The talent shortage is one of the biggest challenges our industry is currently facing, so it's no surprise that finding and recruiting the right talent were top of mind for attendees at TD Ameritrade Institutional's annual adviser conference, National LINC, this year.
One of the speakers this year, Kelly Bradley, really struck a chord with advisers as her story is a great example of how connecting early can benefit adviser firms and students.
Two years ago, Kelly attended her first National LINC as one of the several dozen financial planning students we sponsor to attend LINC each year. While using the opportunity to network, she met an adviser from her area, Marjorie Wentz of Trinity Wealth Management, and inquired about internships.
While the firm didn't currently have an internship program, Marjorie knew it would be a good opportunity, yet wasn't sure how they would pay for the internship.
During a session at this year's conference, Marjorie said, "Every time we've wanted to hire someone, we figure out what is the increase in assets we need to break even with this hire. We justify it by needing to bring in $4 million. We have $120 million under management, so if we can't bring that in, then shame on us."
Trinity got much more than its money's worth. Kelly was not only an enthusiastic and driven worker, but she was able to fill in for the firm's operations manager, who left unexpectedly shortly after Kelly started. Kelly rearranged her class schedule so that she could work two full days a week, showing the job was a priority for her and allowing her to be a predictable presence within the office.
Hearing Kelly speak and learning how she has progressed in her career since that conference two years ago was inspiring and gratifying. She represents the future, not just of our industry, but of how we need to think about recruiting and hiring.
For the last 10 years, TD Ameritrade Institutional has hosted financial planning students and their program directors at National LINC to give them the opportunity to be immersed in the RIA industry for several days. This year, 63 students and 30 university program directors attended the conference. It's one of the largest groups of students we've had, and they made a significant impression on the attending advisers.
What was happening between scheduled events was what was most exciting at this year's conference.
Several of the students were interviewed for internships or jobs, and two got offers. One adviser bought lunch for a group of students and held an informal roundtable so everyone could ask questions and learn more about each other.
"Our students had an amazing time and were enriched by the conference," said Craig Lemoine, director of financial planning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "They made professional connections, learned from speakers, and built a strong cohort with the other universities present. It was an awesome week."
This conference gives students the opportunity to learn more about the advantages of a career as a RIA. But the opportunity for advisers to connect with the workforce of tomorrow is even more valuable.
Advisers need to start early. College financial planning programs provide a great pipeline, but they don't yet have enough students graduating to fill the talent gap. Creating internship programs allows firms to begin building a talent pipeline, as well as to build awareness of their firms, so that when students are choosing between offers — because they get multiple offers — their RIA firm stand out.
Figuring out an internship schedule that works for both sides and keeping in touch as students finish their education can be competitive advantages in today's battle for top talent. Firms need a strategic plan that anticipates growth and fills the gap before capacity. This allows time for recruitment, onboarding and development.
The talent shortage is real. But making a concerted effort to find and develop next-gen talent will help RIA firms win.