I know how to get your attention!
Seriously, though, Lou Stanasolovich’s Pittsburgh RIA, Legend Financial Advisors, has hired more than 300 interns since 1994, and more than two dozen became full-time employees; Legend was the first employer of so many young professionals that Stanasolovich is invited to speak annually at local colleges about how student can their jumpstart careers while still in school. Of Legend's 25 intern-alumni, two are now shareholders at the RIA, which manages $312 million and has 12 full-time employees.
Naturally, I was excited when Stanasolovich generously agreed to share at an A4A webinar his two decades of experience in running an internship program.
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Disclosure: Lou has been a client of my company, Advisor Products Inc. since 1997 — one of many hundreds of clients, to be clear — and I’ve worked with him closely at times over the years. It’s not always been easy. He’s demanding, stubborn, and sometimes unreasonable. However, Lou's firm and mine have worked together successfully for a long time. He’s an irrepressible entrepreneur and an innovative manager. He capitalized on search engine optimization 10 years ago, for example, and he’s created a content marketing machine and used Constant Contact for email marketing for over a decade, and Stanasolovich delivers financial advice with similar flair. He invested in alternatives through mutual funds long before it was fashionable and consistently championed creative and prudent practices years ahead of the crowd.
In addition to Legend’s RIA, Stanasolovich and his team publish content for advisors and retail investors and of late he began delivering low-cost advice through a separate, new RIA, Emerging Wealth Investment Management Inc., with $6 million AUM.
The key to a productive internship program for RIAs, Stanasolovich says, is to cull and coddle the best and brightest interns right from the start and look at each intern as a long-term investment, knowing most will not be great but a small group of winners will become the human capital you cultivate to build your firm and bring others along for the ride.
In a webinar,
Stanasolovich says RIAs can train interns to be productive and profitable and, in a few months, create a highly motivated source of cheap labor. By using a technique called “topgrading,” you build a team of hungry “A-players” and then hire the best of the interns for full-time jobs. Oh, by the way, you’re also helping young people who deserve a break become professionals and productive members of society, a fact Stanasolovich never mentions but is the source of his motivation.
Interns, of course, allow professional staff to focus on higher priorities. “We take low-end tasks away from existing staff, and we continue to train interns so that (the interns) can take on more higher-end tasks in time,” Stanasolovich says.
Interns start at $8.50 an hour (plus bonuses). Legend can hire four interns or add a new advisor. It’s good for everyone to know that. Training is the key to success.
RIAs Recruiting College Interns
Legend primarily hires freshmen and sophomores and requires them to work 1,000 or 1,500 hours a year, including full-time during summers.
The company locates good candidates through career fairs at area universities, by communicating with guidance counselors, speaking at school programs, and posting information online.
An RIA Internship Training Program
Rather than billable staff interns, Legend trains interns using video. Kids are hardwired to learn fast from watching TV. For over a decade, Legend has used a camcorder to record screens of a trained pro performing routine operational tasks with screen-by-screen instructions about data entry and other common tasks. Lightly editing videos using Techsmith Camtasia Studio software
, Legend has built a catalog of 2,000 short training videos about its operational procedures.
Once the initial training period is completed, new interns receive face-to-face training from senior interns. Senior interns, who perform more complicated tasks, receive one-on-one training from staff members.
Before the first day an intern starts to work in your firm, and before every day forward, tasks must be spelled out. “You can’t afford to be coming up with things for them to do every day,” Stanasolovich says.
Up to 20% of an intern’s time will be spent on clerical work, like scanning and auditing documents, cleaning, mailing, organizing office celebrations and cookouts, filling copiers, delivering supplies and documents, and setting up conference rooms for client meetings.
Once an intern has been on the job for a couple of years, those who qualify take on more important duties. Second-year finance interns, for example, may prepare reports on portfolio performance, cost-basis of securities, and basic research, and even execute trades.
“It’s not just about us,” Stanasolovich says. “Interns get great experience for their resumes.” Legend also teaches basic office and social skills, he adds.
Stanasolovich recommends two books to learn more about the process of developing talent: Topgrading by Bradford D. Smart, and Moneyball by Michael Lewis.
Stanasolovich's live session was lightly attended. To his credit, however, Stanasolovich's detailed guide to establishing an internship program at an RIA will undoubtedly inspire many RIA owners for many years to come.
Rating and Comments
- Advisors who logged onto Advisors4Advisors to view the webinar live gave Stanasolovich an average rating of 4.5. Here are some of their comments:
- “Lou is amazingly generous in sharing what he has learned about building an effective internship program. Great program Andy. Thanks.”
- “Good overview of how a robust internship program can function within an RIA.”
- ‘Started out a little slow and picked up steam along the way. Especially valuable were the Word documents offered as attachments, which included intern interview questionnaires and the hiring process. Speaker is well known in the industry and it would appear that interns at his firm are fortunate to be affiliated with him.”
- “Thanks for sharing this information with us. Excellent!”