I learned how to be more efficient
Why did you choose a traineeship in the program at the ECB?
As a law student and later as a trainee lawyer, I started to identify the areas of law that interested me the most: European and international law. For this reason, I pursued a master outside of my home country, Greece, at Maastricht University, during which two main areas caught my attention: economic and financial regulation in the EU and EU competition law. As a result, I researched more on the banking union in general and the Single Resolution Mechanism in particular and I wrote my thesis on the Single Resolution Mechanism and how state aid rules apply to the single resolution fund.
As most of the graduates of an EU law programme, I wanted to work and experience in practice what I have studied before. For me, that was either the blue book traineeship at the Commission, or a traineeship at the ECB, and especially at the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). I am happy that I chose the second, or to phrase it differently, that the second chose me.
Was the application process difficult?
No, the application process is not time-consuming or complicated. You just go to the ECB website and check out the vacancies. If you see a vacancy that fits your profile, just follow the steps closely. The second stage comprises of an interview via phone or skype, where you would need to prepare some more. In some traineeships, there is another stage between the application and the interview, that of psychometric tests. These I have to say, were not the easiest for me, and depending on the applicant’s background, someone would have to practice a bit online.
What did you do during the traineeship?
I work at the Decision-Making Policy Section of the Secretariat to the Supervisory Board (SSM) as a legal trainee. We work on the elaboration of the draft ECB decisions concerning prudential supervision of credit institutions and other topics submitted for consideration to the Supervisory Board. Therefore, my daily tasks involve the reviewing of ECB supervisory decisions, before they are approved by the Supervisory Board and later adopted by the Governing Council of the ECB under the non-objection procedure.
I got to read, review and follow the process of adoption of hundreds of supervisory decisions, relating to authorisation of banks, withdrawal of their license, fit and proper requirements for members of their management bodies, prudential requirements, (de)mergers and acquisitions etc. It is great that I have the opportunity to read all kinds of supervisory decisions, as this helped me get a broad overview of both supervisory and institutional law.
What was the most interesting and the hardest task for you?
One of the most interesting tasks was my involvement at the preparation of the Administrative Board of Review's (ABoR) notes of review. To give some background, any natural or legal person may request a review of a supervisory decision of the ECB which is addressed to that person, or is of a direct and individual concern to that person. After such a request is made, the ABoR carries out an internal administrative review of the ECB decision and then they provide an opinion.
As part of the legal team, I had the chance to participate in the full ABoR proceedings concerning the contested ECB withdrawal of license decision. I assisted with the drafting of minutes of long meetings and contributed to the drafting of notes, inter alia based on case-law analysis (both from the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights). I was happy to contribute on different procedural aspects of that specific case, as well as to the drafting of the final ABoR opinion.
What was my hardest task? I would say in broad terms the most challenging thing for me as a lawyer is to fully grasp and understand the context of complicated ECB decisions which include a lot of technical terms and economic assessments. Coming from a strictly legal background, I would say the daily work here helped me start understanding more prudential aspects and financial law.
What did you learn at the ECB?
The legal review of the decisions improved my drafting skills, by focusing on details and ensuring that the terms and definitions are used consistently, that the legal basis is clear and includes all the relevant provisions and that the decisions are sufficiently motivated.
I experienced in practice how the decision making procedures work at the SSM, I expanded my knowledge on banking supervision, and I learned how to be more efficient and how to work and cooperate with a variety of people, from very different backgrounds. I met and got to know people from every country of the EU and it is a real privilege to experience a rich and multicultural environment every day. I also learned how to work more confidently, and to follow strict deadlines.
Does every trainee have a tutor in the department where they are working?
From what I know and from my experience, yes, every trainee has a supervisor or mentor. Usually, you are assigned to a team and you can slowly start working autonomously, but someone is always there to guide you through the daily work, especially in the beginning.
How did you spend your time outside of work?
Naturally, you meet with other trainees and you start exploring the city. We started going on short trips around Germany and Europe. Frankfurt has an airport with good connections, so that helps. Living in Frankfurt can be interesting especially for a 'southern' like me. For example, I really enjoy the Christmas time here, as I am a big fan of the Christmas markets, glühwein and snow! :)
In general, I like discovering new restaurants and bars, going to the movies, or just walking by the river. As an employee, you can also get a subscription and join the ECB fitness facilities, or you can have discounts in some theatrical plays, opera etc. Frankfurt may appear at first too 'business like', but it's also diverse: I like the old town, the river, the surrounding nature, and the variety of cuisines you can experience here, as I love food!
Is the trainee’s salary sufficient?
I would say the traineeship grant is sufficient, especially if you compare it with all the other EU traineeship salaries out there, as the ECB also provides accommodation, or an accommodation grant. Additionally, I think if a vacancy is addressed to trainees with a PhD, these trainees get a higher salary.
Did the traineeship help you find a job you were interested in?
N/A. (I am currently still working as a trainee at the ECB. I am confident that the traineeship will help me follow the next step in my professional advancement.)
What would you say to people who would like to apply for a traineeship at the ECB?
I would simply encourage them to go for it and not lose hope. For example, in my case I was contacted a short time after I was put on a reserve list for another similar traineeship. It may seem competitive to ‘get in’ at first, but after having the opportunity of working and meeting with trainees from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, ethnicities and ages, from journalists to linguists, to economists, web developers and lawyers, I would say that every young professional with a strong educational background has an equal chance of having their traineeship here. Sometimes, you just need a bit of luck, lots of persistence and a well drafted application. And don’t forget to check the ECB website.
Intervied by Agnieszka Góralczyk