Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dutch currency transfers and internships

Exchange ratesI got a nice banking surprise this morning as I paid the monthly bills from the business bank account: a transfer from the UK yielded an unexpected bonanza of euros.

The European debt crisis has pounded the euro in recent days, and a dollar or pound buys 10% more euros than they did last summer.  It’s not the time to be moving money out of Europe, but a great opportunity to move money in.  This is especially true if you can afford to move the money slowly (over 5 days rather than 2) and can take advantage of SEPA credit transfers (a mechanism for making cross-border transfers in euros that cuts fees in half).

doll-eurConversely, if repatriating funds to the US or UK, it might be a good time to wait or hedge until things resolve (I don’t believe that the Greeks will leave the euro but the uncertainty will weigh on exchange rates for many weeks.

Pound per euro

I am not one for watching exchange rates closely, nor for hedging rates, but I keep general track, monthly, of price movements and fees and will shift excess funds towards cheap currencies for “rainy day” savings when I can.

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A friend and I discussed job prospects for graduating students over a wonderful Italian meal last night.  Dutch unemployment generally is enviably low, under 5% overall and under 8% for youth 15-24, so there should be a good market.  In part, this reflects broader Dutch labor policies, but it’s also a product of the way that Dutch youth enter the workforce.

There is a much higher reliance on temporary internships in the Netherlands (and in Europe generally) than in the US. Graduating students take 4-month positions at 500 euro / month wages to build skills and networks.  Since these are not permanent employment, hiring firms don’t have to pay the same social and severance benefits.  There are various clearing sites to connect opportunities with students, and most universities have services for employers looking for students.

It’s an intriguing possibility, but I’d have to do some serious planning to know what I’d expect an intern to do and then find the right one.  But students I know have a lot of interest in global markets, products, and careers, and could do a good job across my global organization.  Certainly there are lots of projects to re-assign that I just don’t have time for: market, patent, and competitive landscapes, data analysis, contract pricing of service providers, web site maintenance.

I felt a bit guilty outsourcing my web site redesign to India for 6% the cost of doing it into the US or Europe – this might be a way to do some good closer to my base.  I wonder if I can include “learning Dutch” in the remit somewhere…

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