When Ian Goldey decided to launch an internship program at Salomon Smith Barney in Sherman Oaks, Calif., five years ago, he approached a business professor at a local college and presented his idea.
The professor stunned Goldey by saying, "I won't send any interns to work for you. You can't pull the wool over my eyes. You're going to have them cold calling and filing. That's the equivalent of free slave labor."
Goldey wanted to get up from his chair and slink out of the professor's office quietly. "Then I thought, `Hey, that's not my intention at all. I want to help these students. I want to give back to the community that gave to me,'" he says.
So Goldey straightened up his shoulders and blurted, "My program won't be anything like that. I'll prove it to you if you give me the chance."
Five years later, Goldey's intern program is thriving. He has had more than 20 interns and several are already working regularly in the financial services industry. The students have come from a variety of universities in Southern California, including UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, Santa Monica College and Pierce Junior College.
When Goldey started his program, he encountered what the professor despised. "I found out that a lot of people in the industry do use interns for free labor and give them junky things to do," Goldey says. "Interns should not be slave laborers who just cold call and file. These are bright students who can work for $10 an hour somewhere else. They deserve more."
He gives them more. So he can work closely with every student, Goldey has just one intern in his office for a period of two or three months each. All interns sit in on client meetings and work with portfolio managers. They set computerized alerts for stock price targets and do Excel spreadsheets that show stock capitalization. They perform stock analysis, conduct market research, attend seminars and prepare presentations.
"I give them a healthy mix of tasks and responsibilities," Goldey says. "I try to include them in every meeting. They become sort of like a fly on the wall and are able to absorb all kinds of valuable information."
Sophomore Ramtin Rafiee of Santa Monica College is thrilled with the work. "I can't wait to get out of school and get to work full-time at a wirehouse," he says. "I learn more here than I do at school. If I could work on Sundays, I would."
Audrey Roche, chair of Santa Monica College's Business Department, places students with Goldey. "Ian has a great program, and it's growing like mad in popularity," Roche says. "All of my students feel they've learned a tremendous amount by virtue of seeing all the sides of the business."
Goldey is surprised that more reps don't welcome interns into their practices. "Interns are greatly underused and underappreciated," he says. "There's no reason why every office shouldn't have them."
So why don't more reps use interns?
Time is probably the main reason, Goldey says, admitting the commitment is considerable. "I think brokers just don't like the time factor," Goldey says. "It's very time consuming. Plus, you're responsible for whatever an intern says and does. If something was done inappropriately, it's on you." He spends time planning the intern's assignments and fielding questions throughout the day.
Regardless, Goldey is convinced the time is worth it. He prefers not to think of the program on a strict bottom-line basis. It's more about igniting interest in business among young people. "I enjoy this," he says. "It's a challenge. And I love educating students and introducing them to the wild world of Wall Street."
Occasionally, however, Goldey is rewarded monetarily. An intern gave him a referral that resulted in a sizable account. And Goldey focuses on how the interns could impact his future. "They are like having little salespeople," he says. "They may provide better leads in the future than if I were cold calling."