Charles Schwab's 400-person intern program will be remote again this year. A talent exec shared what worked in 2020 and what will change this time around.

  • Brokerage giant Charles Schwab is hosting its second virtual internship this summer.
  • 400 students will participate across Schwab and its recently acquired rival, TD Ameritrade. 
  • Insider spoke to the talent exec who runs the program about lessons learned from last year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brokerage giant Charles Schwab, which holds some $7 trillion in client assets, will host its internship program virtually again this summer, a spokesperson for the firm told Insider.

The nine-week Schwab Intern Academy program, which begins in mid-June, will have around 400 participants spread across 200 locations this year. Schwab plans to integrate TD Ameritrade’s summer internship with its own for the first time this year since acquiring the rival brokerage in November 2019. 

“We believe that it’s in the best interests of the interns, as well as all of our employees to host a virtual internship,” said Rob Mundell, senior vice president of talent solutions at Charles Schwab, in an interview with Insider. 

Mundell, who has overseen the internship program for the last five years, said that 2020’s interns were grateful that Schwab moved forward with the virtual program in contrast to other firms that decided to cancel their 2020 internships.

This year’s cohort will include around 150 interns at TD Ameritrade, said Mundell. The two platforms are operating as independent brokerages until the post-acquisition integration process is complete. 

In addition to the integration of TD Ameritrade’s internship, Mundell noted a number of other key changes from last year’s program. These changes are based on results from a survey completed by last year’s interns at the end of the program. 

How Schwab has upgraded its virtual internship 

While last year’s interns did have individual mentors, Schwab is bolstering the mentorship opportunities available to participants this year. The program will feature “Schwab families,” a program pairing small groups of interns with internship and executive leadership program alumni who will provide support for the interns. The groups are intended to provide informal socialization and acculturation opportunities for the interns, who are encouraged to interact with their “families” as they see fit. 

Another key lesson from last year, Mundell said, was the importance of small-group interactions with company executives.

“Our Leader Q&A discussions and roundtable forum have historically been in larger groups as an opportunity for us to bring all the interns together. This year, there’ll be more focus on doing those in groups of eight to 10, so they’ll be more interactive in a virtual setting,” Mundell said.

Roughly 95% of the firm’s 32,000+ employees are working from home right now, according to Mundell. He said that his team spent a lot of time early on in the program last year helping interns understand how to operate in a virtual environment, an important skill set that they will continue to emphasize with this year’s class.

Like last year, the interns will spend about 80% of their time with their assigned business unit working on three different projects over the course of the summer and 20% of their time participating in virtual enterprise-wide activities such as a national intern volunteer day and a business case event.

Despite being the first remote program, the firm was pleased with last year’s outcomes, said Mundell. 75% of the interns received full-time job offers within two weeks of completion. Of those who received offers, 80% accepted them, which exceeded the 60% retention the firm had targeted for the summer, according to Mundell. He said the retention rate for the program has increased over the past few years. 

Mundell added engagement is the most important attribute for an intern to succeed during their time in the program, which Elizabeth King, Charles Schwab’s senior vice president for enterprise learning and talent management, also emphasized in an interview with Insider last year.

“Schwab is a deeply relationship-oriented culture. Interns who come with a willingness to engage a high level of curiosity and willingness to ask whatever question they may be thinking [will be successful]. We really want interns to bring different ideas and perspectives to the table and expand our thinking, as much as we’re able to develop and educate them,” Mundell said.

 

Are you planning to intern at a financial-services firm this summer? Contact this reporter with your story. Anita Ramaswamy can be reached via email at [email protected], or via the encrypted app Signal at (480) 304-1996.

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