The Financial Consultant Development Academy (FCDA) at TD Ameritrade is an opportunity for college graduates who are interested in a career in financial services and want to make a difference in the lives of clients by helping them achieve their financial goals. For Catherine M. and Isabel A. who both went through the program, TD Ameritrade not only provided them the tools to be successful in their finance career, but it was also a space they felt comfortable enough to fail, learn, and grow together through their newfound friendship.
From Intern to Financial Consultant: Catherine and Isabel’s Journey through the Financial Consultant Development Academy at TD Ameritrade
By Andie Teresi, Associate, Talent Acquisition
Before Catherine and Isabel were part of the FCDA program, they both started out as Investor Services Interns for TD Ameritrade in 2019 before their senior year in college. Catherine studied at Texas Christian University (TCU) while Isabel went to the University of Arkansas. Isabel mentioned that a career in financial services was not always the plan she had in mind. Instead, she was interested in becoming a heart surgeon: “I started off college as bio pre-med and I wanted to be a heart surgeon. I quickly realized I liked the angle more than the journey and so I switched to finance. After applying to a bunch of different internships, I got the investor services internship. My main focus was not wanting to lose that enjoyment of impacting lives and making a difference.” With a journey similar to Isabel’s, Catherine mentioned that someone from TD Ameritrade attended a career fair at TCU and that initially sparked her interest: “I was a finance major and I knew that I wanted to do something in the finance industry, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do just yet. I knew that TD Ameritrade was a large enough company with a lot of different options, so I figured it would be safe to apply to a company like that and just kind of figure out what I wanted to do along the way.”
As both Catherine and Isabel secured an internship with TD Ameritrade during their junior year of college, their internship was the first impression they had of the amazing culture at TD Ameritrade, as well as the potential of coming back and going through the FCDA program. Isabel elaborated how, “during that internship, we went through a bunch of different roundtables and shadowing at the corporate building. It was awesome because we were able to shadow so many different departments and get a feel for what each position did day-to-day. That’s how I heard about the FCDA and the Financial Consultant (FC) position. The environment was also just so addicting and having people around that were so success-oriented, while still being team-driven – I just knew after my internship I needed to come back. I loved the environment and culture.” Catherine offered her own experience during her internship and why she wanted to return to TD Ameritrade as she described, “it was an invaluable experience and I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t at least get to try on all the different hats of the departments at TD Ameritrade. We developed such great relationships, everyone was so encouraging, and it was a great atmosphere. I knew I wanted to continue to be a part of that.”
With such an amazing internship experience that influenced Catherine and Isabel to return to TD Ameritrade after their internship, another important factor persuaded them to pursue the FCDA program: their friendship. “During the internship, Isabel was like my best friend,” Catherine explained, “She was very positive, very happy and I felt like she was someone I could get along with and I decided I’ll make friends with her.” A moment during their internship that solidified Catherine and Isabel’s friendship was when Catherine got a flat tire in the TD Ameritrade Southlake office parking garage and she called Isabel to come and help her: “I lived about 45 minutes away and I knew that Isabel lived 10 minutes away from the office, so I called her and told her what happened. She didn’t hesitate to drop everything she was doing to come to get me. It was such a cool thing and I knew I was going to be friends with this girl for a long time.”
With a solid friendship under their belt and a similar interest in the FCDA program, Isabel and Catherine submitted their applications and got accepted: “Luckily, we both got the job and we were so excited that we would at least go into it with a buddy, especially after COVID happened. We knew that we'd be working remotely and after a while, we both knew that we wanted to work in the Dallas Fort Worth area after the program, so we just ended up saving some money and moving in together and it's been a great experience,” Catherine stated.
As far as where they are currently in their career journey, both Catherine and Isabel are starting their new role on the Investor Development Team (IDT) as Financial Consultants: “Part of the FCDA program involves being placed on a team at the end of nine months. Catherine and I, we actually got placed on the IDT and we’re really excited for that, especially with transitioning into Schwab in the future and to really be a part of that.”
Making an Impact
Part of Catherine and Isabel’s excitement to start their new role also involves being able to continue to make an impact in their career. Catherine mentioned, “Our job in the program was to welcome clients to the firm, make sure that they felt supported and see how we could help them and try to address their financial situation, as well as have a good conversation with them. Ultimately it is all about the client experience. As long as you get off the phone and the client has a smile on their face, it was a successful call and you just feel very fulfilled by the fact that you had a great conversation. I already know that I’m having an impact in the academy and I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when we’re actually an FC having better and longer conversations with clients.”
Isabel noted that something she really values in her role is the female empowerment in the finance space that has progressed over time: “In the past nine months we've already crossed paths, directly or indirectly, with some incredible women who personally inspire me to keep my strength and keep striving to achieve my goals. I think if I can be who they are to me -- just unknowingly being able to motivate other girls in the future coming into the industry, being able to make that impact in the future -- that keeps me going and makes me feel that I'm going to be making a strong impact and igniting that fire to grow in my career.” Furthermore, Isabel also mentions how, “experiencing TD Ameritrade through a couple of different lenses, the internship, and our academy, and then now, transitioning into this next role, consistently you feel that support. You do feel like your voice is heard. Your input matters as a woman and it's been great seeing other women in larger positions where they are so motivational and personable to where they're creating that type of safe space where you can reach out to them and ask them their thoughts. I feel like everybody is very supportive. At the end of the day, it just keeps bringing you back to work and you just feel motivated because you feel respected and heard.”
Words of Advice
For individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in Finance or going through the FCDA program themselves, Isabel and Catherine offered words of advice. Isabel elaborated for her that “the biggest thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You want to be in those areas where you’re consistently growing, whether it's personally or growing your knowledge, but just be okay with asking questions, staying curious, and being open to learning. You're going to be challenged and you're going to be pushed out of your comfort zone, but in the best way, you're going to be growing so much. My biggest thing is just being open to the growth and take everything as a learning experience and just keep going forward.” Lastly, Catherine mentioned how important it is to not give up: “Even if you feel like you're the one person in the room who's not getting something, I promise, there's probably some other people there who feel the exact same way but are just maybe too afraid to speak up and say so. Put in the time, put in the work, and be comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re definitely going to fail a lot and that's exactly what the Academy is designed for. It gives people a space to fail, learn, and grow and that's the whole purpose of it – you're not expected to come into it and know everything. If anything, you're expected to come into it and not really know much, it's a learning process and the whole purpose of the nine months is to teach you and to give you some experience with room to fail and grow.”