Outside voices and views for advisers

Identifying and attracting the next generation of advisers

Mar 17, 2014 @ 9:15 am

By Devin DeStefano

In my last article, I suggested that as an industry, one of the key opportunities (and one of our existing challenges) is to identify and attract talent people to become financial advisers. Let me be clear, I am not saying that collectively we blindly hire untalented people as a normal course of business, but in looking at “survival rates” for trainees across firms, a one in five (or a one in four or even a one in three) ratio doesn't seem all that appealing over the long term. Some will argue that this is just “the way it is” with sales-focused roles – and I don't disagree. The existing model is predicated on starting with a high volume of candidates and having them exhibit their ability to succeed in relatively short order, quickly eliminating those who can't keep up the pace. So where does the opportunity for improvement lie?

Let's tackle the “identify and attract” components first, and look at them from the perspective of the firm.


We have done a substantial amount of work at our firm around trying to define the skill set, behaviors and “DNA” of the ideal adviser candidate. I have also talked with key contacts at other firms about this exercise. Simply put — it is hard. It is especially hard right now, as the role of the adviser seems to be evolving quite rapidly. Discussions abound about the efficacy of assessments, behavioral interviews and gut instinct as part of the identification process. Words like grit, perseverance, hunger, drive, and resiliency are still used. But a new lexicon is also forming, with terms like collaboration, problem-solving, service and analysis being included. The good news is that these vocabularies are not mutually exclusive, but they do require balance. And while I don't expect anyone to find the perfect combination of skills and behaviors, I am confident that firms will be able to find a permutation that best fits their needs and more importantly, the needs of their clients. The “right” answer may not be that far away.


If we know the genetic code we're searching for, we then need to locate people who have it and have a strategy to get them to consider the opportunity. Again, these are no easy tasks. Historically, successful advisers have come from all walks of life, with varying educational and employment backgrounds. There hasn't seemed to be a single, ideal source of talent. That said, there are avenues we can take to narrow the field, instead of taking a traditional “spray and pray” approach.

There are over 200 colleges and universities with degree or certificate programs in personal financial planning. These institutions could offer us access to a new breed of adviser, if we are open to the idea to a change in our approach. Historically, we enticed people with the prospect of relative independence, high earnings potential and the ability to help clients. Those things still matter, but do they align with what is valued by those who we want and need to serve our clients in the coming decades? Do they align with the realities (both current and future) of our businesses?

The high risk, high potential reward model that exists at many firms may actually be a deterrent for many Next Generation candidates. Arguably, our best candidates will have several career options, so what is the differentiator? Why would the role of the financial adviser be appealing over other choices?

Devin DeStefano works for Wells Fargo Advisors, member SIPC. He can be contacted at (314) 875-8184 or 1 N. Jefferson Ave. 2nd Floor, St. Louis, MO 63103.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Upcoming Event

Apr 30


Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 12th annual Retirement Income Summit - the industry's premier retirement planning conference.Much has changed - and much remains to be learned. Attend and discuss how the future is full of opportunity for ... Learn more

Featured video


Cybersecurity: Fears and opportunities for every adviser

Phishing schemes and financial hoaxes put advisers and their clients in the line of fire everyday. Joel Bruckenstein, the godfather of FinTech, offers some solutions for every firm.

Latest news & opinion

Nontraded BDC sales in worst year since 2010

The illiquid product's three-year decline is partially due to new regulations and poor performance.

Tax reform debate sparks fresh interest in donor-advised funds

Schwab reports new accounts up 50% from last year, assets up 33%.

Nontraded REITs to post worst sales since 2002

The industry is on track to raise just $4.4 billion, well off the $19.6 billion it raised just four years ago, as new regulations hinder sales.

Broker protocol for recruiting a boon for clients

New research finds advisers whose firms have joined the agreement take better care of customers.

Meet our 2017 Women to Watch

Introducing 20 female financial advisers and industry executives who are distinguished leaders, advancing the business of providing advice through their creativity and hard work.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print