RIAs are falling behind their competitors because of a dearth of internship programs, according to TD Ameritade Institutional.

Just a third of RIAs hire interns for the summer or other parts of the year, the nation’s third largest custodian found in a study released Tuesday. RIAs are thriving, but their lack of succession planning places $5.8 trillion in assets at risk, notes Kate Healy, who leads the firm’s Generation Next program.

TD Ameritrade RIA internship study

Many advisers express concern about spending time and money on internships, but RIAs face succession problems: the average age of firms’ founders is 61 and 60% of them have no plans for the future in place. RIAs need to view college interns as prospective full-time employees, Healy says.

“This is a big miss on their parts. RIAs need to have a pipeline into the next generation,” she says. “They’ve got it at the BDs and the wirehouses, and we’re all competing for talent.”

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LITTLE NEW BLOOD
The custodian quizzed 300 advisers from its more than 5,000 RIA clients last month, finding that only 20% of advisers have hired interns this summer. Nearly three quarters of firms who do hire interns do not even have a formal program, and just 5% have designed programs with their interns’ colleges.

TD Ameritrade Institutional started Generation Next in 2009, committing to spending $4.5 million over 10 years in scholarships, grants and other educational programs. The firm has paid for 300 students from 27 different schools to attend its annual conferences in recent years, according to Healy.

The custodian doled out its annual gift of $5,000 scholarships to 12 undergraduate planning students from around the country on Tuesday, inviting them to New York for a tour of Wall Street and a chance to ring the closing bell at Nasdaq.

The firm also provided California State University, Fullerton a $50,000 grant for its planning program and donated $25,000 to Prairie View A&M University to help it launch a planning program.

NEW EXECUTIVE APPOINTED
Both college internships and re-entry programs for former professionals help firms increase diversity while helping to assure clients that they won’t need to switch firms when their advisers retire, according to Healy. TD Ameritrade Institutional provides guidance to RIAs on how best to set up their internships.

Healy, the custodian’s former managing director for marketing, serves on the CFP Board’s Women’s Initiative Council, as well as on the advisory committee for its Center for Financial Planning. TD Ameritrade President Tom Nally tapped her last month to help RIAs beef up their internships.

“This is critical to the success and sustainability of RIA programs,” Healy says. “What I hope it shows advisers is, this is how seriously we take it, this is how seriously you need to take it.”