Working with academia to tap Gen Y talent

RIAs, college deans, planning-program directors and the CFP Board offered insights at a summit

Apr 6, 2014 @ 12:01 am

About 43% of financial advisers are baby boomers or older, and just 12% are younger than 33, according to the 2013 Fidelity Advisor Insights study.

The adviser workforce is gray and getting grayer. The question is, what are we doing about it?

For registered investment advisers, in particular, which are small businesses and may not have formal recruiting programs, strengthening relationships with academia is a good place to start. But this still leaves many advisers and educators wondering how they can help the supply and demand curves for talent find each other.

To tackle this, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services recently invited college deans, university CFP program directors, RIAs and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. to a summit.

We heard many ideas during our discussions, ranging from recruiting applicants who mirror the evolving RIA client base to redefining the internship for more-meaningful opportunities.

Through the dialogue, it became clear that not one activity is the silver bullet. Creating awareness and opportunities for the next generation must be a coordinated effort of activities in the community, on the college campus and, possibly the most important, in advisers' offices.

A major issue affecting next-generation talent is the fact that RIAs' client base is evolving and will soon be looking to work with an adviser who is more like them: younger, technology-savvy, female or culturally diverse.


A real “aha” moment for the group was the realization that waiting to educate students about the profession once they are already in college may be too late.

RIAs must work with high schools in order to recruit a more diverse group of college and CFP applicants. Educators highlighted alumni networks as an underused channel.

CFP program directors at William Paterson University said they have seen the positive influence that college students can have when they head back to their high school to speak with students.

When students hear the phrase “financial adviser,” they are likely to associate the term with insurance sales or even rogue brokers.

Educators said they could use help highlighting how RIAs help real people solve real problems with independent, unbiased financial advice.

Here are key points from the summit:

Go beyond a career fair. Kristine Beck, director of the financial planning program at California State University at Northridge suggested hosting a “speed dating” event on campus, giving RIAs the opportunity to provide a quick pitch on the benefits of being an RIA to many students at once.

Step into the classroom. Serve as a guest lecturer or adjunct professor to demonstrate what it is like to be an RIA in the “real world.”

Providing case studies, possibly using video, can prove useful for educators and help create interest in the profession and an adviser's firm, said Jeff Pearsall, principal and director of wealth management at RMB Capital Management.

Offer unrestricted funds. Jacob Sybrowsky, assistant professor of personal financial planning at Utah Valley University, said the school is seeing students get energized by shorter, one-off experiences such as attending industry conferences, which are often funded by unrestricted donations from RIAs or custodians.

Conventional scholarships are helpful, but they help only one student at a time.

We also learned that not every experiential opportunity needs to be a formal internship.

Create a meaningful experience. Advisers should consider inviting students to their office or let a student shadow them for a day.

Give students a guided tour or host a discussion of industry trends.

Whatever the experience, firms must create a meaningful one if they want to generate interest in the RIA profession.

Rather than tasking interns with photocopying, take advantage of their skills, such as their knowledge of technology.

Duncan Williams, assistant professor of financial planning at William Paterson, summed it up well: “The looming talent shortage is our profession's biggest challenge.”

To all the educators, I say this isn't just your challenge. RIAs and the broader financial services community have an enormous opportunity to work closely with academia to bridge the talent supply-and-demand gap.

Jylanne Dunne is senior vice president of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.


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