What to Expect from the FPA Residency

Have you ever wondered what exactly the FPA Residency is or what it entails? There isn’t much information out there about this mysterious program other than one week at Residency equates to 500 hours of CFP® experience. This is my experience.

I went to the June 2017 Residency program in Denver, Colorado with no idea what I was getting myself into, other than the fact that I really needed the extra CFP® hours as my deadline was quickly approaching. I figured I could endure anything for five days to gain those 500 hours.

Well, let me tell you, the program far exceeded any of my expectations. It was extremely challenging, but incredibly rewarding. I was forced out of my comfort zone (many times over) and built relationships with peers and mentors that I expect will last a lifetime.

The Structure

The FPA Residency happens twice a year – usually in June and October. The program aims to fill the gap between the technical aspect of the CFP® exam and the role of a financial planner by focusing on communication techniques and the delivery method of financial planning recommendations. It encourages residents to stay “above the line” and pay attention to the way in which we communicate with clients as opposed to fixating on the numbers.

The program consists of a director, dentors and residents. The director facilitates the program, while the mentors have a few different roles such as role-playing as clients, giving feedback to the residents and working one-on-one with each team of residents. The mentors each come from many years of experience in the financial planning industry, and in the case of the June 2017 program, each mentor owned their own firm.

The FPA Residency can accommodate up to 30 residents, but our program only had 17. The residents come from a variety of backgrounds. The only thing we had in common was that we had all passed the CFP® exam and came with 0-3 years of financial planning experience. About half of our group were recent college graduates having just entered the workforce, while the other half were career changers.

Upon arrival, the residents were immediately split into small teams of four or five based on personality questionnaires we had completed ahead of time. We worked within these small teams for the duration of the program.

The Work

The FPA Residency is based on role-playing as if we were Associate Planners at a firm while working through three different case studies.

After a quick icebreaker exercise with our small team, we were given our first case study to work on. Two of the mentors would role-play as our clients for the duration of the week. The other two mentors would role-play as Senior Advisors and would show us how to successfully complete each part of the financial planning process – the discovery meeting, the information gathering/clarification meeting and the plan delivery meeting. We had a short time to prepare before two members of each team would go in front of the room and attempt the same discovery meeting with the “clients”.

After each team had a chance to interview the clients, the mentors provided meticulous feedback on each individual resident’s interviewing style in front of the rest of the residents. Immediately following the feedback session, it was time to prepare for the data-gathering meeting. For the first two cases, each team was assigned a different element of the financial to prepare. It was then our task to seamlessly integrate our piece of the financial plan with the other teams’ pieces to present a cohesive comprehensive financial plan.

Once the financial plan was complete, we had an opportunity to present it to our “Senior Advisors” for feedback before presenting it to our “clients” for additional feedback.

Case two was done in a similar fashion, except with less time to prepare each piece. Case three was to be done entirely within our small teams, as opposed to collaborating with the other teams.

Our team of four had a total of 12 opportunities to speak. If public speaking is not your thing, you will quickly get over that. While it may sound completely terrifying to present and immediately receive feedback in front of a room of people (which it was), it was also one of the most valuable parts of the week. It is a safe place to make mistakes and learn from one another. I also couldn’t think of another time or place where I would have the opportunity to receive such detailed feedback.

Some example feedback could be:

“Fix your posture.”

“You nod your head too often when the client speaks and it doesn’t come across as genuine.”

“Slow down when you speak.”

“Don’t use the word ‘kiddos’ when referring to the clients’ children.”

The official daily schedule went from 9 am – 9 pm, assuming you got the work done within those hours (which we never did). Instead, every team found themselves working through meals and either getting up early or staying up late to finish the work. If you wanted to socialize with anyone outside of your small team, this meant hanging out after hours. In our case, this meant gathering at the hotel’s bar for some pool, shuffleboard and drinks.

You can expect to work hard, manage stress, lack sleep, but learn a lot!

Who Should Attend?

  • Those who have passed the CFP® exam with 0-3 years of industry experience
  • Those with a strong technical foundation looking to advance their communication skills
  • Those ready to work hard
  • Those interested in building relationships and networking with peers
  • Those with a passion for financial planning

Who Should NOT Attend?

  • Anyone just in it for the 500 hours of experience
  • Anyone looking for a vacation
  • Those without a strong foundation in the technical aspects of financial planning
  • Those with 3+ years of experience in financial planning
  • Those that don’t work well with others

Things to Consider:

  • The program is expensive: advance registration is $2,500 for FPA members and $3,000 for non-members. *See if your employer will be willing to foot the bill or split the cost with you!
  • The program does sell out!
  • Dress is casual. You work long hours every day, so dress comfortably. Don’t wear sweatpants, but you don’t have to dress up either.
  • Bring a financial calculator with you! There aren’t many things that you will need to bring, but a financial calculator is a must. *You won’t be allowed any computers or financial planning software for the case studies. Just your calculator and a flip chart.
  • You won’t go hungry. I mentioned working through meals, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat. The food was fantastic and there was an endless supply of snacks provided in our conference room.
  • Don’t bring any outside work or studying with you. You simply won’t have time to do it.
  • Read all of the material they send you in advance. It is very helpful information and you won’t have time to read it once you arrive.

Have you been to the FPA Residency? What was your experience like?