Education, Mentorship And Modeling Will Attract Next Gen Professionals

Being Intentional As Early As High School Math Interest And Clubs Can Help
Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Wealth Solutions Report
Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Wealth Solutions Report

Both because we are in the midst of the Great Wealth Transfer and investors want to work with financial advisors who they are comfortable with – sometimes including being a similar age – and because many advisors want to retire but succession planning looks grim given the insufficient number of advisors to fill their spots, bolstering the ranks of Next Gen advisors is challenging.

Beyond advisors, the demographic shift towards older advisors is also occurring throughout home office professionals and third-party service providers, leading to a need to attract and keep Next Gen professionals across every space in wealth management.

Luke Winskowski, President, 49 Financial
Luke Winskowski, President, 49 Financial

The financial services industry overall has been challenged when it comes to attracting Next Gen talent. Some strides have been made, such as last September when Commonwealth Financial Network expanded its Talent Exchange Initiative to connect advisors with Certified Financial Planner (CFP) students.

“In our industry, where the average age of advisors is 57, there is a huge need for Next Gen talent to enter this career and build long-term, sustainable practices,” said Luke Winskowski, President of 49 Financial. “Firms experiencing substantial growth are primarily accomplishing this through acquiring books of business, not developing and mentoring young professionals.”

Much needs to be done given the severity of this situation. But what exactly?

Mentorship

While there is some disagreement about how formalized training and mentorship needs to be, experts contend that it must be a much larger focus than it currently is.

“Firms must be proactive in building the structure and programs to develop Next Gen [talent] or it will be impossible to attract this demographic,” Winskowski said. “These programs are costly and time-consuming to do well, but they’re essential to developing young talent.”

Kristine McManus, Chief Advisor Growth Officer, Commonwealth Financial Network
Kristine McManus, Chief Advisor Growth Officer, Commonwealth Financial Network

As Kristine McManus, Chief Advisor Growth Officer at Commonwealth noted, “Firms should understand that mentoring benefits the entire firm, not just the Next Gen advisor or staff member. Whether through mentoring delivered through structured programs or through experienced advisors informally sharing ideas and best practices with a Next Gen [advisor], it has a huge impact.”

An investment in Next Gen mentorship needs to be made, whether sizable or minimal, for some firms to continue to keep their doors open.

“Firm survival requires investing in professional growth, particularly for younger professionals,” said Craig Pfeiffer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Money Management Institute. “Just as doctors, teachers and electricians require practical training, the asset and wealth management industries must do more to leverage the experience of our seasoned professionals to build strong Next Gen leadership.”

Education And Modeling

It has proven challenging for the financial services sector to draw and retain Next Gen female advisors. Some of the reasons for that are firms’ cultures, gender-based socialization, societal biases and other hindrances, noted Maura Cunningham, Founder of Rock The Street, Wall Street (RTSWS).

Particularly for women, bolstering their confidence in their mathematics skills and encouraging them to pursue careers in the finance field early on makes a difference. As Cunningham explained, girls’ math abilities during elementary school are on par with boys, but their performance and interest wanes later on. Targeted interventions even as early as high school can help women pursue careers in finance.

Maura Cunningham, Founder, Rock The Street, Wall Street
Maura Cunningham, Founder, Rock The Street, Wall Street

“Research underscores a critical challenge in recruiting female talent: women are notably underrepresented in majors such as finance and economics compared to men,” Cunningham said.

“To address this gap, it’s imperative for the industry to bolster support for early intervention programs in girls’ mathematics education, both at the high school and college levels. Additionally, there’s the pressing need to enhance the industry’s presence and outreach to females during these formative years by actively engaging with school clubs, a strategy already underway by RTSWS.”

RTSWS, which operates in more than 25 cities across three countries, thus far has impacted more than 6,000 young ladies. The group works to revitalize girls’ interest and enthusiasm for math at this crucial point when people are starting to decide what their careers will be. Via its 100% female financial professional instructors, RTSWS provides financial and investment literacy programs, mentorship and “real-world access to finance firms.”

Removing Barriers To Entry

New entrants to financial services, some of whom are likely carrying student loan debt, have an uphill battle because of unclear next steps to obtain employment, a bewildering array of  certifications and a lack of knowledge about possible career paths. Guidance on a path forward will likely attract more professionals into the field versus them giving up in frustration before they really get started.

Craig Pfeiffer, President & CEO of the Money Management Institute
Craig Pfeiffer, President & CEO, Money Management Institute

“Our industry provides meaningful opportunities for advisors, but the barriers to entry are high, and most firms’ commitment to development is low,” Winskowski said. “Next-generation leaders crave the support systems necessary to lessen those barriers, such as licensing assistance, clear career paths and development opportunities.”

McManus also suggests that firms should help Next Gen advisors achieve relevant designations, such as the CFP or Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) while also pushing Next Gen advisors to create their own peer networks.

“To better engage young professionals, we must emphasize exciting opportunities, offer non-linear career paths and ensure access to the requisite skills for their success within our industry,” Pfeiffer said. “MMI fosters best practices and connections within financial services, empowering young professionals to find their place, expand knowledge and drive the industry forward.”

What The Next Gen Is Looking For

While all the aforementioned efforts are likely to make more Next Gen talent comfortable and bring new professionals into the fold, the industry also needs to ensure that these advisors want to be a part of the spaces and arenas they are joining.

Cunningham suggests that for women in particular, showing how they can make an impact on people’s lives by growing capital and creating a better financial life will encourage greater participation in the financial advice field.

“Next Gen advisors are looking to build careers not just at any firm, but at a firm that reflects their values,” McManus said. “They want to make a difference both personally and professionally, and firms that are philosophically aligned with them and welcoming to new ideas will be well positioned for growth.”

That sense of wanting to be part of something greater than themselves is ever-present in Next Gen advisors, and includes a greater participation in the firms they work for. McManus notes that Next Gen advisors want to participate in the firm’s growth.

“They are asking about equity and ownership; not right away, but as an option for the future,” she said. “As a result, we are seeing some more firms start to explore paths to ownership that offer opportunities not just to advisors but to key staffers as well.”

Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at jbuchanan@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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