MAN Financial Services’ first internal audit after they joined VWFS and in joint audits with auditors from VWFS AG.

I’ve also arranged several insight days in which I’ve spent half a day or more with an area of the business and learn all about what they do. Over the year I’ve spent time with the Credit Risk, Risk Modelling, Financial Crime, and Credit Assessment teams in Risk, the Structured Finance and Accounting teams in Finance, the Customer Satisfaction team in Fleet and the Human Resources (HR) Operations team and Resourcing teams in HR. These were fantastic opportunities for me to meet new people, broaden my knowledge base and get a better understanding of what departments that I hadn’t taken part in audits with do.

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

The aspect I enjoy most is the amazing sense of teamwork and trust at VWFS. My manager gives me heaps of responsibility from which I’ve been able to develop my analytical, communication and presentation skills. I really enjoy conducting independent audit testing and interacting with so many different departments and feel as if I’m truly making a difference to help improve VWFS.

During my time at VWFS I’ve taken part in a wide variety of activities beyond my day to day work. I’ve produced the presentation for the bi-annual Internal Audit Committee meeting in which our Country Management and senior management from VWFS HQ attended, assisted the Lead Internal Auditor in the Undergraduate recruitment process for the 2018 intake, represented VWFS at the MK Job Show careers fair and participated in a variety of seminars and events hosted by VWFS jointly with external speakers. Each activity provided me with invaluable experiences in which I developed my business acumen, expanded my network and improved my verbal and written communication skills.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I knew it would be a brilliant opportunity to gain insight into the “real world” before leaving university. I could make contacts and gain experience which would be invaluable in my future career and I could develop my skills in a challenging yet encouraging environment.

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far? 

The amount of responsibility I have been given has increased my confidence in my abilities and interpersonal skills enormously. My business knowledge was incredibly basic when I first joined VWFS, but now I know so much more about how companies are structured and how different departments operate, knowledge which I couldn’t have gained if I was in any other role.

My team have been really friendly and encouraging from the start and they’re all extremely knowledgeable in their fields- they’ve been great role models from whom I can learn from.

The undergraduate network VWFS have is also great, I’ve been able to meet lots of new people from different universities and we regularly go out together, it’s made moving to Milton Keynes an easy transition.

Do you have any tips and advice for current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

Having been through it I know that the application process can be stressful, especially when it gets close to Christmas as you’ve got exams to prepare for too, but don’t get swamped by it! You’ll grow a lot of resilience and gain crucial interview experience by applying for placements, the key is to stay positive as the right placement for you will come by in the end.

When you’re at your placement, take every opportunity that comes your way. The more you say yes to, the more you’ll take away from your year - your colleagues and other placement students will support you, so don’t be afraid to say yes!