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BLX Case Study

Abacus Wealth Partners

J.D. Bruce

Leveraging the BLX Internship Program at Abacus

The financial planning sector faces a pressing need for diversity, which the BLX Internship Program aims to address by creating opportunities for Black and Latinx individuals to enter the profession. This case study examines the internship program within California-based Abacus Wealth Partners and details their practical steps, outcomes, and insights. In a recent interview, J.D. Bruce, President Emeritus of Abacus, shared his knowledge with us.


Bruce emphasized the importance of representation in the financial planning profession, hopefully allowing individuals from all backgrounds to feel more comfortable beginning their financial services career journey. Recognizing the value of integrating diverse perspectives, he outlined a strategic approach focused on creating meaningful, educational, and practical experiences for interns.


The Abacus Intern Structure


The Abacus program was structured to ensure a comprehensive learning journey for their interns. This involved an initial onboarding, rotational assignments across Abacus’s teams, and a concluding phase for reflection and presentations by the interns. Importantly, Abacus adapted the program based on feedback and early experiences from staff and previous interns to provide the next class with ample support and learning opportunities.


Bruce emphasized that a thoughtful structure was a key driver of success as they had more than one intern participating within the same time period. The first week was spent on introductions, onboarding, education on the firm, organizing/orienting the interns, and providing them with some initial assignments. The subsequent six weeks were split up into three two-week rotations. This allowed interns to spend time with multiple internally-structured client service / advisory teams. The last week was used for a summary, celebration, and presentation of what they learned throughout the internship and recommendations for the net cohort of interns.


Flexibility and Inclusivity


Bruce said that offering both full-time and part-time positions is vital to attracting a broader range of candidates and accommodation of interns’ needs. A flexible program is imperative to ensuring that students, graduates, career changers, and anyone interested in breaking into the financial advisory profession has the opportunity to do so.


Insights and Adjustments


Bruce also pointed to the importance of aligning intern capacity with meaningful opportunities. Initial challenges, such as scheduling and workload balance, prompted strategic adjustments. Bruce emphasized the necessity of a structured yet adaptable framework to maximize the internship's value for both the firm and the interns.


Impact of the Abacus Internship Program


The internship program has had a transformative effect at Abacus, with several interns transitioning into permanent roles. These individuals brought unique insights to the firm, enhancing its capabilities and internal culture. Moreover, the program fostered valuable industry connections for their interns, facilitating mentorship and networking opportunities that extend beyond their summer at Abacus. He also pointed out that Abacus clients LOVED having the interns in meetings with them – so much so that some clients quizzed the interns about their life journey had to be time-managed so as not to derail the other elements of the meeting agenda.


Here are three lessons for firms considering similar initiatives:


  1. Flexibility is key: Tailoring program structures to accommodate a wide array of interns’ needs can broaden the talent pool and enhance the appeal of the internship. Bruce pointed out that some of the interns in their program were also working other jobs and/or still going to school, so they were willing to accommodate those types of scheduling needs in order to get the right people into the program.


  1. Diversity drives value: Integrating people with diverse backgrounds can support DEIB goals and bring tangible benefits to the advisory firm, including fresh perspectives and expanded market reach. Bruce points out that the more diverse your team is, the more comfortable a wider array of prospective clients will be in considering and approaching your firm to do business. Abacus clients loved getting to know the interns and thought it was admirable that Abacus had used BLX to help source their interns, thus creating a stronger bond with clients who share similar values with the firm.


  1. A societal shift is occurring: A genuine commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is essential for meaningful change not just within the firm and the financial services industry but societally in the country. Closing the wealth gap is a cultural value for more and more financial advisory firms and community leaders in America. An internship program can be the first step to help close that gap.


The BLX Internship Program is pleased to help source qualified candidates for financial advisory firms. These candidates enjoy an easier entry point than might otherwise be achieved. It is a great way for those looking to enter the financial services industry to get a foothold. The proven matching process is a way for firms to source not only interns but also to test out and eventually hire their next great advisor. We hope that by sharing the strategic considerations, challenges, and successes encountered at Abacus, this case study will be a valuable resource for firms of any size contemplating growing their team. The program is one step towards a more diverse and inclusive profession and an industry that reflects the demographics of our country.


Don’t Wait to Get Involved!


If this story has inspired you, take the next step. Hire a BLX Intern to help your firm meet your talent needs. Sign up for their newsletter here to learn how and when to apply. Seize this opportunity to contribute to a financial industry that mirrors our diverse country by tapping into BLX’s pipeline of top-quality interns.


*The information provided above pertains to the Abacus internship program for the period spanning from 2020 to 2022.

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