This week, Lauren Stansell of Yeske Buie gets interviewed by our guest host, Alexandria Cole. Lauren wasn’t quite sure she wanted to be in financial planning and now, just several years later, she is on track to be partner at her firm! At Yeske Buie, Lauren has been instrumental in creating and growing their Resident Program, a three year training program for new financial planners. Through the program, residents learn the nuts and bolts of financial planning and all areas of running a firm, including how to train others. The end goal of the Resident Program is not to stay with the firm long-term, but to be trained in how to do financial planning well. Lauren shares their approach to Residents and gives insights into what new planners can do the set themselves apart.

Lauren shares how important continuous learning is and how conversations at her firm led her to pursue a Masters in Advanced Financial Planning with a concentration in taxation from Golden Gate University. As a soon-to-be partner, Lauren shares how this influenced her decision to pursue her masters degree.

As the second generation of owners in Yeske Buie, Lauren shares why she is excited to buy into the firm and how the goal is to make the firm not dependent on the founders by 2020. Lauren shares her advice for other young planners who are interested in having conversations with their firm owners about buying into their practice.

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What You’ll Learn:

  • What the Yeske Buie Resident Program looks like
  • Skills Residents and new planners need to have
  • Importance of continuous learning
  • Factors to consider in pursuing advanced degrees
  • What it’s like to be the second generation of a financial planning firm
  • How to have conversations about being a successor

 

Show Transcript

Ep120 Transcript


Alex: Today, I have Lauren Stansell on the podcast, and I am so excited that you are on today to talk to us about your journey in the financial planning profession.
Lauren: Me too. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here today and just get to chat with you.
Alex: Thanks. Yeah. I’m always interested in learning more about people, especially when you meet them at conferences, and you can just get to know them better, but also allow them the space to share what they’ve learned so far on their journey. I want to take this time to just jump right in, but I do want to share a fact with our listeners. This is something I just recently learned maybe a year and a half ago, but you have a really cool, or at least two really cool bosses, Elissa Buie, who’s actually your mom, and I did not know that.
Lauren: That is correct. Yup. Elissa Buie is my mom, and Dave Yeske is my stepdad. I grew up around financial planning. I was always in the car rides to horseback riding or soccer practice and soccer games with my sister, and would be in the back seat yelling, “Please stop talking about financial planning.”
It’s still our ongoing joke, and now that I’m in financial planning, my sister makes fun of us even more, but growing up, being around it all the time, I was kind of thinking, “Maybe I’ll do something different. I’ve heard about this constantly. I want to do my own thing.”
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Obviously, that didn’t happen because here we are.
Alex: Exactly. That just transitions us right into where you are today and how you started out. I know you are a Virginia Tech alumni. I don’t know if other people get to say, “Go Hokies” if they didn’t go there, but …
Lauren: Anyone who wants to cheer for the Hokies can.
Alex: Okay. Cool. I just wanted to know, I saw that you and Ian actually started the Student Chapter, the Financial Planning Student Chapter at Virginia Tech, so maybe you can share a little bit about how you started that and what maybe was beneficial of doing that as a student.
Lauren: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m going to rewind a little bit before that happened. I, as you said, went to Virginia Tech, Go Hokies, and was studying economics and finance. I knew about the financial planning program, but not really, and I started going to some information sessions, and I was like, “Oh my goodness. I was wrong all these years.”
“This is what I want to do.” It puts all of my favorite things together, and so I joined the program, and I just think it’s interesting that going through the program and looking back on it now, even though I grew up in a financial planning family, I really didn’t know the extent of what was offered in this financial planning program and all the amazing courses, and the advisors who were there to really help you learn about this profession and start to build your network before you even get into the profession. The program advisors at Virginia Tech do such a great job of helping all of the students find jobs that they may be interested in, either with respect to the type of firm and the type of role, or even the location. They send out at least monthly emails with all sorts of job descriptions from all of the firms that they have these great relationships with, and they share the title, any requirements, and the location of the job, and then work to connect that student with that firm to help them find those positions. I think that’s so important, and I am confident that other financial planning programs around the country do that.
I know that’s true because we’ve posted our job descriptions to some of those advisors when we have openings, and so it’s a really great benefit to be part of one of those programs because you’re going to get connections, and you’re going to be able to hopefully find a role that is going to fit you in terms of type and location, so it makes me really happy to think about it now looking back on it, but it was really exciting to join into that program.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: It was not long after I joined into the program that I met Ian Harvey, and there was an email sent out to the program about the, I think at the time, it was the Financial Planning Club. It had been something that was in existence before, but the leaders had fallen off, and they wanted someone to revive it. Ian and I looked at each other and said, “Hey, let’s do this.” We’re passionate about this program. We think this would be a great way to get to know all of our students in the program, and get them involved and learn about what real financial planning looks like, and so we took it and ran with it.
Ian Harvey, current President of FPA NexGen, he and I work really well together because we have different strengths, and I think he mentioned this in an article he was quoted in recently, and we laugh about it all the time. He is really passionate, and he has amazing, amazing big ideas, and I’m really on the organize side and getting the actual pieces done, the paperwork that was required with Virginia Tech and with the Financial Planning Association, and we worked really closely with our advisors, the program directors to get everything started and get meetings on the calendar, and so we would have meetings.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: We tried for once a month with the chapter where we’d have a financial planner come in, usually local or from somewhere within a few hours, and come speak to us about what their firm did, and what they did, what they thought about financial planning, why they joined the profession, their history, all sorts of things, and we always had pizza at our meetings because if there’s one way to get college kids to show up, it’s pizza.
Alex: Yeah. It’s the food. Yeah.
Lauren: Yes. Absolutely. The whole experience that was really great experience for me in getting into the financial planning profession and learning about how passionate other people were, which made me really excited, and learning from so many different financial planners who came down for our meetings and shared the different ways that they did business and the different ways they served clients, and about their investment philosophies and how they presented financial plans, it was a ton of learning, and it was a really great experience to just get my profession or my career kick-started.
Alex: How did that maybe help you into the start of your career? Did you find out about your first internship through there? Right after that, did you start with Yeske Buie? What did it look like right after you finished in college?
Lauren: Yeah. I actually did an internship in the summer right before my final semester, and that was with Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, South Carolina, Cheryl Holland’s firm. It was a great experience. This was my, kind of my first foray into financial planning in how a business runs and how they serve clients and what the work actually looks like on a day-to-day basis, and so I learned a lot of valuable skills there from scanning. That’s a good thing an intern does, to learning how to answer the phone and talk with clients on the phone, and be composed and articulate, to greeting clients in the office, to doing actual client work, and working on projects for some of their clients who needed analysis done.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: We got the experience of doing some of that analysis first, alongside with the financial planner, where they were training us what to do and why, and how to think about it, and then we got to do some of the work on our own and send it, submit it to them, or present it to the financial planner for review. That was a really great first experience. Then, I finished school, and decided I want to know little more experience before I really decided where I wanted to live, or what type of firm I wanted to work for, so in the summer of 2013, I started my internship with Yeske Buie and hit the ground running. It was really exciting. I got to see every aspect of what the financial planners did on a daily basis.
I was sitting in client meetings and taking notes from day one, and that is true of all of our interns to this day. I was working on writing the follow-up emails for those client meetings that I had been sitting in, learning how to write an email that would share what we talked about and the action items without completely reiterating the entire meeting in a succinct, clear and understandable way. As time went on throughout that internship, I got to do the financial plans, and work on all the various reports that we prepare for our clients, and do those and present them to Yusuf before he presented them to Elissa for the meeting, and of course, on top of that, all of the normal intern things, all of the administrative stuff that interns can be really helpful for and still provides learning. At that time, it was probably two and a half or three months into my three or three and a half month internship, and I loved the team at Yeske Buie. Every single person had been so welcoming and had taught me so much, and given me so much space to learn and to grow, and I really didn’t want to leave.
I just wanted to be part of this team, and luckily, Yeske Buie at the time was hiring for an entry-level, what we call an ‘Assistant Financial Planner’ in the Virginia office, and I remember, I will always remember, I walked into Yusuf’s office one day and I said, “Yusuf, how do I apply for this open position?”, and he smiled. He’s got that silly grin, and he said, “You just did”, and so there was a process from there.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Fortunately, I had had a two and half month interview of sorts by being there working as an intern, but the team did some work together on talking about the candidates they had and whether they, who they wanted to keep or who they wanted to hire for this position, and what it would look like, and any thoughts they had. Luckily, they ended up keeping me. They chose me, and the rest is history.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: I’m really happy to be part of the team.
Alex: It sounds like you became a financial planner very quickly right after your internship. Did you ever feel at any point that, “Wow. This is moving very fast. Am I ready for this?”, or have any kind of reservations of that was the track you wanted to go down when you first started your internship, or you were really like set that you knew you wanted to become a financial planner?
Lauren: I think after my very first internship in South Carolina, I was pretty sure but maybe not 100% sure, and so that’s why I wanted to do another internship with Yeske Buie. After about, I would say one to two months of that internship, I was pretty sure this was the team I wanted to be working with. It was the work I wanted to be doing. I was really passionate about what Yeske Buie was doing for our clients and why, and all of the groundedness behind the decisions made from everything, from a project that I worked on, to make both of our offices feel and look the same with respect to notepads, and pens, and fountains in the entry way, so everything from those decisions to the investment philosophy and the big picture, high-level strategic thinking is all very purposeful and client-centered, and so that really was exciting to me.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: I don’t think that I ever had any doubts of, “Is this what I want to do? Is this where I want to be?”, but I would say, and one of the things I love about financial planning is it’s really fast-paced, and you’re kind of forced to learn as you go and just learn a ton.
Alex: Right.
Lauren: There’s so much to learn. We’ll never learn it all because things are always changing.
Alex: Correct.
Lauren: One of the things that we really strive to do at Yeske Buie is to always be learning, always be growing. We have a robust culture, and so we’re always … You’re kind of learning on the edge, is one of our things that we always say, and it can be uncomfortable and it can be scary, and yet, when I look back on all of those various situations where I was feeling a little overwhelmed or like, “Wow. This is really going fast”, I look back and they were amazing learning experiences.
Alex: One thing that I’m really just fascinated to hear more about that you guys offer is a Financial Residency Program. There’s not a lot of firms that offer this, but Yeske Buie does, and so I just want to tee up what that is so listeners know what we’re talking about when we say Financial Residency Program.
Lauren: Sure. Right off the bat, there is one clarification I think is important, and this comes up often, is there’s FPA Residency, which is a week-long Financial Planning Boot Camp on all of the soft skills. It is absolutely phenomenal. If you haven’t heard of it or been to it, I highly recommend it, but that’s probably a topic for another discussion.
Alex: Yes. We’ll add it in the show notes because that is a very intense program that definitely everybody should go. I haven’t gone yet, so it is on my list once I pass my CFP.
Lauren: Yes. It is phenomenal. Truly one of the best weeks of my life. There’s FPA’s Residency, and then Yeske Buie’s Financial Planning Resident Program. Our Resident Program is not the first of its kind, but one of few that is existing to this day to my knowledge, and it’s essentially very similar to a medical residency.
When you’re becoming a doctor, you do rounds, and you do your residency for a few years, and so we have financial planners. Almost always, they are very recent graduates of their undergraduate program or a graduate program, and they come in right after graduation, and they stay with us for a period of three years. The three years is very intentional. It is to give them the three years of experience they need to earn their CFP designation, and so during their three years with us, they get that three years worth of experience and we support them in studying for and taking the CFP exam so that … The goal is that on graduation day, they are a CFP professional, and can graduate and go off and do whatever it is they may want to do.
One of the appealing pieces of the Resident Program is that oftentimes or in the past, these are financial planners who know that they want to do something other than work for Yeske Buie forever or live in San Francisco or Virginia forever. They know they want to start their own business, for example, or they know that they have a job even waiting for them when they’re done. The person just simply doesn’t have the time or resources to train them for those three years. They need someone experienced, or they have a goal of going and becoming someone’s succession plan, who again just may not have the time or the resources to do this three years worth of training and experience, and need someone to come in and hit the ground running.
Alex: This program is only three years, but people don’t stay with Yeske Buie after the three years. I know some people are like, “What? That’s not a job”, but that’s really interesting to know that that’s how that program runs, is to really just help you get the skills you need to become whatever position you want to become in a long-term at whatever firm that is at, or like you said, starting your own firm. What I really like to know is, so what is it that you guys are teaching or helping build specifically with individuals that come through that program?
Lauren: Everything we possibly can. That is the goal.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Our financial planning residents are, like I said, with us for three years, so the first 12 weeks of their time with us, we call it ‘Boot camp’, and it’s their training period, training program. Each week, so the first week, as everyone knows with a new job, the first week is kind of just the fire hose of information, “Here’s who we are”, or, “Here’s all the technology you need to use. Fill out all your paperwork”, all of that normal stuff. Usually, during that first week, we like to have a welcome lunch, go out to lunch together, get to know each other better on a personal level, not necessarily in the office. Then, each of the 11 to 14 weeks after that, just depending on life, and schedules, and timing, each of those weeks has a specific focus on a certain type of analysis that we do for our clients, or a certain dimension of financial planning, or a certain service that we offer or thing that we do for our clients.
For example, some of the week focuses are, one of them is tax projections. There’s an entire week spent on tax projections, and on Monday, they get the full training, which is a few hours long, and then, they go off, and they try it on their own, and try to do a projection that’s assigned to them for a client that they will actually be sitting in the meeting with. Then, they come back, and we give them feedback, we share with them if we need to do additional training there on … Maybe they took really good notes, but just really one piece didn’t click with them of how to calculate it or where to find the information, and so the goal is … Tax projections are tough.
They’re intense. They take quite a bit of time. Sometimes, those are ones that end up taking multiple weeks, but the goal is that each of those weeks, they’re doing a number of these analysis or reports, and so they’re having that repetition and that bunching of learning how to do something, and then doing it three to five to 10 times that week to where it’s really getting stuck in your memory of how to do that one analysis, and so the hope is that with those weeks, even though they may do tax projections in week four, and then a couple throughout the rest of the time because they’ve done them so intensely in that week, that the learnings and the approach sticks with them.
Alex: You did say one thing that I did want to just highlight, is so people that go through this program are sitting in meetings the whole way through the program while they’re also learning at the same time?
Lauren: Yes. Similar to our interns, our financial planning residents are sitting in client meetings from day one, and they are responsible for doing all of the note-taking, and learning, and then being responsible for drafting and putting together all of the follow-up emails, and from that, whatever tasks or action items for us stem from that, we put into Salesforce, which is our client relationship manager. The goal is really that they’re coming in, and they’re doing exactly the same thing as any other entry-level financial planner would do with Yese Buie, they’re learning all of the same pieces, they are sitting in all the same meetings, they are communicating with clients to schedule meetings, or send those follow-up emails, or answer questions that come in of money movement, or if a question comes in that requires a CFP’s response, they might draft it or sit down with the CFP to talk about, “Okay. Here’s what I think. What do you think as the expert?”
The goal is really that it’s beneficial to everyone. It’s the real deal in terms of real work, real clients, clients that they are communicating with and learning, and meeting, and building relationships with. It’s extremely beneficial of course to the company to have these very competent financial planners and have them be growing at such a fast pace, and so excited to learn, and just see how everything works.
Alex: This brings on a point of how difficult I think it is for young planners to come in and get that experience, and knowledge, and technical skills when they start with a firm for various reasons why, time, commitment, capacity, or it may be a small firm, but it sounds like this is a way to help with that problem that are, professions kind of running into with training younger advisors. I think that it would be kind of interesting to know how would, maybe a firm, even larger than you guys, or even a Senior Planner that’s maybe silo help to do something in their own office like a residency program. Is it something that anybody could really apply, or is this unique to only Yeske Buie and the couple other firms that are around the country that have it?
Lauren: I think anyone could create a program like this, and I hope that more people do, because it has been really successful for us. Personally, it’s been a great learning experience for me just in terms of building a program like this from scratch and learning as we go. Our program is not perfect, and it probably never will be, and it certainly didn’t start perfect. It has grown immensely since day one. We jumped in, and we had two initial residents who were just fantastic.
They dove right in with us, and it helped us create it as we went along, and so this boot camp didn’t come around until after two rounds of residents when we realized we really needed a more robust training program that was more focused, instead of kind of ad hoc training as something comes up and a client needs it. It was very focused and intentional each week, and so I think anyone could absolutely start this, and my advice is just start it. Have an intention as to why you’re doing it and what your goals are, and then find the right person who’s willing to dive in and help you build it, and improve it, and be open to the fact that it’s always going to need improvement. The residents who are going through the program are the best people to help you improve, because they are living it. They’re living it day-to-day.
They know what they think could be better or could be changed or what’s going really well, and so we ask our residents constantly to provide us feedback for how we are doing, so specifically, let’s say on training, “How am I doing on training? Is this actually effective? Do you feel like you understand? How are we doing on the hiring process?” Once they come in after they’ve been hired, we ask for their feedback. “How was that hiring process experience? Would you change anything?” It’s just something that we want them to always be willing to share with us what they think we could improve because they are living it, and I think they’re really the best assessors of what could be different.
Alex: Yeah. That’s really interesting you say that, that not only are the residents getting a huge bit out of this, but Yeske Buie and its leadership team is basically making themselves better. You guys are learning how to hire people better, what’s a best way to train someone, so it’s both ends that are getting so much from this residency program. It’s not like, “Oh, come in. Learn everything”, and you go your own way. There’s really this two-pieced to having a residency program that can really just elevate both the residents that come through, and the firm as a whole, and that’s really unique.
Lauren: Yeah. I totally agree, and it’s so beneficial from all of the different sides, and one of our goals or our hopes is that it’s also benefiting the profession like I mentioned.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Some of these residents, wherever they’re doing their financial planning resident position, they’re going off, and they now have this great experience to go do whatever it is that they have, whatever their passion is in the profession, and whether they’re going to work for another firm or start their own firm.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: We know that they’re going out there making the profession better, doing amazing things, serving clients, and that’s really exciting to think about too.
Alex: How many residents do you normally guys have like on a yearly basis? It sounds like people only apply once a year or is this a ongoing, “We’re taking new residents”, or how’s that kind of process go?
Lauren: That’s another part that is always changing. In a small business, in a small company, it’s dependent on needs and capacity for taking on new residents and new employees, and so we hired … I just counted in my head. I believe we’ve had 10 total residents at this point with four of them actively still working right now, and so it’s been a changing number and timing.
Alex: Wow.
Lauren: We hired one … The very first one was one, and then we had another one start a few months later. Since then, we’ve been hiring in twos, so in pairs. I believe our plan going forward is probably to hire two in the San Francisco office every other year, and two in the Virginia office every other year with those years alternating.
Alex: Wow.
Lauren: One of the reasons that the alternating years seems to work out is because as we hire a new round of residents, one of the parts of the program and one of the goals is that the residents also learn how to train. They learn about the hiring process. They learn about handing off their responsibilities and training someone to do what they’ve now been doing for two years, so the goal is that at the beginning of year three, the residents are training their replacements, so they are running with that boot camp process. They are building it out and scheduling the trainings. They’re deciding, “Who’s going to do the trainings?”
They’re doing a lot of the trainings themselves, and that, with the goal in mind that they learn how to train and they’re also again like I said involved in the hiring process. They learned what our hiring process is, why it is the way it is, and they can take that with them when they go or learn they don’t like that process. That’s also a valuable thing to learn what you may not like or not want to do if you’re going to start your own firm.
Alex: Yeske Buie is really one of the few that have this Resident Program. After someone graduates from that program and they’re now working at a firm, one would wonder, “What other things a young planner should be aspiring to, to help with their education as they go through the financial planning profession?” One thing that I recently found out about you is that you started a Master’s program recently at Golden Gate University, and I am so excited to hear more about that. What made you want to start or go back to school, and get this Master’s program?
Lauren: Yes, I did. I started earlier this year, and I am pursuing my master’s in Advanced Financial Planning with the concentration in tax, and so probably income tax and estate tax, but maybe just one of the two. I had been thinking about grad school for a while. It is actually one of the rungs on our career ladder at Yeske Buie. In order to become a Senior Financial Planner, you have to have an advanced degree, and part of the reason that that is the case is because we really believe that learning is so important, and the CFP designation is fantastic. It is really great information, and I heard someone refer to it the other day as like walking through three-feet of water for two miles, so it’s a lot of information, but it’s not necessarily a really deep dive into any of the specific areas.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Part of the reason that I am back in school is because I want to become a Senior Financial Planner. I want to continue to advance in my career and on my specific career ladder, and part of the reason is that I also really enjoy learning, and I do feel the need to deepen my knowledge in certain areas. I would say the third part of the reason is part of Yeske Buie’s succession plan, and that Elissa right now is really the expert in taxes and estate planning at Yeske Buie. She has the most knowledge. She is always the one to go to if we have a question or if we have something that just can’t figure out, and of course, she doesn’t want to work forever.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: My goal is really to become the next expert in tax and estate planning, and to be the go-to person for all of our team members to help answer questions, or really take a deep dive into a client’s tax situation or estate planning documents to make sure we understand what’s going on in the nature of the effect of our recommendations on those situations, and so I started doing my research on potential graduate programs last year, and I was thinking before I had really gotten this clarity on taxes and estate planning, I was thinking maybe behavioral finance because I find it fascinating, and I will absolutely learn more about it some day.
Alex: Yeah. Yeah.
Lauren: I was thinking potentially an MBA in terms of being part of the succession plan that could be beneficial. Then, as I started thinking about it, one of the pieces of the decision is to make sure that it’s discussed with Dave and Elissa, and any other applicable team members to make sure the degree of pursuing is beneficial to me of course, but to the firm and the future of the firm.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Yusuf got his master’s degree in economics recently, and he again is kind of teeing up to be the next investment expert at the firm, and that’s currently Dave’s role. Lauren, the other Lauren in our Virginia office recently got her graduate degree, and so I was talking with them, and talking with Dave and Elissa, and I really do like taxes, which is such a nerdy financial planner thing to say.
Alex: Of course.
Lauren: I had been looking at the Golden Gate Program and other programs, and it just became clear that the Golden Gate Master’s in Advanced Financial Planning was perfect. It had classes I was really interested in taking. It had classes that I really needed to take to learn more about specific tax situations that we are going through currently with clients.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Even though I’m here in San Francisco, I decided to do the program all online because I really like to travel. My husband and I like to take vacations. We like to pop out for weekend trips, and I travel quite often for work for conferences or back to our Virginia office, and so knowing that I was going to do this all online, I did have some, I’ll say conversations with myself.
Alex: Yes.
Lauren: I’ve always been pretty good at setting my schedule and making sure I’m planning my week accordingly to get things done, and so that was one of the things I definitely thought about when deciding to do it fully online.
Alex: One thing that should be touched on is how you work with your firm to figure out what would be beneficial for them, and also you. Are there other education programs outside of this Master’s program that you’re also thinking about doing, or is it kind of like, “This is what’s needed for my role”? I know you touched on that a little bit.
Lauren: We all need to know everything in order to serve our clients as the best way we possibly can, and we simply cannot know everything. It’s just impossible. Things are changing every day, and so I think there’s an interesting approach to having it be a team-based approach. I still know about economics. I studied in my undergrad program.
I intimately know our investment philosophy and the reasons behind our investment philosophy and what we believe and why, and I know how we implement that investment philosophy, but I might not have the deepest knowledge on analyzing our actual portfolios and when to make changes, or why to make changes, or the market conditions, the deep economic market conditions that Yusuf and Dave can sit there and talk for hours about, which I do love listening to. At the same time, everyone in the firm has to know how to do a tax projection or how to calculate taxes, or how to think about a recommendation in light of the client’s tax situation, but they may not know the really deep information about, for example, I’m learning about 1031 exchanges right now in my class. Everyone knows what a 1031 exchange is, but there are a lot of nuances that go into, “When is it actually an exchange, and disposition of property?”, and I could go on and on because I’ve been reading a ton about it this week.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: I think it makes sense to me that everyone has a knowledge and is continually increasing and improving their knowledge in all aspects of financial planning, but that there are some experts when things get tough or when something gets really detailed, and you need somebody to help you just even think through it with a different brain that really understands that topic, and so I think having the people who have those unique skills when working together can be a huge benefit. In terms of other programs, currently, I don’t have any plans for a specific additional tax or estate planning program once I complete my master’s degree, but I do know that I always want to continue improving and increasing my knowledge, and so I’m sure down the line, there will be something else. I’m really, like I mentioned, really interested in behavioral finance and behavioral economics. I am really intrigued by the Life Planning program that is also available at Golden Gate University. If I could do all three of the concentrations and actually finish school ever, I’d probably add that one on.
Alex: I would for sure love to have you just be the student that stays forever.
Lauren: Exactly, and there are so many different things. I am interested in learning more about with this financial coaching that Saundra Davis talked about on the podcast recently.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: There are so many things that I’m excited to learn about in the future, and at the same time, right now, I’m focused on getting through my classes I’m in now, and then the next courses, so it’s exciting to think about the future, and then I come back and say, “All right. Let’s get step one done.”
Alex: One thing that I’d be curious as a listener to know is, is there any guidance to a young financial planner, or even senior on when is a good time to be pursuing a Master’s program, and if it’s a necessity as we grow as a profession?
Lauren: Yeah. I think it’s … I’m going to give the famous financial planning answer, it depends. It depends on where you are in your career or in your firm’s career trajectory, and I think it depends a lot on the firm you’re working for, and what they think and want, and what the future of the firm looks like, and what your role at the firm in the future looks like because a lot of it depends on what’s going to make the most sense for all of the parties involved, and so that includes you, and your family, and the firm, and the clients.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: Talking it through with your mentors, and your advisors, and your boss, and your colleagues, and your husband or wife, or parents, I think that’s really important to just make sure it’s going to work for you, because it is a big, big, big commitment like you said, and so you want to make sure that you’re committed and that you’re able to really soak in everything.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: There’s so much to learn, and really being there and present and able to really soak it in is going to be the … Whenever that time is, I think that’s the best time.
Alex: The next thing I want to talk about, you’ve touched on it a little bit when you were talking about being a part of the Master’s program of it counts as your advanced degree to becoming a Senior Planner at Yeske Buie. I know that that is huge at that firm, and that that can help with career track if ownership was on the table or being a part of a leadership team. I know we talked a little bit about this briefly, but being dispensable by 2020 for Yeske Buie, and I would just want to hear more about that and what that looks like for your role currently.
Lauren: Yeah. “Dispensability 2020” is Dave and Elissa’s phrase that they had been talking about for some time. Really, what it means is that Dave and Elissa would like to be dispensable, but not gone by 2020, and so dispensable means that they could go on a three or six-month vacation to South Africa and not have to be involved in any emails or any meetings, and know that the firm was going to run exactly as they would want it to be run during that time, and that everything was going to be handled the way it needed to be handled, and the clients were going to be absolutely taken care of to the top-level. That was something, it was a phrase that was thrown around, I think, yeah, before I even started working with Yeske Buie five and a half years ago. It was a goal at that time far off in a distance, and then we had some turnover with staff members, and they weren’t sure if it was going to be a reality.
Then, over the last few years, the term has started to come back up because there’s been a bit of an emergence of what we call the ‘Leadership team’, and so that’s Yusuf, the other Lauren, Lauren Mireles and myself, and it really emerged naturally just through some conversations and staff meetings, and has been developing and growing ever since, and so I would say the term ‘Dispensability 2020’ is kind of “Back on the table”.
Alex: That’s huge to really know that you are the G2 in your office. If listeners haven’t read that book, we’ll definitely put it in the show notes. I want to put it on the table that I don’t think Dave and Elissa are ever really going anywhere from this financial profession, but I do want to talk about a little bit more on what’s your perspective of knowing that you’re a part of something like that, that you’re the G2 and the next generation to be able to carry on the Yeske Buie name, and what changes maybe do you have in mind that would keep it going even longer thereafter you that you’re trying to implement now as they go through this transition?
Lauren: Yeah. It’s very exciting. It’s also nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing. I mean, this is a big deal and it’s something that we do not take lightly in any way, shape or form.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: It’s such an honor to even be involved in discussions about potential succession planning, and now that we’re talking more and more about that, and the possibilities, and the timing, and what it might look like, it’s exciting, is really just the word that comes to mind. It’s something I’m very, very passionate about this profession itself, but also about Yeske Buie and about everything that we do, and everyone that I have the privilege of seeing or talking to in the office every day. I think we have such an amazing team, and it’s just really fun to be part of it.
Alex: Career paths often are mapped out differently for everybody. Was this on your career path or your three to five-year goals of something like this happening, or you just were embracing the change and go, “Me too”? Was this another moment like back when you were in college, “I’ll start the club”? What was this feeling like, because I know a lot of financial planners maybe jump into the profession, wanting something like that, and not until it becomes a actual thought that … Does it cross your mind like, “Oh my gosh. This can really happen”?
Lauren: That’s such a great question. I think your point is spot on. It’s different everywhere, and the owners of these firms are on all different paths and thought strings about how to do their succession plan and who it might be, if it’s going to be internal or external. Again, that’s something that just so depends on the firm, but I think it’s really important to know when you start with a firm, and I say no even if the answer from the firm owner on whether ownership is a possibility in your future is I don’t know. That’s okay.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: I think it’s just important to ask the question and see, “Do they have thoughts on their succession plan?”, and whatever their thoughts are, are those okay with you? The answer doesn’t have to be, “Yes, you can absolutely be on an ownership track right away.” I would say it’s probably never that answer, unless you’re specific … I would say it’s never that answer as a brand new planner joining a firm in an entry-level position, and so having those conversations and open dialogue about what the possibilities may be, even if the answer is, “There may be a possibility, and let’s just keep this conversation going every time we check in. Let’s check in every three or six months on what you’re thinking and what I’m thinking, and where you can be improving.”
Alex: Yeah. One thing that pops into my head when you say that is sometimes, aren’t there yet with their career tracks, or even have anything mapped out like that. What are your takes on that when you’re not a part of a firm that has that kind of set-up and those discussions are actually able to be had?
Lauren: I think there’s definitely a space for a younger planner to initiate those conversations, and I would say it needs to be done in a very appreciative and curious way.
Alex: Yes.
Lauren: Not in an entitled way, not in a, “Here’s what I want, so what are you going to do about it?” I think it’s something that’s important for us as people new to this profession and early in our careers to be thinking about our futures. We are financial planners after all. That’s kind of in our blood.
Alex: Of course.
Lauren: It’s important for firm owners to be thinking about their futures, and their paths to retirement or to succession planning, or to exiting the firm or the profession, but we can’t force anyone to do anything, so the best we can do is just be curious, and just ask, “What is your plan? What are your thoughts if you don’t have a plan yet?” Similarly, you touched on the career path piece, and I know that this is something that comes up, I think every NexGen event I go to.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: There are some sort of question, or topic, or concern about career paths. It’s either, “How do I build a career path for my new hire I just hired, or how do I talk to my boss about implementing a career path because we really don’t have one?” That’s another one where I think curiosity and initiative can really help, so asking what the thoughts are around building a career path or maybe if there are reasons why career paths don’t exist yet, or if they’re just personalized, and maybe you don’t know that they exist for other people, and just see what the firm thinks, and then to the extent that they indicate interest, and maybe just don’t have the capacity or the time, or even, they just don’t even know where to start, and so they’re stuck, maybe offering to take a stab at it. Talk to your friends and your colleagues, talk to your study groups, talk to FPA members, talk on FPA Activate on Facebook, and get ideas about what careers paths look like at different firms and why different things are included or not included, and see if your firm will let you work to just build the first draft, and then take that project on, because in my experience, that’s how so many things have happened at Yeske Buie, but also in other firms I know.
Alex: Yeah.
Lauren: If somebody has this great idea, and they have so many thoughts, and so many resources, and they have passion around it, and they’re willing to really get something started, even if it’s just the first draft that gets the wheels turning, and that can be really impactful, and especially for something like our Financial Planning Resident Program, that would be someone leaving their mark on Yeske Buie forever, even if they were graduating after three years.
Alex: I love the fact of someone having a first draft at it. I feel like our profession is constantly moving forward because so many people are taking the initiative to starting something, and I think it’s just amazing that you are talking about this, especially when it comes down to something like you said, career paths that’s huge amongst NexGen.
Lauren: Yeah. I agree. I think it’s something that’s really exciting for me to watch all the posts on FPA Activate or seeing people present at conferences, and all of these amazing innovations and new ideas that people have, and how we can learn from those and take them back to our day-to-day. The only other thing I would add about that first draft mentality is I do think it’s important to start with a conversation about it, that curious conversation, versus just showing up at your boss’ desk and saying, “Hey, I put this together because it doesn’t exist.”
Alex: Yeah. Yeah.
Lauren: You want to make sure there’s buy-in on both ends, and you want to make sure that you’re not making any assumptions, that you really know maybe there is a reason why something doesn’t already exist, or why something is done a certain way, and then maybe there’s a very important or impactful or grounded reason behind that, and so having those curiosity conversations first will really make sure that you’re approaching it with the right mindset, and that you bring back to your draft one with the right intentions behind it.
Alex: Of course. Thank you so much again, Lauren coming on and really sharing what Yeske is doing with their Resident Program, how you’re really taking on the next steps with your Master’s program, and how you’re going to be a forever student at Golden Gate, and then, just talking about how we can take next steps with our firm and working with them to make sure that we are becoming the best professionals that we can within our firms. I think it’s just really important the different things you’ve touched on today, and I think a lot of listeners are going to get a lot of takeaways that they can go show up on Monday to work, and really make a difference all over again, and so I just want to say thank you again for sharing all that with us.
Lauren: Thank you, Alex. It was wonderful chatting with you, and as you can tell, I love talking about this stuff, so thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity.

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