A look at Vanguard’s Advance to Financial Planning Associate Program
Starting your first job after college can seem intimidating. Jesus L. and Drew E. share their experiences joining Vanguard as part of the Advance to Financial Planning Associate (AFPA) Program. Through AFPA, they worked in Vanguard’s Advisor Support Group in a client-facing position and had opportunities to develop their financial planning acumen and relationship building skills, while networking and receiving mentorship from advisors and advisor managers over the course of roughly one year. The two detail how the program and Vanguard helped make their transition to the corporate world, and ultimately a role as a financial advisor, easier.
Provide a brief introduction about yourself and why you chose Vanguard.
Jesus: I joined Vanguard in June of 2021 through the Advance to Financial Planning Associate Program (AFPA), after graduating from Grand Canyon University with a degree in Finance and Economics. I chose to work for Vanguard because of the investment philosophy that the company holds. Vanguard’s four principals for investment success: Goals, Balance, Cost and Discipline, represent a recipe for success that is realistic, replicable, and achievable for the broad population. As a Mexican American and first-generation college graduate, I feel compelled to share those principals with my community and begin to address financial illiteracy nationwide.
Drew: I joined Vanguard’s AFPA program in 2021 after graduating from Davidson College with an Economics degree. I chose Vanguard because their low-cost, long-term, indexing investment philosophy aligns with my core thoughts on financial markets, saving, and investing. I am grateful to work for an employer where honesty is valued, and to work with people who I know will do the right thing for all investors.
What initially interested you in the AFPA program, and an eventual career in advice?
Jesus: I’ve always been passionate about my personal financial journey, and a career in advice seemed like a logical next step. Throughout college I knew I wanted to be involved in other people’s financial journeys, but I lacked confidence and industry knowledge to begin working as an advisor at a local Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm. The AFPA program provided me with a steppingstone to become a successful planner. I was able to spend a year getting exposure to the industry and the various financial planning challenges that every day Americans face. This experience didn’t just prepare me for a career as a financial advisor, but it gave me immense confidence to use the skills I already had.
Drew: Vanguard was a company that I trusted with my own investments; therefore, a company I was eager to work for. My time in the program convinced me that a career in financial advice was an excellent path. I was grateful to learn how to be an advisor in a development program rather than jumping into selling products on commission.
What did it feel like to transition from college to corporate life?
Jesus: Transitioning into the corporate lifestyle was quite difficult for me at first. Especially as a first-generation student, I had negative preconceptions about American corporate life. During my time as a college student, I considered entrepreneurship as the only optimal path for success. Yet when I joined Vanguard’s community, I quickly realized that I was surrounded with like-minded individuals who shared similar aspirations. At Vanguard, I have access to half a century’s worth of information and real-life experiences that shaped the industry into what it is today. I network with professionals who have decades of financial planning experience. Most importantly I’m not alone, I have a clear leadership structure that aids and supports my development.
Drew: In college, you are handed opportunities to shine in the form of exams and papers. In the corporate world, those opportunities aren’t highlighted, but finding them and capitalizing on them will help you stand out. Finding success in corporate life requires discipline and self-motivation. There are opportunities to learn and make an impact, but you must seek them out. Don’t be afraid to ask your leader for time to work on projects you are passionate about.
What was your favorite part of the AFPA program?
Jesus: My favorite part of the AFPA program was being surrounded by like-minded peers. Having peers who are on the same professional track adds a unique level of collaboration that I found to be very constructive. I’ve made a lot of memories and friendships that I will be carrying with me for years to come.
What did you learn throughout the development period – both in the Advisor Support Group (ASG) role and through development activities?
Drew: In the ASG role, I learned that a well-thought question is far more persuasive and valuable than a definitive statement. You’ll often work with clients who know very little about markets, but what they value more than your knowledge is your listening ear. Through the development activities, I learned the full depth of what an advisor provides clients. I learned that advice encompasses not only investments and goals, but long-term care planning, charitable giving, disciplined coaching, and an emotional connection.
What advice do you have for candidates interested in AFPA?
Jesus: My biggest piece of advice to any AFPA candidate is to use your time in this program wisely. Begin visualizing the financial planning process. Understand the thought process and methodology that goes behind every transaction. By the time it’s your turn to put on the advisor hat, you’ll already have the confidence and base knowledge to work from.
Drew: Ask questions. Early in the program, I was too worried to admit I didn’t know something; however, the questions you have will likely be questions your peers and eventual clients have, too. If you ask questions early and often, you’ll quickly find success in the role.
Are you interested in our Advance to Financial Planning Associate program? View our opportunities today!