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Behrend finance students stand out at LINC

Photo By: President of TD Ameritrade Institutional


Cassandra Wuerstle, News Editor

In early February, two Behrend students--along with faculty member Eric Robbins, who teaches investments and retirement planning classes--attended the TD Ameritrade National LINC Conference. Held in San Diego, California this year, the annual conference gathers over 5000 financial advisors from across the country.

However, the conference only features 63 students. Two students, Ariel Watson a senior accounting and finance major, and Ben Lowery, a junior finance major, were among the students to grace the conference. Finance students pursuing a Certified Financial Planning certification (CFP) received emails with applications for the chance to attend the conference.

In total, 12 students applied for this year's conference. When making the decision, a panel of professors read over short essays and applications looking for students with passion and drive. The panel also looks at which applicant will benefit the most from the experience.

However, drive and opportunity are not the only factors for being selected to attend the conference. TD Ameritrade is very selective on which students are selected from universities to join the conference. Schools must choose one male and one female student, and those students must be a junior and senior.  

Selected by Behrend faculty and staff, Lowery and Watson enjoyed a three day trip at the conference covered by TD Ameritrade. Ameritrade covered each students expenses including airfare, hotel expenses, and meals.

Students were accompanied by Robbins, who, before joining the Behrend community, worked as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). As a CPA, Robbins has been attending the conference for about 16 years. Within the last 10 years, TD Ameritrade created a youth program which invites only a few students from across the nation to attend. This year, only 63 students were invited nationwide.  Robbins explained, “I knew they had that student [recognition aka “RIA NextGen”] program. It took me about three years with going back and forth with management at TD Ameritrade for  them to recognize our program here at Behrend.”

The annual conference, explained Watson, “... is there to get information out to these financial advisors, for them to see new technology. They had an innovation lab area they could go to which had new programs and new software”. The conference also featured a multitude of speakers with various topics.

Financial advisors, like other professionals, have to keep up with current education and complete so many accredited learning hours. This conference featured several speakers and industry experts which allowed the advisors to catch up.

When asked what students were able to gain from attending the conference, Robbins explained,  “It gives students the opportunity to network with financial advisors from all over the place. It gives them a chance to practice socializing in groups that they aren’t used to normally socializing within a professional setting”. He continued, “It gives students the opportunity to hear from professionals and ask them what a day in their life is like because there are so many different types of financial advisors. It’s not just a cookie cutter everyone does this one way, there are so many different models out there and so it’s good to hear what some of those different models are.” Watson agreed. When asked what her favorite feature of the conference was, Watson stressed again, “the networking opportunities.”

“Specifically, they had an event Thursday night, where we got to go meet all the financial advisors who were interested in hiring somebody, whether it be an intern or for a full-time job. I must have talked to 20 to 30 advisors in two, two and a half hours. Just getting the experience of talking to them, learning about them, learning about where they are from and what they want…” In fact, Watson was offered a job in Washington D.C. during the evening's events.

Watson wasn’t the only one to benefit from the networking opportunities. Robbins shared the fact that Lowery made quite the impression on several big wigs. “Ben actually made a lot of really good contacts. The first day there, as part of the student program,  theBen answered a series of questions that the guy who was leading session was asking, and the guy said ‘I’m taking you out to dinner afterwards’. So Ben got to go out to dinner with the session presenter.” Robbins even explained that Ben was able to grab a selfie with the CEO of Ameritrade that he was able to get after a series of speakers.

The conference has created several opportunities for the students, and even changed Watson’s end goals, she now wants to focus on RIA and the needs of her clients. This decision kickstarted by the conference has caused her to switch lanes, even causing her to reject an offer she would have previously accepted, “The conference really opened my eyes to how many different opportunities there are”.