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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Young Professionals

Preparing a Financial Planning Student: From Intern to Potential Partner

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What You Need to Know

  • It's important that the industry has a process to introduce the next generation to the business and train them.
  • Commonwealth works with affiliates and university programs to set up internships.
  • One student liked working with a private firm that gave her a broader experience.

Progressing from financial planning student to client service professional takes preparation. Advisors work hard to find, interview and mentor the next generation of talent, who wish to join a business — not a sales organization. Therefore, it’s imperative to support them in learning necessary business development (rainmaking) skills as part of the overall process.

What are best practices when hiring from top financial planning schools in the country? Our firm continues to learn from and with students alongside our advisor community to create opportunities for success as they emerge into the industry.

Charting a Path

My colleague Patricia Ferris, a senior program manager in Commonwealth’s Practice Management department, and I recently spoke with Kris Maksimovich, president of Global Wealth Advisors in Dallas, who mentored Kamryn Barkley from intern to client service associate at his firm. Barkley graduated from the Personal Financial Planning program at the top-ranked financial planning school Texas Tech in the spring.

Through her university’s program and its partnership with Commonwealth, Barkley was part of a group of intern candidates given the opportunity to attend our annual national conference in 2019. She notes, “Commonwealth was so attractive to me, the company as a whole. It stood out to me because it is private.”

Barkley received a packet of information on eight independent financial services firms before the conference, one of which was Maksimovich’s firm. Likewise, Maksimovich received a packet of information to evaluate potential interns he would meet at the event. This allowed both parties to zero in on a potential mutual fit. Barkley quickly realized that working for Global Wealth Advisors could provide wide-ranging industry exposure, enabling her to learn the business from the inside.

On-the-Job Mentoring

As part of the internship experience, which got underway just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the country, Barkley trained with Maksimovich and listened in on remote client meetings — a privilege many of her peers did not receive. According to Barkley, “There are a lot of things that cannot be taught or learned in the classroom.”

To encourage engagement and learning during the pandemic, Maksimovich asked Barkley three questions every day:

  • What’s something you learned?
  • What’s something you put to work or implemented?
  • What’s something you’d like to learn more about?

Under the direction of an experienced advisor, Barkley explored financial planning software, identified learning gaps, and advanced her skills, knowledge and client connection points.

Continual Coaching

To kick-start Barkley’s transition from intern to client service associate at his firm, Maksimovich implemented the know, show and do model. When Barkley learned something new (know), she discussed it with Maksimovich (show) before using it in client interactions (do).

As the firm returned to the office in recent months, Barkley became involved in financial plans, administrative details, and the advisory process (i.e., relationship management). She is now partially responsible for new client onboarding, learning the process and workflow from her teammates.

Taking on direct correspondence and attending more in-person meetings has allowed Barkley to begin building trust with clients. Observing how Maksimovich conducts a meeting, uses body language and adapts to conversational changes will inform Barkley’s own process as her career evolves.

Client-Focused Growth

For advisors like Maksimovich, protecting clients and delivering value is at the center of his legacy and succession plans. He says, “It does a disservice to the client for me to put her through what I went through, where it’s learn on your own and figure it out. You don’t want to practice on your clients. I want her in a position where she’s already learned from me (and the team) for several years before she’s making decisions on her own with those client relationships.”

Meanwhile, after graduation in May 2021, the learning hasn’t stopped for Barkley, whose next chapter includes getting her licenses and studying for the CFP exam, so that she’s better equipped with the knowledge to help clients on their financial journey.

Realized Opportunity

Shifting from a commission-oriented, sales-driven environment to one of collaboration and guidance benefits next-gen professionals such as Barkley, who is excited about the future. “I’m extremely lucky and fortunate to have found what I found and be a part of the team. I’m excited to move forward.”

The path from intern to potential partner is years or decades in the making. What steps are you taking to bring the next generation of financial planners into the fold and ensure your firm’s succession plan?

David Israel is vice president, business consulting Services, practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.


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