April Peterson's route to her position as investment service representative should be a confidence-inspiring tale for all the financial planning hopefuls out there: work hard in school, get an internship and perform well enough to get invited back as a full-time employee.
Ms. Peterson, 24, has been with the United States Automobile Association of San Antonio for almost two months since earning her master's degree in personal financial planning at Texas Tech University. However, she hasn't seen a decline in time spent in the classroom. If anything, she's spending more time hitting the books than she did in graduate school.
“After new-employee orientation, it's been all Series 7 studying,” she said. “A representative from Kaplan [Inc.] has been here for two weeks reviewing a lot of what I already knew, but also preparing the class for how the test asks questions.”
Once she completes the Series 7, Ms. Peterson will move on to studying for the Series 63 exam. Then, finally, she'll join the ranks of investment service representatives in USAA's Houston call center — an advancement of which she's constantly reminded.
“They do a great job of keeping new employees hyped up about everything,” she said. “Whether it's from the Kaplan instructor or managers at the company, we're getting a once-a-week pep talk.”
When the preparatory phase is completed, Ms. Peterson is looking forward to focusing on investments and interacting with clients who require financial guidance.
“The job is about communicating ideas to those who have limited information and knowledge in a certain area,” she said. “You can't tell people they're outright wrong, but you have to steer them in the right direction.”
And her time at USAA as an intern taught Ms. Peterson that investment service reps need to strike a balance between coddling members and rushing on to the next phone call.
“Because I was an intern here, I know about the expectations,” she said. “You're expected to fulfill a member's need, but you also want to finish a call in a certain amount of time. You don't want to be on the phone with one member for 45 minutes on the same topic.”
While she doesn't know how fast she'll be able to move up the ranks, she wants to get a good feel for the position she's in “for around 18 months,” then see if she could move into the wealth management side.
“It's a bit more selective,” she said. “Everybody's goal is to become a wealth manager, but there isn't space for everyone.”