How To Structure A Successful Internship Program

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

As Summer Ends, We Ask Wealthspire Professionals From Managing Director To Former Interns-Turned-Employees What Constitutes A Successful Internship Program

As Labor Day rapidly approaches, students return to class and another internship season draws to an end. Many firms will take stock of how their programs performed, what they plan to do differently next year, and for those not yet hosting interns, consider data and anecdotes from others in deciding whether to host an internship program in 2024.

At the same time, students returning to school, especially rising seniors, will plan their first career steps, and those who completed an internship will have the real world experience not only on their résumés, but on their minds as they begin to map out life after graduation.

To understand what constitutes success for an internship program and how to generate that success, we spoke with professionals at Wealthspire Advisors, ranging from managing director-level to recently joined associates. Wealthspire’s 2023 intern class consisted of 21 students, a 10% increase on 2022’s cohort, of which 83% accepted positions with Wealthspire after graduation.

Of the firm’s 40 current associates and senior associates, 35% returned from an internship. The firm’s program is designed to replicate the experience of being an associate, including two weeks of training, daily responsibilities and summer-long projects.

We spoke with Advisor and Managing Director Grant Ruder; Advisor and Assistant Vice President Myka Koenen, who helps drive the firm’s national internship program for the Reston, Virginia, office; and two professionals who began at the firm as interns, Senior Advisor Associate Jack Keating and Advisor Associate Marianne Esche. Our questions and their responses follow:

Grant Ruder, Advisor, Managing Director

WSR: What factors in an internship program determine if it was successful? How can a firm leader help drive that success?

Grant Ruder, Advisor, Managing Director, Wealthspire

Ruder: Ultimately, success is determined by how comprehensive the internship program can be to not only provide a “snapshot” of the firm’s work and service offering but to also make sure the intern’s experience is fun, rewarding and educational. We want to ensure our interns have the opportunity to assess us just as much as we want to learn of their skill sets and character.

Leadership can enhance the success by making clear how critical a thriving and recurring internship program can be on the development and procurement of talent, while also giving guidance and thoughts on the program’s structure. Ultimately, a leader should empower those directly involved to own the program and engage directly with the interns, through shadowing and other one-on-one opportunities, while also making sure other resources are available as needed.

Throughout the program, leadership should also take part in periodic touchpoints with both existing team members and the interns to confirm the program is progressing in a way to achieve our goal of a mutually successful internship.

Myka Koenen, Advisor, Assistant Vice President

Myka Koenen, Advisor, Assistant Vice President, Wealthspire

WSR: What metrics do you use to determine if an internship was successful? How can a firm achieve success in conversion rates and other metrics?

Koenen: We have been hosting a summer internship program for rising seniors for many years. It has been an important part of adding more talent to the firm, and also ensuring that the interns have a good experience and can take what they have learned from the classroom and apply it in the real world.

Throughout the internship, interns are trained as if they were new employees: learning the tools and resources we use at the firm, getting exposure to an office and in a team setting, as well as working on various projects that are impactful for our firm and our clients. In the end, if the internship program is successful and we have room to hire, we will extend the interns an offer to come work for our firm after they graduate. This has resulted in long-term employees at our firm.

Jack Keating, Senior Advisor Associate

Jack Keating, Senior Advisor Associate, Wealthspire

WSR: What factors in an internship program lead interns to want to return to the firm? How can a firm set its internship program up for success?

Keating: There are many factors in an internship program that lead interns to want to return, such as fair compensation, a clear career path, interesting and meaningful work, and robust resources, but the most important of them is the company culture.

A strong company culture is built in a fun and safe work environment with a great support system that encourages everyone to work together and make each other better. When this is present and the intern experiences it firsthand, they will feel welcomed and know that the firm is the right fit for them to begin their careers.

A firm can set its internship program up for success by including a variety of hands-on, real-world experiences like training on various software tools, real client work, exposing interns to all aspects of the job, providing social and networking opportunities, and providing and receiving feedback throughout the program. These factors provide the intern with a full experience while also allowing the employer to evaluate if they would be a good fit to hire.

Marianne Esche, Advisor Associate

Marianne Esche, Advisor Associate, Wealthspire

WSR: What factors in an internship program lead interns to want to return to the firm? How can a firm set its internship program up for success?

Esche: There are two key factors that interns should look for in a firm: cultural fit and career growth. Everyone has experienced or witnessed the value of a team that works well together. When people have a genuine connection, it promotes the smooth functioning and overall well-being of both the employees and the firm. It is also important to establish a path that supports career growth for everyone, including interns. Providing challenging work while also providing personalized support keeps everyone engaged and offers room for everyone to grow.

For a successful internship program, create a team of coordinators who are genuinely interested in providing an exceptional experience for all interns. With a dedicated team, the internship coordinators can communicate their expectations to the firm and work to ensure that everyone strives to provide the space for interns to feel like they are part of the team. This may allow the interns an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on clients’ lives as if they were employees.

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at

Related Posts

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Sign Up for Our Newsletters