This fall, Fox, Joss & Yankee, an independent advisory firm in Reston, Va., released a white paper titled “Implementing Internships,” based on the firm’s experience in effectively incorporating financial planning interns into their operations. The white paper does a nice job of raising awareness about student internship programs, and providing the basics about finding, hiring and working with interns. As most of today’s college financial planning programs either require or strongly encourage students to spend a quarter or two working in financial planning firms as interns, more firms than ever are stepping up to provide the next generation of planners with invaluable practical experience that will jumpstart their careers. The Fox paper provides them with solid place to start thinking about offering internships.
One point that I would add to the white paper concerns what advisory firms need to do to get the most out of the interns they hire, and to give their interns a more beneficial experience. My client firms use internships extensively, and based on that experience—combined with conversations with hundreds of planning students over the years—I’ve concluded that most advisory firms fail to adequately plan for their interns.
Consequently, an intern’s arrival often appears to be almost a surprise to firm personnel, who then put the intern to work on menial tasks such as filing, scanning or answering the phones. The result is that the intern gets little or no practical experience, and the firm creates a bad impression in the intern’s mind. Moreover, that intern will be very unlikely to accept a job at that firm, and through the miracle of social media, neither will 20,000 other financial planning students who are potential hires for that firm.