More than money: financial planning students’ journey to national conference

Garrett Chmiola and Emily Ranson from WCU. Photo credit LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional

For Garrett Chmiola and Emily Ranson, WCU students, financial planning is more than a good job: it’s a way to help people in troubling times.

“I want to go into financial planning because I love people. I want to have my own clients for my own firm that I am able to get personal with and be able to develop a bond and trustworthiness from them.  To me that means a lot more than the money,” said Chmiola.

Chmiola says he has interned with a financial planner in Asheville who used to be a firefighter and has witnessed the ability financial planners have to help people who are struggling emotionally.

Both students are highly invested in their studies. Chmiola is a double major in Finance and Management while Ranson is a triple major in Business Law, Finance, and Management.

Chmiola and Ranson were two of 50 students from 25 colleges around the country selected to attend the National LINC conference in San Diego. Other students that attended hailed from Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Purdue University, University of Illinois and many more.

The LINC conference is one of the largest industry events for investment advisors, technology providers, asset manager, practice management experts, world leaders, and financial planning students.

“Attending multiple conferences over the last four years through the Finance department has been one of the most valuable and enriching components of my education,” said Ranson.

At the conference students were able to connect with some of the 3,200 experts in the financial planning field in attendance from across the country and explore job opportunities. They also got to get to know other students and build relationships as well as attend keynote sessions.

According to Alyson Nikulicz, TD Ameritrade Communications and Public Affairs, Ranson and Chmiola attended sessions by David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Salim Ismail, chair and co-founder of ExO Works; Keren Elzari, former hacker turned cyber security expert; and Tim Hockney, president and CEO of TD Ameritrade. They were even treated to a performance by Grammy winner Sheryl Crow.

This year, TD Ameritrade held a reception specifically for advisor-student networking to allow students to connect with professionals and get advice for the future, with the potential for an internship or even a job to come out of the meeting.

Students that attended LINC. Photo credit LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional.

“The best part of attending any conference is the people that you meet,” said Ranson.

The conference gave students the ability to practice skills that they’ve learned within the classroom and expand their knowledge of the financial industry.

“We can learn how to actually apply what we’ve learned in the classroom to the real world,” said Chmiola. “This is a flaw in the educational system, because we may learn it in the classroom but have no idea how to actually apply it.”

TD Ameritrade Institutional provides many opportunities around the year to help financial planning students. Besides the National LINC conference, TD Ameritrade offers scholarships to undergraduate students and grants to universities that may need help in their financial planning department. They also have developed programs to help aspiring advisors get their first job out of college such as the RIA Intern Network where interns can access information and gain a deeper understanding of practices and procedures, and the RIA NextGen Career Exchange where graduates can post resumes and find jobs.

“To date, TD Ameritrade Institutional has engaged with more than 200 students through its NextGen efforts,” said Nikulicz.