Finding a young adviser for your team

Recruiting the next generation requires deliberate effort, and often outside help

Sep 28, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Grace Kvantas, a young adviser in demand by firms that want to stay on top of trends and technology, and attract younger clients.
+ Zoom
Grace Kvantas, a young adviser in demand by firms that want to stay on top of trends and technology, and attract younger clients. (Tony Pearce)

Grace Kvantas is a 25-year-old budding financial planner from North Carolina — and she's in high demand.

Advisory firms around the country are looking to hire young professionals like her to help them take on some of the increased tasks of the modern advisory practice, stay current in technology and trends, and attract younger clients. In addition, many advisers who hope to eventually step away from the business without abandoning clients are looking for successors.

Trouble is, Ms. Kvantas isn't going anywhere. She began a full-time job with Financial Symmetry Inc. in 2011 as an operations specialist after a year's internship with the firm during school. She expects to be a credentialed financial planner with the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm within the next 12 months.

“There are opportunities out there, but this firm has such a great atmosphere and nurturing community that I don't have any desire to look around,” Ms. Kvantas said.

(Know someone looking to enter the advice business? Send them to the InvestmentNews NextGen Virtual Career Fair on Nov. 7)

AVENUES TO TALENT

Firms that have been successful recruiting next-generation financial advisers have built a path to finding the best and brightest new college graduates through a number of avenues: building relationships with local college professors, using nationwide recruiting services, scanning association job boards or growing the talent in-house. And once a recruiting technique bears fruit, retaining promising young advisers requires providing them with high-quality training and experience. Successful firms also present a clear route to advancement, something younger generations like the Millennials seek out.

Ms. Kvantas reached Financial Symmetry through her North Carolina State University college professor, who knew the firm's founders and recommended her to them, and them to her. She wasn't even in a financial planning program but was pursuing a business management degree.

Her circumstance supports the case for advisers casting a wide net in creating relationships with professors and program directors at colleges. Concentrating only on financial planning programs may be insufficient, because the number of those students is limited, and frankly, they get picked up fast.

Ann Coulson, assistant professor at Kansas State University's Institute of Personal Financial Planning, said advisers reach out to her because they want to consider the program's graduates for open jobs, but unfortunately, with only about 15 graduates a year, the school doesn't have enough to meet the demand.

“We have to tell employers that they're all already hired,” she said.

Many of the nation's financial planning students seek out internships with financial advisory firms during school that lead to full-time employment afterward. And most schools host career fairs that can help match advisers with potential interns.

NO GRUNT WORK

“Offering paid internships that don't require students do grunt work is our No. 1 recruiting tool,” said Ben Franklin, managing director of Franklin Wealth Advisors Inc. in Urbana, Ill. “When you get the really special ones, you're going to offer them a position.”

Mr. Franklin said the firm has relationships with three professors “who have great respect for our firm” and steer outstanding candidates in its direction. In recent years, he's hired two people directly out of Eastern Illinois University, and one of them is on the verge of becoming a wealth advisor with the firm.

For its part, Franklin Wealth Advisors helps foster young advisers through a sort of apprenticeship program, teaching them relationship skills and developing them to a point where they can manage a group of client relationships. The goal is to have them eventually become the lead adviser for those clients, Mr. Franklin said.

Along the way, the young professionals are learning the skills they need to become advisers and providing valuable portfolio analysis, plan writing and other services Franklin Wealth Advisors offers, he said.

“If at any point in time they leave, they will have been worth what we paid them along the way,” Mr. Franklin said.

For advisers who don't want to find candidates for jobs or internships by dealing directly with their local colleges, a small number of recruiters provide more of a nationwide search approach. For instance, New Planner Recruiting matches up students of certified financial planning programs with advisory firms.

RESIDENCY PROGRAM

Advisors Ahead, another recruiting service, has created a one-year residency program for new graduates. With its program, firms pay Advisors Ahead directly when they hire one of its young professionals, and Advisors Ahead pays the individual a salary and provides training and help with licensing. It works with 300 schools around the country, including 100 with financial planning programs or concentrations.

“Most of the candidates are hired full-time by the firm they worked with,” said Craig Pfeiffer, chief executive of Advisors Ahead.

A few of the 33 candidates who have completed the program so far decided the profession wasn't for them, Mr. Pfeiffer said. A few others were not offered permanent jobs.

Others firms recruit young advisers by listing their openings on industry job boards, such as the one the Financial Planning Association hosts. It currently lists about 550 openings for some sort of associate adviser. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors also lists job and internship opportunities.

In fact, New Planner Recruiting uses both of these job boards to help it find candidates for particular employers.

A few advisory firms, however, have become renowned for growing next-gen advisers in-house. For example, Cornerstone Wealth Advisors Inc. has its own salaried residency program in which it gives young professionals experience in all areas of wealth management. After three years, the residents are qualified to take career-track positions with advisory firms, including potentially Cornerstone, or even to start their own firms, according to the company.

Some advisory firms want to avoid developing that training structure, and seek out young advisers who already have financial planning skills and ideally, even a few clients. But they're difficult to root out, recruiters said.

“Younger advisers who are already licensed, have a small book of business and are poised for growth are in very high demand across the country,” said Darin Manis, chief executive of RJ & Makay, a recruiter for financial professionals.

These young advisers, generally considered to be under age 36, are going to want to hear how a hiring firm is going to help them grow, and how quickly.

Certain enticements have been known to sway young professionals to join a firm, Mr. Manis said. Those include offering them help when “closing” with clients, providing marketing assistance, turning over lower-tier clients to them, and a promise to give them a client for every new client they bring into the firm.

“They are looking for a practice principal to clearly define and articulate a path for growth,” he said.

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