Internship opportunities are the best way our students can gain experience and understand what it is like to work in the financial planning industry. Because the industry is so diverse, every internship opportunity is different. We asked our students to provide insight on their experiences so we can encourage other students to pursue internships. Below, Karis Jochen ’18 summarizes her spring 2017 internship with Briaud Financial Advisors in College Station, Texas.
I would have thought by now that society would know better than to ask a senior in college “what are you planning on doing with your life?” As soon as I hear the word “plan”, I imagine my body immediately releasing the flood gates. A surge of cortisol courses through my veins as it prepares my body for a fight or flight response. I love my major and have enjoyed every single finance class taken thus far, but my inability to narrow down my career options has made answering this question even more difficult. However, following my internship at Briaud Financial I found myself adopting a more inspired response when discussing my future.
Day One: Learning the Jargon
On day one of my internship, I was placed at my own desk and computer amongst six other Briaud employees, including four CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERSTM. I was entrenched in an environment that enabled me to pick up on day-to-day functions and jargon of a CFP®. From such experiences, I have learned countless technical information such as the difference between 401(k) and 403(b) accounts, the tax benefit of Roth IRA rollovers, and why it is a good idea to wait until a client is 70 years old before taking Social Security.
As an intern, I was assigned an independent project to complete for the advisors. This project entailed creating an organized file of all clients over 70.5 years old by 2017 year-end, collecting statements for Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) eligible accounts, and determining the RMD each client must take in 2017. Upon hiring me as an intern, Briaud was aware that I had no experience with RMD or the financial planning industry, but because they were confident I fit the culture fostered at Briaud, they were certain I was coachable and could provide service to their team this spring.
Emphasis on Personal
Though personal financial planning involves gathering client data, analyzing a client’s financial status, developing financial plan recommendations, and implementing and monitoring the client’s financial plan, the process is very client dependent. With an emphasis on PERSONAL financial planning, the financial planner has a responsibility to establish a relationship with a client and continually invest time into growing this relationship on a foundation of honesty and trust. The strength of this foundation enables financial advisors to better serve the client and more closely identify client goals and objectives. The importance of this client relationship is something I would not had realized had it not been for the culture fostered at Briaud.
Even more fascinating to me, has been observing the psychological component of financial planning. After sitting in on a meeting with Briaud’s five financial advisors as they discussed the spending habits, goals, and lifestyle of a new firm client, I realized the importance of getting to know each client on a more personal basis. Janet Briaud, CFP® and Chief Investment Officer, taught me that the job of financial planners is not to try to change the habits of clients, but to listen to them and determine how we can best help them achieve their goals. Natalie Pine, CFP® and Partner, taught me that not every conversation with a client is comfortable. Sometimes financial planners have to have uncomfortable conversations with clients so the client remembers that discomfort and will listen. John Bohnsack, CFP®, taught me the financial planner’s fiduciary duty and that every action must be in the best interest of the client.
I was surrounded by an incredible team of teachers as anytime I had a question, everyone was more than happy to explain everything I wanted to know (and this is saying something because I ask a ton of questions). I want to especially thank John Bohnsack, with whom I worked most closely (not only because his desk is right next to mine) as he instructed me step by step on my RMD project, graciously invited me to shadow him on various financial planning activities, and entrusted me to undertake other projects to add value at Briaud.
This internship has opened my mind to a whole new world. The CFP® certification was first introduced to the United States in the early 1970s, so financial planning is still new and developing. As baby boomers retire over the next decade and the average life expectancy continues to increase, the utilization of financial advisors will also increase.
Regardless of the path I choose to take directly out of college, the lessons I learned at my internship will contribute to many of my future decisions. I now appreciate the complexity and uniqueness of financial goals, that time investments in people can have greater value than monetary investments in securities, and that there is not a “right way” to do everything because each individual’s journey is different. I feel fortunate to have learned these lessons and experienced the financial planning industry at a firm with people who love teaching others and love serving their clients.
About the author
Karis Jochen ’18 is a senior in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University pursuing degrees in Business Honors and Finance as well as a minor in Mathematics. Karis is a member of the Texas A&M University Cross Country and Track and Field teams. She interned with Briaud Financial Advisors during the Spring 2017 semester.