What Every Student Should Know About Wealth Management Internships

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Hiring interns gives wealth management firms the ability to get a two- to three-month look at someone in the context of the company culture and in a professional atmosphere without having to take on the myriad costs and commitments of hiring a full-time employee.

So says a new white paper from fee-only financial planning firm Fox, Joss & Yankee in Reston, Va.

The independent financial planning firm quotes the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California in Berkeley, showing that turnover costs for a manager average 150 percent of their salary including the concrete costs of hiring new workers and relocation and intangible costs such as the new worker's inefficiency and lost productivity while a job remains vacant. These estimates are similar to what eFinancialCareers reported in a previous article on the cost of hiring the wrong employee.

"In addition to turnover costs, other hiring costs include updating equipment and other resources, potentially creating a new work space, training costs and health insurance," for instance.

For advice-giving want-to-bes, meanwhile, an internship can be a meaningful way for an advisor to gain valuable education and mentoring opportunities.

Interns from CFP progams

Employers tend to seek interns from the schools that offer Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board-registered programs, Fox, Joss & Yankee co-founder Jon Yankee told eFinancialCareers. Among the most active and well-known of the CFP Board registered programs are Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Utah State, San Diego State, the University of Missouri and the University of Georgia, according to his firm's white paper.

"We've had all kinds of people apply for internships, but the majority [have studied] at these schools," says Yankee.

In total, there are 101 bachelor's, 45 master's and six Ph.D. programs at U.S. universities and colleges teaching a financial planning curriculum that satisfies the CFP Board's standards, all of them listed on the CFP Web site.

More and more, financial advice students are seeking internships long before they complete undergraduate and MBA programs, observes Fox, Joss & Yankee financial advisor and CFP Laurie Belew. These days, "You'd want to come out of school with some work experience on your resume to set you apart from your peers," she said.

Moreover, whereas firms like Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney tend to hire large numbers of people, "firms like ours don't," says Yankee, whose company has $300 million under management and focuses on offering financial planning services to young "accumulators" still building their net worth, as well as executives and entrepreneurs.

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For those interested in working with an independent advisor, "Doing an internshp at a firm like ours offers a real step up," says Yankee. "It means something to a much smaller niche," he says, observing that he worked at Merrill Lynch from 2000 to 2002 but disliked its sales-oriented, "eat what you kill" mentality.

"A lot of these students don't want to do sales-they want to put their technical know-how to work," says Yankee.

Temperament and personality

Those wondering if they have the right temperament and personality to be a financial advisor should consider whether they think they can interact with clients-including some in their 60s and 70s and beyond-and earn their trust over time. "You can be either extroverted or introverted but still relate to people one on one in a meaningful way," Yankee says.

Moreover, at his firm, at least, interns get a true experience of what it's like to be a professional advisor. "Our interns do Laurie's job," he says-things like preparing for client meetings, attending the meetings and taking notes and following up afterward, in addition to clerical work.

Beyond the filing and scanning and data entry which everyone has a hand in, "You get a true experience of what it is like to be an associate planner at our firm," Yankee observes.

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