Reily Wilken ’21 gets behind the scenes on the wealth management process of high net-worth clientele at Garde Capital in Seattle, WA

Going into my summer internship at Garde Capital in Seattle, WA I thought I had a clear understanding of the financial services industry from what I learned during my classes at Whitman. However, soon I discovered how complex the industry can be and the differences in incentive alignments among different types of financial firms. Working at Garde, a wealth management firm that provides services to high net-worth clients, corporations, nonprofits and foundations, has provided me with a broad look into professional asset management. Currently four weeks into my internship, most of my work thus far has been focused on the wealth management process. This includes the types of clients Garde works with and the client acquisition process, as well as the competitive landscape which includes the different types of investment management firms that exist, and their fee and business structures. Through different projects, such as fee schedule research where I compiled information from different investment firm’s public filings, I gained insight into the wide variety of investment management options that exist.

Garde Capital is a wealth manager, meaning that not only do they assist clients in making educated investments, but they also provide a holistic approach to financial planning including services such as tax efficiency, estate planning, charitable giving, etc. Additionally, Garde is an independent, fee-only advisory firm, meaning that the company is compensated via a fee based on a percentage of assets under management. Unlike many brokerages and non-independent advisors, Garde is not compensated for generating as many trades as possible or selling certain investment products, therefore creating strong incentive alignment between advisors and clients. This is in line with Garde’s role as a fiduciary, meaning that it is the firm’s responsibility to act in the best interest of the clients. As I have researched the differences between types of firms in the industry, I have realized how important it is to ensure that an advisor is truly acting in a fiduciary role, rather than just in the interest of themselves and the firm.

As I continue my internship, I will next be focusing on investments and trading, covering topics such as investment vehicles, trading costs, and macro trends. I’m very excited to work in this functional area as I’m highly interested in investment strategies and asset allocation. I have already begun some work related to trading, recently working on a macro in Excel to help the trading team improve efficiency. To write the macro, I have been reading about programming syntax in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Microsoft’s programming language for Excel. This has been a challenge as I have never used VBA before and my experience with macros is limited. However, it has been interesting to learn along the way and some prior experience I have with other programming languages has been useful. Following my work in investments and trading, I will be focusing on portfolio management, and then a final project which will center around the research I conduct during my time at Garde.

My internship at Garde has been a great experience, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn from such an experienced and passionate group of individuals. My supervisor at Garde, Matthias Argenyi, graduated from Whitman in 2018 and had previously interned at Garde during his summer after sophomore year. Matthias has been a great resource during my internship and I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given by him and the firm. The experience I will gain from my internship will be a great resource to share with other students at Whitman Investment Company meetings when I am back on campus in the fall.

Experiences like Reily Wilken’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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