Human collateral is undoubtedly one of the most valuable assets to supporting business growth and boosting a firm's value proposition. While finding talent is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business, implementing a strong internship program can help combat this obstacle.

A successful internship program is a give-and-take initiative that helps firms streamline their workload and offers young career hopefuls relevant experience that will refine their careers and support their future professional plans.

Here are ways asset managers can use internship programs to benefit their ongoing vision and mission for their companies:

Patrick Sweeny is the principal and co-founder of Symmetry Partners, a Glastonbury, Connecticut-based asset management firm.
"An internship program can build the perfect pipeline to recruit talented young professionals," writes Symmetry Partners Principal Patrick Sweeny.

1. EASE WORKLOADS
An internship program is an often overlooked and underestimated opportunity for asset managers. Many firms consider implementing one more trouble than it's worth. But in my experience, the right interns can take an awful lot of workload off asset managers' desks and eventually help them spend more time catering to clients' needs. To improve an intern's productivity and streamline the firm's efficiency, assign interns a combination of daily tasks and longer-term projects to work on. Internship programs can also serve as an effective medium for firms to learn more about their own processes from an outsider's perspective.

Ask interns to present their learnings and recommendations at the end of the semester on how the firm can improve their day-to-day processes; this lends fresh new perspectives to how your firm can implement changes. In addition to boosting their confidence before they embark on their professional journeys, an end-of-semester presentation allows firms to learn new technologies and tools that can help streamline their workload.

2. FIND PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES
The $30 trillion wealth transfer from baby boomers to millennials expected to take place over the next few decades is causing a stir among asset managers. While wealth transfer may open new doors for managers, it brings one of the biggest and most taxing challenges — client retention.

One prudent strategy to tackle this issue is hiring young professionals. For firms that are looking to hire the cream of the crop among college grads, an internship program can build the perfect pipeline to recruit talented young professionals to meet the future needs of the industry.

Hiring an intern as a full-time employee also saves the time required for training, because they'll know your business better than most seasoned industry professionals by the end of their internship.

Successful internship programs identify the best and brightest students to staff available positions. But it can be difficult to know who is the best fit and who will accept an offer of a full-time position.

Below are some steps to help ensure you've identified the perfect match for your firm:

  • It's easy for interns to get motivated when they are given interesting assignments. But watch them carefully with mundane tasks — if they are cheerful, motivated and eager to work hard on some tedious tasks, this is a clear testament of their dedication and commitment to succeeding at your firm.
  • Understand and identify an intern's unique skill set and offer them projects that further refine their prowess. Appreciation always goes a long way. If interns do well, commend them for their excellent job and invite them back next semester. If they are graduating, encourage them to apply for a full-time position. This shows how the firm is committed to supporting their blossoming career.
  • Given the competitive landscape of entry-level positions, it is important to build a significant salary structure for next-gen professionals — providing them with definitive and encouraging benefit plans.

Once they become employees, it's a good idea to invest in their continuing education, if possible. While investing in employees' education isn't an option for all asset managers due to cost, it's always valuable for students and allows them to vet out their potential growth in the firm.

3. MENTORSHIP
The financial services industry is rapidly evolving with every passing day — regulatory obligations, technological developments, growing client needs and expectations are always changing.

This makes it hard for firms to find the time to spend on developing solid training programs for new asset managers and teaching them the crucial traits to become a successful professional.

What most organizations fail to understand is that they can teach young professionals, serve clients and retain intellectual capital all by investing in mentorship programs.
A successful mentorship program can be beneficial for everyone involved —
senior professionals can learn how to adapt to emerging skill sets such as learning cutting-edge technology and understanding analytics, and young asset managers can gain the basic aptitude that forms a strong foundation for a successful career.

I believe every organization must build out their company culture to define how employees get motivated and inspired every day.

In our profession, it's easy for young budding professionals to get distracted by the humdrum of the routine, and for senior asset managers to become complacent with their traditional strategies and methodologies.

A mentorship program is a stepping stone to build bridges and open lines of communication between these demographics, and help them contribute in a meaningful way to each other's careers. It allows them to tap the unique tacit knowledge within multi-generational professionals that they may have never been exposed to before — and empowers you to understand how people at different levels of their professional life process information.

One easy way to kick-start a mentorship program is to pair senior professionals with young new hires and schedule regular meetings where they not only discuss the firm and its developments but also how they perceive evolving ideas, concerns and challenges differently.

We all need to think about how to make a concerted effort to not only attract the best talent to join the industry but to also train and nurture these fledglings to explore new horizons and skill sets that will benefit the overall development of the industry — and help us evolve.

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.