Personal Financial Planning on the West Coast

Aaron Swenson ’14 reflects on his summer internship.

For my summer internship, I accepted a Business Development Intern position at the firm Waddell & Reed, at the Sherman Oaks office. In mid-July, my friend Mark and I flew out to Los Angeles to begin the internship (Mark had a different job during our stay). It was an exciting time for me considering it was my first time in Los Angeles, as well as a month and a half to learn new things at my job and around the area we would be living. Upon arrival, we went to the apartment we were subletting just off of the UCLA campus. Once settled we were able to explore the downtown area of Westwood as well as the campus of UCLA, both which were beautiful and very foreign to me.

The area we lived in was possibly the best part of the experience. We were a five-minute walk from downtown Westwood, where there were countless restaurants, stores, movie theatres, and more than my friend and I were able to enjoy. My favorite part of the downtown area (besides In-N-Out) was probably the two giant movie theatres in the center of the town. Both theatres, The Regent and The Bruin, have only one theatre with over 500 seats and have been used to premiere movies for decades. I was lucky enough to have enough time on weekends to explore the downtown area. The beaches were also only around a fifteen-minute drive from us. So being able to see some famous beaches, Newport and Venice specifically, was also really cool. I would definitely say that my living situation was pretty much ideal for a summer in a place that I had never been.

I began work two days after we arrived. My first week or so consisted of mostly just learning what I was going to be doing and getting to know my supervisor, Chris Campbell, who is a Financial Advisor at the firm. Chris is in his third year at Waddell & Reed, and I could not be more grateful for him to take me on as his intern over the summer. Chris graduated from Suffolk University and worked for UBS in his first two years following college, before moving out to California to be with his now-wife, Jennifer, who is a professional singer. They were both beyond hospitable and I was able to enjoy some great times with them. As far as training went, I mostly just polished my excel skills, learned as much as I could about the surrounding area, and lastly, learned as much as I could about the potential people I would be prospecting.

Chris focuses his services on University professors in the area, a group that he feels is overlooked and unappreciated during the retirement and financial planning process. So during the months, I worked with Chris, I prospected many professors and board members of the surrounding universities. I would check their age and how long they had been at the given school, then if they fit the specific criteria that Chris wanted, I would put them on a list in excel with their contact information. Once Chris felt that the list for a given school was sufficient, we both would begin to reach out to the individuals on the list, in an attempt to set up preliminary meetings where Chris would be able to introduce himself and explain a little bit about how his services could potentially benefit the specific individual given their current financial situation.

The process expectedly began rather slowly at the beginning. I would comprise this long list of names with minimal luck scheduling meetings. Chris had given me a script to basically read off, but I definitely had a learning curve when individuals began to show their interest and ask more pressing questions, usually handing the phone to Chris and taking notes on how he responded to the questions I was unable to. This was undoubtedly one of the ways I was able to learn the most this summer. However, by the end of the summer, I was able to schedule a few meetings for him, which was definitely a rewarding feeling.

I was also lucky enough to be allowed to go to the meetings we had scheduled with these professors and the ones which Chris had previously scheduled before my arrival. During my time there most of our meetings were at UCLA, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount University, Santa Monica College, and USC. It was truly amazing to see how beautiful and massive all of these schools were, especially coming from a small liberal arts school in Connecticut. The meetings were also great to further both my financial knowledge as well as my personable skills in a business setting. The meetings always began seriously, with Chris introducing me and explaining what I did, and then laying out the possible and suggested financial plans for the given person we were meeting with on that day. But I also found it amazing how Chris was able to pick out little things in the professor’s office to make the interaction more normal for all of us. For example, if he saw a family photo, a basketball, or a golf club in an office, he would always cleverly find a way to bring it up and get the professors talking about it. This strategy made the experience more enjoyable and real for us all.

Chris will undoubtedly achieve great success in his business endeavors, and he is well on his way. By the time I was done I wasn’t necessarily ready to leave, but I was ready to see my family and friends at home again. Ultimately, both being in Los Angeles for the first time and working for such a great guy was an incredible experience, and I cannot thank you all enough for your role in helping me grow as an individual through it.