The private wealth business is facing a persistent and decades-old personnel crisis. The number of financial advisers continues to dwindle as RIAs struggle to attract young talent to the business. U.S. financial advisers number roughly 285,000, down from about 500,000 in the mid-1990s. The average age of a financial adviser is 51, and 38 percent of advisers are expecting to retire in the next 10 years, according to a report from Cerulli Associates. Only 10 percent of financial advisers are less than 35 years of age.
What do RIAs need to do to reverse the trend? We asked a dozen leaders in the private wealth profession to offer their observations.
Ric Edelman, founder and executive chairman, Edelman Financial Services
The financial planning industry needs to stop acting like a bunch of sleazy, product-pushing sales reps, and start acting like professionals who are dedicated to serving the best interests of their clients in a workplace devoted to the career growth of their employees. That means offering new hires competitive salaries and robust benefits — not placing them on draws against commissions they are to earn by selling insurance and investment products to their fathers’ golfing buddies. It means giving them meaningful work, genuine mentorship and a clearly defined career path — including a way to acquire equity in the firm. Until then, the best potential recruits will continue to choose investment banking and private equity firms — and who can blame them?
Marty Bicknell, CEO, Mariner Wealth Advisors
It boils down to culture. Next-gen advisers want to work for cause-driven companies that provide professional growth opportunities and mentors they can learn from. A firm must have a clearly articulated mission statement that permeates across all areas of the business. Next-gen advisers want a strategy in place that aligns with their beliefs and values, and they want an opportunity to grow and learn from team members who are willing to invest time in them. Key to next-gen advisers’ success is providing an opportunity to interact directly with clients, with room for both success and failure along the way.
Janine Wertheim, president of Securities America Advisors, CMO of Securities America
Under our Link to the Future program, we fully subsidize travel, accommodation and participation in our firm’s annual national conference for college students aspiring to become financial advisers. Our experiences indicate young people need to be shown how advisers can make a positive difference in people’s lives, and what an ideal professional-development roadmap looks like. Many young people think being a math whiz is crucial, but acquiring expertise in areas like behavioral coaching is even more important. That’s why, together with our parent company, Ladenburg Thalmann, we pioneered formal behavioral-finance training and credentialing for financial advisers.
Richard Todd, CEO, Innovest Portfolio Solutions
I would say two things: First, an “advice” over a “sales” philosophy. The private wealth business can provide the next generation of advisers with an opportunity to serve others, and this is the real attraction. Money and finances can be a source of stress and anxiety for many, and having an advice process will bring clients a sense of peace and confidence in their adviser. Therefore, the trend toward independence and fee-only advice will continue.
Second, a firm that is team-based, offering individual flexibility and autonomy with heavy firm community involvement will be an appealing culture for the next generation. A firm committed to stewardship of clients, their professionals and their families, and the community will be poised to attract great professionals and clients.
Shannon Eusey, co-founder and CEO, Beacon Pointe Advisors
We are in a period of incredibly low unemployment, and it is going to take more than a good environment and benefits to attract advisers. In our experience, culture and long-term opportunities are critical to finding talent. A culture of trust and empowerment from day one, along with a steadfast commitment to employee growth and development are critical to attracting the next generation of talent. We have a uniquely entrepreneurial culture and a passion to put the client first, both of which we believe will continue to provide long-term opportunities to grow our business with great advisers.
David Perkins, managing partner and CEO, Hatteras Funds
“It has never been harder to make it in this business than it is today.” Today, many people agree with this statement, but this quote is from my branch manager 30 years ago. To attract the next generation of advisers, we have to be able to demonstrate the success of our young advisers. We cannot do what we did 30 years ago: Send them to training and tell them to FITFO (figure it the fool out). To ensure the success, four things come to mind:
- Find a niche. Define the type of clients you want to work with and determine what problems you can solve for them.
- Embrace technology. Most sales people give up after the second contact. Automate your sales and marketing through a sales cadence program.
- Give them a copy of Nick Murray’s book, The Game of Numbers.
- When talking with prospects, clients or anyone, remember the law of three messages. It is 80 percent how much you care about me, 5 percent how smart you are and 15 percent your conviction.
Marc Wishkoff, managing director, Chevy Chase Trust Investment Advisors
We believe the next generation of advisers will seek organizations where they can take pride in the collective achievement of the firm and a differentiated service model. Successful firms will emphasize attracting people who want to be a part of something, in contrast to those who simply aggregate assets, outsource investments, build a personal book of business and guard its portability. Providing talented advisers with an environment to focus on their chosen area of expertise — whether it be investment, planning or fiduciary work — will instill a culture that attracts ever more talent and shared success.
Lynn Ballou, regional director, EP Wealth Advisors
I think the bigger concern is how we will attract the next generation of women advisers. We need to create meaningful internships and mentorships, leading to defined and attainable career paths. We must get the message out that advisers are not glorified salesmen but, instead, trusted advisers who metaphorically sit on the same side of the table as their valued clients, making a positive difference in their lives. And we have to start introducing our youth to the profession through financial literacy curriculum before college. Young women cannot be what they cannot see, so let’s be seen!
Jeanie Wyatt, CEO and CIO, South Texas Money Management
It is critical to attract the interest of the younger generation of advisers in order to keep the profession current and relevant. Attracting them to the private wealth management business is critical, as vast amounts of wealth is being transferred to the children of the wealth creators due to the demographic of our current generation — aging and now incented to gift their estates now. The new tax laws encourage less estate planning and more current gifting. Also critical is drawing the next generation of females to the industry, as older women are now among the wealthiest and often the most demanding.
Lucas Winthrop, COO, Winthrop Wealth Management
A change in mindset is needed. Many firms in our industry still operate under the eat-what-you-kill model. The next generation of advisers wants to be part of a team, with a fun and supportive culture working toward a common firm goal or vision. They want structure, specialization and, most of all, a transparent career trajectory. The jack-of-all trades won’t cut it anymore. To attract young talent, firms need to rethink their infrastructure and create a culture that empowers their team members to become subject-matter experts and allows them to play together as a team.
Ron Carson, founder and CEO, Carson Group
To attract the next generation, we’re partnering with Barron’s and Creighton University to explain to students the opportunity in our industry. Inside our organization, we’re rolling out our first-ever rotational internship program, which will give students the unique perspective from every area of a well-rounded practice. The internship includes an adviser, service, planning and operations track. It’s no longer about the one-dimensional way of thinking: “Are you a good fit as an adviser or not?” Ultimately, with both programs, our goal is to unveil the multiple avenues the next generation has available to them to grow into any number of specialty areas. This is the kind of effort and investment needed to change the way the next generation sees our profession.
Frank Paré, president, Financial Planning Association
It’s important for the next generation of financial professionals to fully embrace the power financial planning has to transform the lives of those they serve. Young professionals are entering the profession with a strong sense of responsibility for the betterment of society and want to be part of something truly remarkable, and are seeking professional opportunities that align and support their socially conscious values. To attract today’s top young talent, firms will need to support the altruistic desires and motives of young professionals while also providing defined career paths, job flexibility, and necessary technology and training.