Advisers reveal the proper care and feeding of interns

Young talents must cut their teeth on an array of tasks to raise chances for success

Nov 12, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

By Darla Mercado

Skip the clerical work. Bring on the client meetings, mentoring and day-to-day business.

That's the best tack to take with young financial advisers just starting in the business. Increasingly, senior advisers are following that approach, providing hands-on learning when preparing new talent for advisory careers.

“When we're hiring someone, we want to expose them to everything — every aspect of what it takes to be with the firm,” said Jessica Ness, director of financial planning at Glassman Wealth Services LLC. She was a featured panelist on “Success Stories: Tales from the Trenches,” a session held during InvestmentNews' NextGen Virtual Career Fair.

Newcomers to Glassman get not only a flavor for meetings, phone calls and the relationship side, but a sense on which of their abilities is best suited for the business. Compatibility with firm culture is a must.

“With new hires and interns, we want to make sure they meet everyone in the firm — everyone has to have the same buy-in,” Ms. Ness said. “For the new folks out there, you need to like the people you're working with as people. You want to be comfortable with your new boss.”

Summer associates at Fox Joss & Yankee LLC also hit the ground running. Rather than have interns make copies and fetch coffee, the firm aims to prepare them for the workload of an associate adviser. “They don't do any business development, but they do everything else,” said Laurie A. Belew, senior financial adviser. “They sit in on investment committee meetings, put together financial snapshots, and prepare for client meetings.”

Travis Russell, an assistant director of financial planning at Glassman Wealth Services LLC, describes successful advisers as being “ambitious — the advisers that want to go out and get it.” Sure enough, he attended his first client meeting on his 11th day in the office.

Still, missteps are a major part of starting out. Panelist Ginnie Baker, associate financial adviser at Fox Joss & Yankee, said her biggest mistake was not asking for help when she needed it. “Knowing what you can handle and finding out what's too much for you” is crucial, she said.

Enter the concept of “borrowed trust.” “One little mistake can chip away at that trust, and it takes a long time to earn it back,” Ms. Belew said. “Triple check your work, but if you make a mistake, own it and don't try to cover it up.”

Advisers suggested that entrants consider obtaining designations, such as the Certified Financial Planner, which show their commitment to the profession and convey greater credibility when they're working with wealthy clients. “For the younger generation, sitting across from someone with $5 million or $10 million — they want to know that you're knowledgeable and not just straight out of school,” Mr. Russell said.

Ms. Ness suggested that women starting out in the male-dominated advisory industry assert themselves. “It poses an opportunity and a challenge,” she said. “Women like working with women. We have a different communication style. Where it's a challenge is the work-life balance — having an 18-month-old son and a full-time job is a challenge.”

Above all, authenticity and straightforwardness are key characteristics for young advisers to be successful, said Josh Brown, panel moderator and adviser at Fusion Analytics Investment Partners LLC. “Most of the time, [clients] recognize that I say what I think,” he said. “In this era, that's what they're looking for. Even if it's not a fun answer, they're happy to get that answer from me. They know I'm telling them the truth.”

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