Dave Prendergast '14: Financial Advising at MassMutual

My name is Dave Prendergast and I am currently taking part in a Financial Advisor Internship at MassMutual in Bedford, NH. As a Financial Economics major at the College, I have striven to enhance my level of knowledge within the financial industry. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the completion of internships. In addition to offering constructive experience in the industry, internships also serve as evidence of a student’s initiative and drive on his/her resume and job applications. My internship at MassMutual consists of two main parts, the first of which is the study and preparation for licensing exams.

Financial Advising as a Career
In Financial Advising, the badges of honor that show how competent one is as a financial service professional are licenses and certifications. For instance, the gold standard of designations for an advisor is the vaunted Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation, which basically means that you are in the upper-echelon of the advisor food chain. However, before one can attain such a status, he/she must prove his/her competence through a variety of different examinations. For instance, a portion of a comprehensive financial plan is insurance. Usually, as is true in my case, the first license exam a prospective advisor takes is the Life and Health Insurance exams. I began studying in late August, and took my first exam (the Massachusetts’ Life Insurance Exam) on September 12th. I then followed that up with the Massachusetts’ Health Insurance Exam in early November. I was pleased to have a successful result on both exams and to find that the many hours I dedicated to preparation had not been wasted.

Throughout the entire semester, I have maintained close contact with my supervisor. He is a successful advisor for MassMutual, and I am fortunate to spend my office hours observing his business operation. Over the period of time since I passed my first exam, I have shadowed him around the office and assisted him with the planning and execution of projects. I realize that I may be moving quickly, so allow me to explain a little of how the Advising business works.

While a company like MassMutual may employ over 80 advisors in their Bedford office, those advisors can be viewed as their own entities. For instance, when you are an advisor, you are responsible for the growth of your own client base, or “book of business”. No one is going to offer you a handful of clients to work with; you have to find your own clients. Although you are representing a larger firm, the key to gaining clients is to effectively sell yourself more than you sell the company you represent. The reason for this revolves around the fact that you are going to be the one that manages your clients’ 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or IRAs. You are going to be one of the first individuals contacted by loved ones in the event of an accident or the death of a client (to make sure that the insurance policy still stands). This brings me to a significant reason why I may want to explore Financial Advising as a career.

Dave's Career Goals
I love finance and investments, but I do not want to work in a culture that is all about the bottom line. I would like to find niche that offers me exposure to the financial world but is also centered on assisting others. I believe that financial advising may be that perfect balance. As an advisor, you are more than just a number cruncher or someone who just stares at a screen all day; you are someone who acts on behalf of another. You help people plan for their futures, as well as help them protect and grow what they have earned. I am certainly looking for fulfillment from my career, not just a paycheck. My summer internship (which was also in financial advising), along with this one, has given me a very good idea about what a career in advising entails. As I begin to apply for full-time positions, I am certainly going to consider sending out many applications for advisor positions.

As I continue to work alongside my supervisor, as well as beginning the preparation for the Series 6 exam (which allows an individual to sell mutual funds and other investment instruments), I am looking forward to gaining more knowledge about the industry. Regardless of the project or activity that I am carrying out during this experience, I cannot stress how much more enlightening it is than sitting in a classroom for an elective class. Do not get me wrong, I definitely enjoy the classes that I have taken/currently taking, but I am a senior in college, and it is time to start focusing on life beyond the friendly confines of this campus.

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