Registered Investment Advisor Summer Intern Program

Schwab Advisor Services

Industry: Finance

Principle 1: Employment and compensation

Schwab Advisor Services has advocated for and supported the independent advisor industry for 30 years. In 2013, Schwab launched the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) Summer Intern Program to help the next generation understand the RIA industry and career opportunities in the field.

According to a 2017 report by Cerulli Associates, women make up only 16% of the total financial advisor workforce and only 13% of those women are independent RIAs. Furthermore, only about 20% of respondents to the 2017 Schwab Advisor Services Benchmarking Study who reported serving in an executive role (i.e., C-Suite or Managing Partner) were women.

In contrast, 31% of the 84 students who have completed the RIA Summer Intern Program since 2013 are women. Of the 42% students that have gone on to work in the RIA industry, 43% are women. By August 2018, another 16 students, 43% of whom are women, will have participated. 

"Schwab’s RIA Intern Program set me up for success and, because of it, I received multiple job offers. It was a great stepping stone toward my new career as an RIA." 
Program Alum

How does this model practice work?

The RIA Summer Intern Program is a full-time, eight-week rotational program designed to prepare undergraduate college students for employment with RIA firms. The program partners with over 80 colleges and universities across the country to recruit high-performing juniors and seniors who are curious, committed to excellence, collaborative, emotionally mature, and exceptional communicators. By emphasizing skills that are more communal and less agentic and by using gender-neutral language in its advertising, the RIA Summer Intern Program has achieved greater gender parity.

Once selected, students gain practical experience in client service, custody and trading support, portfolio construction, financial planning, technical skills, due diligence, and investment research. Training is conducted at select RIA firms and with Schwab teams from Advisor Custody and Trading, Investor Services Portfolio Consulting, and Financial Planning. Program alumni gain a solid understanding of the RIA business and Schwab’s role as a custodian. When graduates understand the day-to-day operations of an independent advisor’s business, they are more likely to become a source of high-quality talent to the industry. The program helps students realize the value of being an RIA so the next generation of female professionals can see it as a viable career with benefits that align with their passions and professional interests.

To measure the impact of the curriculum, interns are surveyed on a weekly basis throughout their eight-week rotation. All alumni are then surveyed twice a year about whether they are currently working within the RIA industry and in what capacity.

"It’s a great way to explore every part of the RIA industry. The people you meet and the resources you gain are just as invaluable as the information you learn." 
Program Alum

The program curriculum continues to evolve to provide students with more hands-on experience and more facetime with financial planning professionals in the RIA industry. In 2018, the program will incorporate case study assignments where interns will be required to work through real challenges RIAs face. RIAs will also speak to interns on a number of topics, such as “a day in the life,” residency programs, and portfolio management, further strengthening interns’ understanding of the RIA industry and what it is like to work at an RIA firm. The program framework includes providing each intern with a mentor, weekly presentations from advisors, and time spent within advisory firms, giving interns the opportunity to network and interact with female leaders in the industry. By meeting with these learned professionals, young women interns can envision a career path of their own in the RIA industry.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

When implementing an internship program at your workplace, consider ways in which it can be self-sustaining. For example, Schwab’s program creates awareness and understanding of the RIA industry by demonstrating how Schwab supports the industry, allowing it to leverage its own internal subject matter experts and the expertise of some of its clients, avoiding any overhead associated with bringing outside speakers or educators. The core framework of the program covers five pillars:

1. Talent development,
2. Functional rotations,
3. Skills training,
4. Mentoring, and
5. Networking.

The coursework within each pillar may shift, but the pillars remain unchanged. This enables the program to be more agile in evolving year-over-year with minimal overhead.

View Ann Lehman's profile on LinkedIn