With the age of the average independent adviser remaining stubbornly high, firms that support these professionals have become more resourceful and focused in reaching out to the younger generation.
From supporting more CFP programs at the college level to developing career training programs for service members leaving the military, independent advisory and brokerage (IAB) firms are devoting more attention to the challenge of finding and training the next wave of advisers.
When we think about how to bring more young people into our profession, though, we must not forget what makes a bright, ambitious student choose one career over another, or the element that separates a dream job from one that simply provides a paycheck: inspiration. In addition to being comfortable and secure, young people want a profession that gives them a path to their ideal future.
What does it mean to inspire young people to join our industry?
1. Provide them with positive role models early on. Many children of successful advisers follow in their parents' footsteps –— and not merely because they share a family name. These young people have positive industry role models they are able to emulate early in life. Whether advisers have kids or not, they can serve as role models for young people by taking more active roles in their communities, such as by volunteering or by speaking in schools.
IAB firms also have a role to play in this process by providing students interested in financial services careers with opportunities to see in-person what this profession is all about — the camaraderie between advisers, the focus on solving tough challenges and the genuine passion advisers have for helping their clients. These opportunities can take the form of internships or even bringing young people to adviser conferences, where they can interact with experienced advisers who can answer their questions and show them the ropes.
2. Appeal to their sense of entrepreneurship and desire for self-expression. It's no secret that millennials and younger people are drawn to careers that enable them to express themselves. They want the work they do, the communities they serve and the causes they embrace to reflect their own values and tastes.
As successful advisers know, few careers provide ambitious, hardworking professionals the same level of control over their own destiny — or the same ability to build a business that reflects their unique personality and values — as independent financial advice.
Let's show young people how a career in this industry can support and express their passions, whether by enabling them to serve niche communities they understand and care about, helping clients appreciate the benefits of charitable giving or by myriad other means.
3. Enlist students' centers of influence: professors and teachers. For career-minded young people, the guidance they receive from teachers and professors can be profoundly influential. When advisers and IAB firms visit schools or announce new scholarships or internship programs, securing support from these centers of influence is vital, since they often have the best understanding of students' priorities and passions and are in the best position to suggest potentially rewarding career choices.
Advisers and firms should look to communicate the benefits of a career in financial advice to teachers and professors as well as to students. When we launched one new scholarship program at Securities America, for example, professors at local universities were intrigued — and their enthusiasm carried over noticeably to their students.
4. Help them feel at home. Another often overlooked reason children of advisers frequently become advisers themselves is that they feel at home in the industry — many of them get to know their parents' clients, other advisers and other professionals in their parents' offices. They know their way around the business and can easily envision themselves fitting into that role and environment. They can also be centers of influence themselves, encouraging their friends to consider careers in financial services.
Advisers and IAB firms can learn from this model by connecting interested students with networks of advisers and other professionals who can help them develop a sense of community in the industry — and, in the process, make their transition into the business more natural. This can take the form of having advisers visit schools, sponsoring youth organizations or designating advisers for young people to shadow during internships or other events, such as adviser conferences.
Young people today are looking for more than a career. They want a role in life that allows them to make a positive difference, express themselves, and control their own destiny. As the independent financial advice industry seeks to find the next generation of advisers, we need to understand that this challenge is not simply a matter of more effective recruiting. It's about tapping into the factors that make this career so rewarding and fulfilling — and helping younger generations draw inspiration from them.
Janine Wertheim is president of Securities America Advisors and chief marketing officer for Securities America, one of the nation's largest investment advisory and brokerage firms and a wholly owned subsidiary of Ladenburg Thalmann.