On the Job Experience Pays Dividends

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Hannah Ziegeler
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Wyatt Counterman learns the ins and outs of finance at LVM Capital Management.


Hometown

Kalamazoo, MI

Education

Western Michigan University (WMU)
Finance Major; Music Minor

Graduation Date: May 2020

Position

Financial Planning Intern at LVM Capital Management

Getting Down to Business

Financial planning is a myriad of things. When I first started at LVM Capital, I thought it was going to entail a lot of investor research, but the job is really about relationship-building. Sometimes we give tax planning or life insurance advice. Sometimes people come to us with a goal, like buying a house or preserving capital. We have to tailor our approach to each client and their financial goal. The biggest thing I’m working on now is a client review project. I have about 350 clients, and my job is to update client dossiers, making sure that they’re in keeping with SEC regulations.

Balancing School and Work

My classes at WMU and this internship have complemented each other really well. I remember learning things in some of my finance classes that I would immediately use here. I had a financial markets class that gave me an understanding of the terminology we use at LVM Capital every day. I was already a big spreadsheet nerd, but my Computer Applications in Finance class helped me take my [Microsoft] Excel skills to another level. In my work here, I learned that different types of investments—whether they be equities, bonds, or mutual funds—are right for different people. We touched on that at WMU, but it was eye-opening to get a first-hand experience, interacting with real clients to determine which investments work best for them.

A Crash Course

This internship is unique because it’s a year-long internship. Actually, it lasts for 13 months—in the final month, I will be training the next intern. When I started, the previous intern also stayed and trained me. In addition, I have been getting on-the-job training every Friday. Chuck Prudhomme, our intern coordinator, takes about an hour out of his week to touch base with me and answer any questions I may have. Today, Chuck asked me to put together a tax analysis for one of our clients using software that I had never used before. He sat down with me and gave me the whole rundown. It was a lot of information to understand all at once, but now I feel comfortable enough to be able to use it on my own.

Sage Advice for Other Interns

Be prepared not to know things. You will be humbled by how much you don’t know. I remember that our previous intern, the one who trained me, said the same thing. I felt like I had a good educational background in finance, but when I sat in on my first portfolio manager meeting, I was blown away by how much I didn’t know or understand. I was furiously scribbling notes like, “Look this up! Look this up! What does this mean?” My advice would be not to get disco­uraged. It’s all a learning process that will prepare you for a future full-time job.

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