Commonwealth: Next Gen Advisors Idealistic, Social And Savvy

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst, Wealth Solutions Report

Commonwealth’s Chief Advisor Growth Officer Discusses Next Gen’s Community Dedication, Desire For Mentorship, Collaborative Approach And Ability To Leverage Tech 

As we search for trends that will define 2023 and beyond, the slow-moving but irresistible force of demographics is changing our industry – not only at the retirement, sale and succession planning end of the spectrum, but for the newcomers and rising professionals in wealth management. Each year, a new Next Gen cohort joins us, merging their attitudes and methods with the industry.

Some voices cast the Next Gen in a negative light, but the truth is they possess many positive traits and attitudes that can – and will – change us and our industry for the better. 

Commonwealth Financial Network launched its NextGen Business Development Group in February, establishing a one-year coaching program for Next Gen advisors to grow their business through accountability, strategic guidance and peer reinforcement. 

Kristine McManus, Chief Advisor Growth Officer, Commonwealth

Led by Kristine McManus, Chief Advisor Growth Officer at the firm, the program includes monthly webinars by McManus, bi-weekly peer calls, a one-day session to meet with headquarters staff and firmwide experts, and business metric tracking tools. 

We spent time with McManus to learn more about the Next Gen advisor, their attitudes and drives, and how they are changing the industry.

WSR: What are the needs and goals of Next Gen advisor recruits and professionals, and how do those differ from previous generations?

McManus: One clear trend we see from Next Gen advisors is the desire for mentorship, by which we mean an intentional partnership between senior and junior advisors that helps them both develop to the benefit of the firm. Next Gen advisors seek an ongoing relationship with someone they trust and respect, who is willing to invest time and energy in helping them succeed – which is much different from having a boss who merely assigns them responsibilities or manages their time. 

Mentoring helps everyone, too – perhaps older advisors can learn new technology efficiencies or social media skills, while a younger advisor can learn a great process for a client meeting or how to better articulate their value.  

Not just a mere boss

On the product side, Next Gen advisors are keenly interested in socially responsible investing (SRI) and ESG investing. This values-based approach seems to resonate with Next Gen advisors personally, and it’s also a result of Next Gen investors who are more frequently asking for SRI in their portfolios. 

Both Gen X and Gen Y are part of very diverse generations, and they are actively seeking commitments to diversity and social equality – and to advisors who can help them not just invest their money but help them to reach their socially responsible goals. 

WSR: How does the Next Gen vision for community change the workplace and structure of work teams? What could previous generations learn from this approach to benefit their firms? 

McManus: Similar to Next Gen investors, Next Gen advisors are strongly motivated by personal values, and their experiences have shaped their attitudes to work. Many of them successfully worked remotely during the pandemic, and the time saved from commuting allowed advisors to experience home life differently. 

They are looking to continue to use their time efficiently, which often includes a few days working remotely and leveraging technology via digital onboarding, Zoom, Calendly and other tools. Family time is a priority, but Next Gen advisors are often active and involved in their communities as well, volunteering across a wide spectrum of charities as well as coaching youth sports.

In continuation with this sense of engagement, we find Next Gen advisors have a much more collaborative approach to the workplace. They freely acknowledge expertise in others and seek to find the best resources for their clients, rather than feel they need to know or do everything themselves.  

Their willingness to work with others and their high emotional intelligence makes them great complements for work teams, which is why Commonwealth established the NextGen Business Development Group where we bring together a group of advisors and offer them strategic guidance and an opportunity to work collaboratively in peer groups to reinforce accountability. 

In an increasingly complex financial world, this collaborative approach should allow Next Gen advisors to broaden their offerings and allow them opportunities to scale. 

Giving back to the community

WSR: How do business growth strategies need to adapt for Next Gen professionals? Can they be structured in a way that spans all working generations?

McManus: Business development can look quite different for Next Gen advisors. They are very comfortable with using LinkedIn to connect with people and ask for introductions; post easily to Instagram and Facebook; set Google alerts for companies to help them keep up to date on layoffs or promotions; and are often early adopters of podcasts or writing articles for their firms.  

They tend to have a great deal of client-facing activities, but it might not be immediately obvious to advisors who built their book via cold calling. 

As our practice management team consults with advisors, we know there is great interest in Next Gen advisors building out their practices to attract virtual clients – this silver lining of the pandemic is here to stay. This requires a mindset change, and it is well worth spending the time and energy. 

We know of many advisors who onboarded their largest clients during the pandemic – without ever meeting them face to face. This trend will increase exponentially, as advisors realize that clients want someone they can trust and work well with, not necessarily someone in their geographic area.   

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at mmadden@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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