We were very fortunate to have Liam Cronan spend several weeks with us in May as part of his high school senior project. He was finishing up his senior year at Thayer Academy and will be starting at Bentley University in fall. He has a great work ethic, quickly completed projects and was eager to help. It was great to have a fresh perspective on how we can improve our services. Many of you may have read the informative blog he wrote on children and money.
As part of the project, Liam was required to write about his experience. We thought it would make for some light summer blog reading:
For the better part of the month of May, I had the pleasure of the opportunity to work as an intern at Single Point Partners in Boston. Single Point was founded in 2012 by Mr. Shaun Erickson, a Bentley college (the school I will be attending next year) finance graduate. In his word, “I was driven to found Single Point to build a firm that was focused on the agenda of my clients.” The company was founded on the concept of being a fee-only financial planning firm that would give its customers a conflict-of-interest-free “single point” of contact in all matters of their financial life in everything from facilitating college loans to investment planning for retirement. At the center of the firm are Shaun Erickson and Susan Snyder, the company’s Certified Financial Planner and Client Service Manager respectively. In their operations, Single Point Partners utilizes various technological systems as well as internal and external resources to manage their client’s assets in the most efficient and comprehensive way possible.
In essence, my day to day tasks during my time as an intern were mostly computer-based assignments with an overall goal of updating and facilitating the systems Single Point Partners uses to house their client information such as “eMoney”, “Box Sync”, “Riskalyze”, and others. After an introductory meeting with Mr. Erickson, I was first tasked with updating the reference sheets used for changes in the tax code which involved research into the IRS codes. After completing this, I was assigned to update and create formulas for an Excel spreadsheet that calculated required minimum distributions (RMDs) for clients over seventy years old with IRA accounts. What I would consider to be the most challenging yet intriguing project, the excel spreadsheet for RMDs needed to be set up in such a way that, based on the formulas and data already on file, when the amount in a client’s account net worth is input each year, their age, RMD factor from the IRS, required distribution, monthly distribution, annualized distribution and final remaining value would automatically calculate. After completing several more tasks involving organizing data for clients accountant and tax returns and altering a document for client net worth and some others, I had proceeded to complete tasks Mr. Erickson estimated would take me the entirety of the three weeks. From this point moving forward, I spend my time on tasks assigned to me by either Mr. Erickson or Ms. Snyder during meetings. These included but were not limited to updating client data within the eMoney system, auditing risk level setting in Black Diamond investment management and writing a piece for Single Point Partners financial planning blog on the importance of parents talking to their children about money and young people subsequently being “financially literate.”
My objectives for the internship on balance were to gain a better understanding of the finance field, specifically the financial planning field: both to use the knowledge I have of economics, finance, statistics, writing, mathematics, and so forth, and build upon it; and to ascertain my interest in the financial field as a major or career. Overall, the project met my initial personal expectations in one way and was vastly divergent from it in many others. When I began the project, I originally had the anticipation that much of what the firm did for its clients was in the investment of client assets. However. I came to find that this was only one piece of the services Single Point supplied to their customers. Moreover, I envisioned Single Point Partners, being a firm in the financial industry, to be on the more serious side, if not downright stuffy. This notion was quickly disproven when I watched the office indoor putting competition and, about a week later, watched Mr. Allen, one of the gentlemen in the office, enter one of the weekly strategy meetings juggling for us.
On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoyed the way the project both pushed me to learn and work autonomously as well as gave me skills that will be invaluable during the next four years. As said by Mr. Erickson on my first day, “we are not going to be holding your hand during these projects.” It is not to say I was left alone and clueless, but, rather I was forced to work through some of the systems I was using myself, either by intuition or by research. If truly stuck, I could ask Mr. Erickson or Ms. Snyder, however, I feel that because of my autonomy and need to figure things out for myself, I developed better skills of self-reliance. In school, if there is a concept or an assignment I am stuck on, I can always ask a friend or stop by the teacher’s office, but in this circumstance, by dealing with problems for myself, it fostered a sense of independence and gave me confidence in that I was accomplishing things without having to be constantly hovered over. Because of this, I have newfound experience in using financial software and in personal finance as a whole that will become extremely beneficial if I major in finance or if I take classes in that field in general. Should I end up taking a personal finance class, I will already have experience working in the real world of personal finance and with many of the same tools I will be using in a classroom setting.
This concept also ties into what was one of my favorite parts of being an intern at Single Point: feeling like the organization was open and accepting of my ideas and truly involved me in what they were doing. During one of the weekly meetings about strategy, Mr. Erickson and Ms. Snyder, as an example, asked if there are parts of their client-“CFO” relationship that seemed redundant or over-complicated and both genuinely listened to my answer. What’s more, I never felt as if I were doing mindless “busy work” or wasting time. In my task I was assigned, it was either explained or inherently obvious why I was doing the project and how it was helpful to them. Because I was always aware of the why as well as the how, I felt neither useless nor bored during my weeks as intern.
As far as my interest in the profession after the internship, I would argue that I have two differing opinions. On one hand, I found many of the aspects of the personal finance/wealth management field to be heavily detail oriented. Although interesting, I do not see it as sect of finance I would go into because of this detailed oriented nature. That being said, I would also say that I found many of the aspects of my tasks to be enjoyable as well and would therefore not rule out finance as a career I would pursue. I would, on the contrary, consider in the following years to look into personal finance classes offered at Bentley (coincidentally, the very ones my site adviser took while he was there) and would also not rule out the possibility of a finance major, or more likely a dual major in finance and economics.
One of the moments, more so project, that simultaneously is my favorite of all the projects I completed, and that captures my experience best is the creation of client net worth templates for each of Single Point’s customers. During the second week, Mr. Erickson showed me an Excel template that a friend of his at U.S. Wealth Management uses to calculate customer’s net worth and change in net worth year-to date based on their overall assets and liabilities. To begin the assignment, Mr. Erickson showed me the template and gave me full artistic license to redesign it to fit both Single Point’s colors and logo as well as the individual needs of their customers. Afterward, he tasked me with going through clients’ year-end net worth statements and eMoney account data to input important dates for the customers and their asset and liabilities to the spreadsheet. These then had to be put into formulas to calculate total net worth and change in net worth over several years and display this data graphically.
I refer this project as both my favorite and the one representing my internship overall in that, unlike many of the others. I was responsible for creating the project start to finish, not just working on something that already existed. Moreover, I had to, in the process of setting up the sheets, use almost all of the resources systems I had acquired over the two weeks prior in addition some of the skills I had learned in AP statistics. It too gave me a chance to work more closely with Mr. Erickson more so than many other projects. The way that I felt so involved and that I was actually performing tasks with a clear goal in mind was culminated when Mr. Erickson told me how he was able to use one of the net worth templates while talking with a client to give them a better understanding of the risk level of their investments and how that effects net change in assets
Thanks to this project, I have gained a better insight into the wealth management and financial advisor, or “Personal CFO’ as Single Point Partners refers to it, fields. Before the project began, I did have some understanding of what a financial advisor did in their day to day activities and roughly how their business would be operated. Now, I can confidently say I have an improved respect for and understanding of what a financial advisor did in their day to day activities and roughly how their business would be operated. Now, I can confidently say I have both an improved respect for and understanding of the financial planning field. Through the projects I worked on, the meetings I attended, and the discussions I had with Mr. Erickson, Ms. Snyder, and others, I have had the opportunity to not only apply and test the skills and knowledge I have but also to develop and improve upon them. Moving forward, should I choose finance as a major, take personal finance classes, or take finance classes in general, I will be equipped with real-world exposure to the financial field with all that entails. Personally, I see myself as having grown from the experience both in skills and in my knowledge of the business world in general. Though I do not imagine myself going into that particular realm of finance, I am genuinely grateful for the experience and would like to thank Single Point and Mr. Erickson, and all those who coordinate Senior Projects for giving me this opportunity.