Financial advisory firms that want to nurture the best and brightest advisers need to stop treating everyone at the firm the same way, according to Philip Palaveev, chief executive of The Ensemble Practice.
Acknowledging that his advice strayed beyond the bounds of political correctness, he said firms can't develop good leaders by dwelling on what might appear to be fair.
"A business is not a family, and that means you cannot treat all of your people the same," Mr. Palaveev said at the Insider's Forum in Nashville on Thursday. "You have to identify your top performers and give them more time and resources and training."
Detailing the various stages of becoming a trusted leader and top adviser at a firm, he cited examples of firms that have moved people to the next level simply because they were the only ones left who had not yet been promoted.
"Most of the business leaders I see are not recognizing their top performers the way they should be," he said. "Opportunity is the fuel of a career, and the top performers deserve opportunities first."
Mr. Palaveev laid out a career track that begins with an associate adviser who is learning the business and the software. That professional then moves to the service adviser phase, where they start learning to build relationships with clients.
After about six years with the firm, a professional should be advancing to the lead adviser role, where the adviser is managing client relationships and becomes trusted to "take a client by the hand," he said.
The final stage is the ownership position, a role that might not be in the cards for all advisers.
For younger advisers, Mr. Palaveev said they should expect to work long, hard hours developing their skills and learning the business. But he added that a firm should have a clear career path to offer direction and motivation to all advisers at the firm.
And advisers should embrace the notion that special opportunities are earned, not just given out.
"When we treat everyone equally, unfortunately we tend to discriminate against the best players on the team," he said. "A career track is for everyone, but you shouldn't try to push everyone along that track because it's not for everyone."