Many resources are needed to run a practice successfully in today's stringent regulatory and competitive environment, yet all resources place demands on capital. Firms must face these challenges with capital of a different sort: human capital. Brilliant, driven professionals working in harmony to achieve a firm's goals can transform client acquisition, retention and overall client experience. If recruited wisely, they will deliver a return on investment and a seamless succession strategy.
A firm's success will demand that it expresses its vision with clear career paths and that they match the progression of the lead adviser, the team and the company. Simply put, what is the cultural DNA? Like a seedling in fertile ground, a new recruit can only propagate within the right culture.
Detailed planning and a clear strategy are required to recruit financial advisers. Three critical questions should be answered: Why this hire? Whom to attract? How will they expand the business? Each provides a guideline to review any assumptions embedded in the recruiting process. Follow this with an action plan for how to engage and recruit a new adviser.
Two top prospect groups include Millennials and second-career advisers.
The Millennial generation is the most-educated and technologically connected in history. While eager to learn and be mentored, they also seek specific feedback on steps they can take to climb the firm's ranks. They come from, and are comfortable in, diverse environments and will better reflect future client prospects. Although they want to earn a great living, they also want to make a difference. To gain their attention an adviser must communicate in their language and the world they live in — beyond campus recruiting — and orbit in their universe: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. What will recruits learn about your firm on social media? Does it accurately speak to your brand?
Second-career advisers bring more professional maturity and experience to a team. If older, their communication style, engagement and driving factors will differ from Millennials'. They are more independent-minded and less likely to see the value of a mentor or ask for help. However, they can greatly benefit from coaching and support to transfer core skills into relevant tools as an adviser. A firm must create an open environment of sharing feedback and exchanging ideas.
A three-point checklist for successful recruitment and development of advisers includes:
1. Beyond chemistry: Candidates with great energy and palpable drive seem a natural pick to join the team. However, a firm must clearly communicate what it entails to be an adviser in that firm. What will motivate them to work hard to achieve the firm's specific goals? How do they measure personal and professional success; does it differ from the firm? Evaluate the candidate to see where alignment and gaps exist. Create a recruit-specific mentoring/coaching program to address each area of growth with measurable results. Firms with notable success have committed to a year-long training program, incorporating aspects from front, middle and back offices. They teach all aspects of running a practice, including client communication and management, products, financial planning, and how to effectively network and attract clients.
2. Interviewee vs. employee: Impressive candidates display high engagement and have strong experience. But analyze the interview in a different context: as an employee review. Ask for detailed examples that demonstrate critical thinking, real-life problem-solving skills, leadership, client service and engagement, and overall team contribution. How do their answers integrate within the team? What do they reveal about their skill set and character? This insight will allow a firm to determine if the recruit is the right cultural fit while providing the framework of where training, education and coaching are needed.
3. Talent alignment: Although the recruit should be hired based on his/her own merits, their contribution will either add to or subtract from the firm's cultural DNA and success. Who will be the best mentor or coach for this recruit? Determine where he/she will need more training, be it on technical aspects or more practical applications of an adviser's life. Seize the benefits of dual mentoring, such as a boomer with a Millennial. In addition to the traditional top-down experience training, this also may result in bottom-up training in areas such as social media and technology.
Great exchanges of ideas and learning occur when a firm creates opportunities for diverse thinking that combine the firm's expertise and cultural DNA with the recruitment process. An effective training program offers a structure with education and open communication, and measurable milestones in which a new adviser can implement new tools to instill professional and life success.
Cecile V. Munoz is president of U.S. Executive Search & Consulting.