Diploma just a first step

Sep 29, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Michael Shagrin

Madison Ernst: Surprised to see how much prep there is for each client.
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Madison Ernst: Surprised to see how much prep there is for each client. (Christopher T. Martin)

After three months on the job at The Ayco Co. LP in Atlanta, Madison Ernst is surviving the hectic introductory period to life as a young financial analyst.

While she engaged in hands-on work during her final summer internship at another firm, Ms. Ernst only recently was exposed to the intricacies of financial planning.

“Seeing how much time goes into each individual prep meeting was very surprising,” she said. “It's been busy but wonderful.”

Ms. Ernst, 23, graduated with a financial planning degree from the University of Georgia this year, but she's the first to admit that a diploma didn't immediately qualify her for the complexities of financial planning.

“The first six weeks was training, where you're prepped to join a team,” she said. Ms. Ernst joined an account manager and has since been performing analyst duties. “Once you're on a team, you end up getting much more involved in the financial planning process.”

Most of the time, Ms. Ernst finds herself preparing for client meetings, which involve everything from estate planning to insurance strategies.

“During my first day on the team, I felt a bit overwhelmed learning everything they were doing,” she said. “Training had basic examples, but it's totally different being thrown into a client's complex financial situation.”

She found the biggest challenge to be the novelty of her situation, paired with the pressure of working with so many senior members of the firm. But she can always go to the senior adviser on her team, who has acted as a sort of mentor.

“I work with another planner, and he's definitely my biggest resource,” she said.

While her goal is to open an independent practice, Ms. Ernst appreciates the breadth of experience she'll be able to gain at Ayco.

“At the bigger firms, you're seeing more clients in more situations and more resources to guide them,” she said. “In smaller offices, you just don't have the same internal resources.”

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