Here’s a scenario that’s all too familiar for many advisors.

It’s summer. Your number one client has a child who will graduate from college in a year, and they need to start building work experience. Your client asks you to do them a favor and take him on as an intern.

What’s your initial inclination? Do you add the intern, few questions asked, or keep them away at all costs?

That type of favor may be the only experience your firm has had with interns — but your overall attitude toward interns may affect both your short- and long-term growth.

Whether you decide to add a client’s child or extend an offer to a student from a local college, your intern process should be consistent for every applicant (and as a bonus, having a clear process can help you avoid awkward conversations about a client’s unqualified child).

Here’s why it’s a good idea for advisors to create an internship program, and a step-by-step guide for how to do it.

Why Internship Programs Makes Sense

Here are three primary ways an internship program can assist your firm’s growth:

  • It provides a “trial period” for new employees — in other words, it doesn’t have to be limited to students. This trial period can help you see how an employee fits in before you commit to a full-time hire.
  • Interns often can be hired at a lower cost than traditional full-time employees due to less work experience and lack of required benefits.
  • Interns give your firm a way to give back. Many advisors were mentored in their youth, and an internship program can help them return the favor to the next generation. Plus, interns and younger employees can bring a fresh perspective to a firm.

Why Advisors Don’t Add Internships

In contrast to the three primary benefits of internships, you may have used these common objections for why you haven’t created a program yet.

  • You don’t have enough internal structure to add a 12-week intern program. If this is your reasoning, look inward. Your lack of internal structure may be indicative of larger operational issues.
  • You don’t have the time or desire to train someone who will leave your firm in a few months.
  • You don’t think internships are part of your core values. You believe in hiring experienced players, not new entrants. This is the most valid of the reasons not to add a program, but you still reduce your firm’s ability to attract great young talent.

How Internship Programs Can Propel Growth

Based on my own experiences in implementing programs in advisory firms, here’s how your firm could benefit.

  1. Interns future-proof your business. Give lower-level tasks to interns and give regular teams higher-profitability work.
  2. Short-term interns can be developed into long-term employees. As an intern’s skills and aptitude present themselves and you train them, you are developing your next-gen talent.
  3. Interns give your full-time team a break. During the summer months especially, you have more bandwidth to give your full time team a break for vacations. Everyone will love your interns once they realize they can take off a few days without worrying about some of their tasks.
  4. Interns give you a wider pool of tested work. If you have three interns on staff but only enough space to hire one full-time, you have a pool to draw from instead of hiring from an untested interviewee.

Steps for Building Intern Programs

It’s not difficult to implement an intern program, as long as you create a structured workplace environment. Follow these six steps to get started.

  • Get leadership support. Without buy-in from the top, employees won’t embrace the program.
  • Determine the type of program you want to create. Is it a 12-week rotation or long-term with no end date for intern hires? Create objective goals for what interns should accomplish in this step.
  • Review your employee onboarding guide and tailor it to new interns so they get a similar new hire experience without the full scope required for a full-time position.
  • Determine where to find interns. You can partner with your local college, or get in touch with a CFP Board university program to begin.
  • Create a pay structure that is fair within your team structure but also in line with your regional demographic.
  • Recruit early and often. If you need an intern next week, you’re too late. Begin networking six months to a year ahead of time to get the best talent available.

As you get your internship program up and running, think of yourself as a college coach. Like a coach who develops players to get them ready for professional leagues like the NBA and NFL, you get to develop interns before they get drafted into the investment advisory profession.

As more advisors prioritize internships as a way to give back and teach the next generation, more people should see the positive example set and want to join the movement.


Jarrod Upton is COO and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company. He brings over 16 years of experience in management strategy, client experience and operations consulting to advisory firms. At Herbers & Co.’s Dallas office, he works with start-ups to multi-location/multi-billion advisory firms to provide solutions that impact growth. He can be reached at jarrod.upon@herbersco.com.