Does your firm have an internship program? Maybe it should
ARLINGTON, Va. — Even after they sit for the exam and fulfill an educational requirement, prospective CFPs still have to fulfill a daunting 6,000-hour work experience requirement before they can qualify for the official certification.
An internship can put a serious dent in the requirement. But why aren't there more programs?
"Some candidates don't know where to start when it comes to the experience requirement," said Joanna Truitt, the CFP Board's manager of continuing education and experience at the annual Registered Programs Conference. "Depending on prior experience, we often suggest seeking a full-time internship opportunity as a good place to start.”
In addition to reviewing and refining the eligibility requirements for an internship, Truitt’s team is trying to encourage more firms to create internship opportunities. Rising CFP candidates are in agreement with the board that internships serve as great training opportunities that also help in meeting the requirement, she said.
Representatives from Edward Jones, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services and Fidelity Investments argued in favor of internships, saying that their own programs often yield positive experiences for both interns and their firms.
"There's a win-win in this, not only for the intern, but also for the financial advisors," said Leroy Shumpert Jr., manager of financial advisor talent and acquisition at Edward Jones. The firm offers interns a 10-week structured curriculum. They are also paid.
"The beauty of our model is we have branch offices all over the United States, and we typically have offices around certain colleges. We actually allow the intern to work in the branch office with the branch team. It means they're actually doing work that is serving the client's needs."
About 70% of Vanguard Personal Advisor Services' interns end up working as full-time employees after graduation, according to Senior Manager Marissa Blank. "These interns bring in fresh and new skills that maybe somebody we hired five years ago weren't privy to or exposed to in their educational programs."
Many students return to school with positive feedback after finishing their internships, said Lawrence Verzani, assistant professor and director of William Paterson University's board-registered program, one of Financial Planning's top planning schools.
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"I would say for us, some of the phenomenal internship programs have spurred a lot of passion in the students," he said.
He echoed the call for the establishment of more internship programs — particularly in the smaller RIA space — while offering important caveats. "If you're going to set up an internship program, make it structured," Verzani said. "Give them responsibility, because they want to learn. Give them the opportunity to sit in on client sessions because they enjoy that. Make it paid."
Verzani also pointed out the value of having students interact with peers from other programs.
"Meeting with other passionate, high-achieving students is also a great experience that allows them to build their network," he added.
The need for training programs extends beyond graduating college students. There is an opportunity for firms to establish experience-generating internship programs for career changers as well — particularly women, said Rachel Book, director of diversity recruiting partnerships and sourcing at Fidelity.
"We've formed a cohort of companies who have designed internship programs for those who want to return to the workforce after a career break," Book said.
The CFP Board's Center for Financial Planning has teamed up with career re-entry expert iRelaunch to form the Financial Planner Re-Entry Initiative, which supports firms looking to create re-entry programs. One of the pilot programs, Fidelity Resume, encourages women with prior experience in the financial services industry to re-enter through a comprehensive training program. Five women in the New York and New Jersey area are currently enrolled in the program.
Early on in the program, the career-changing interns work on and are offered coaching and support in obtaining their Series 7 and 63 licenses. Once licensed, they can participate in client meetings. If both sides think it's working after six months, Fidelity assures there is a job available.
"We are placing these interns in places in our business where we know they have opportunity. It's been a really amazing program. We've seen great success so far," Book said. "It's the first program that we know that offers full licensing right through the paid training. We're in this because we're serious about it. We're excited to scale it where it makes sense for our business."
Firms who do not offer internships might do well to consider establishing them, as programs like these provide firms with a unique way of recruiting talent while helping prospective financial planners gain the experience they need. The CFP Board hopes to reinforce the positive impact that internships can have on both sides, Truitt said.
"We'd like to underscore the need for more programs that will attract and develop the next generation of financial planners," she said.