Financial wellness sector offers new route for young advisers

Ideal way to gain experience working with clients

Jan 6, 2014 @ 11:48 am

By Liz Skinner

The growing financial wellness industry may offer young advisers who aren't interested in selling financial products — or are too fresh-faced to encourage wealthy clients to hand over their nest egg just yet — an ideal place to begin a professional career.

This financial sector, which focuses on providing financial education rather than investment recommendations or comprehensive financial planning, is expanding as American companies add financial wellness programs to benefit packages to help a workforce that nationally exhibits little financial literacy.

Last year, 19% of human resource directors surveyed said their wellness initiatives included a financial component, an increase of 2 percentage points from 2012, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Another study last year by Aon Hewitt found 80% of employers plan to implement or boost their existing financial wellness programs.

These numbers suggest the industry will need more financial professionals to meet the growing demand, and financial planning students who shun the wirehouse model based on asset attraction and sales could be great candidates.

Financial wellness providers charge employers for offering education, basic planning services and technological resources to employees, instead of charging the clients they advise directly.

This sector of the industry offers young financial professionals valuable experience interacting with people about their financial problems, a personal skill many advisory firm owners say they find lacking in the candidates whom they interview fresh out of financial planning school.

For that reason, the financial wellness sector could be a great recruiting target for independent financial advisers looking to bulk up their staffs.

In fact, two young planners InvestmentNews is tracking through their first year on the job, Michael Blumreich and Matt Romeo are essentially providing financial wellness services through the retirement units of their adviser employers, and both have embraced the opportunity to work with clients.

The financial wellness industry could even be a landing spot for more seasoned advisers seeking to abandon the sales pressure and compliance burdens of the brokerage and advisory businesses.

Liz Davidson, chief executive of financial education provider Financial Finesse, said jobs in the financial education market are paying better than they used to as demand for talent increases.

In addition to firms like The Ayco Co., a division of Goldman Sachs Co., and PriceWaterhouseCooper's employee financial education practice, Financial Finesse is competing for knowledgeable professionals with online planners like LearnVest Inc., Ms. Davidson said.

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