The United States is in the midst of an employment phenomenon that’s commonly referred to as the Great Resignation. Millions of people have left the workforce over the past couple of years, resulting in a labor shortage that’s affecting almost all industries, including financial advisory firms.
This has made it even harder than usual for advisory businesses to hire and retain staff, including associate advisors. To thrive in this environment, firms need to develop purposeful strategies for recruiting and retaining top industry talent.
What Are Top Advisors Looking For?
Wooing successful advisors to your practice can be difficult, especially in the current environment. For every available advisor, there may be 20 other firms competing for his or her attention. The good news is that advisors looking for a new home will likely be attracted to what you have to offer—independence.
The first step in creating a recruiting and retention plan is to determine what top financial advisors are looking for in an advisory firm. According to data compiled by Diamond Consultants, most financial advisors want to work for firms that offer:
- A robust technology platform and infrastructure;
- A favorable compensation package;
- The ability to grow with the firm; and
- A high degree of freedom, flexibility and control.
Recruiting New Advisors
The next step is to identify the best sources from which to recruit new advisors. The most common strategy is to lead advisors away from other firms. This isn’t surprising when you consider that depending on their contractual arrangement, these advisors might be able to bring their book of business with them, resulting in an immediate boost in assets under management for your firm. Here are some other ideas for recruiting and hiring advisors:
• Utilize all available resources. There are so many more recruiting resources today. These include online job boards like Monster and ZipRecruiter, your firm’s website and social media channels, centers of influence (e.g., attorneys, bankers, CPAs), local financial planning association chapters like FPA and NAPFA, trade publications and websites, and your existing clients.
• Tap into your professional network. Word-of-mouth networking often tends to be the most effective strategy for finding new advisors. Let other professionals among your centers of influence know that you’re looking for new talent. You could even offer to pay a referral bonus for any recommendations that lead to successful hires.
• Offer an internship program. Talk to area colleges and universities that offer financial planning tracks about creating a formal internship program. For example, you could bring on one or two students each semester as interns and pay each student a small stipend. If they perform well and fit within your culture, you could offer them jobs as associates after they graduate. They will likely be more able to hit the ground running quickly since they already have experience working in your firm.
Structuring Your Compensation Package
Financial advisors accept jobs for lots of different reasons, but money is usually at or near the top of the list. Therefore, you must offer an attractive compensation package if you expect top advisors to come to work for you. This includes not just a competitive salary, but also health insurance, a retirement plan, and paid vacation.
Many advisors today also expect an incentive-based compensation plan with commissions or bonuses so they’re rewarded for higher production. According to industry studies, more than three-quarters of advisory firms compensate staff with some form of performance-based incentive pay.
Top advisors may also expect equity and earnouts. Ideally, equity shares should only be offered to more experienced advisors who can add tangible value to your firm, although you could use potential future ownership as a carrot to attract young advisors with potential.
Best Practices: 7 Advisor Recruiting and Retention Tips
Consider the following best practices for attracting, hiring and retaining top financial advisors to your firm:
1. Get your story out. Make sure potential candidates know that your firm is a great place to work. In today’s digital world there are lots of different ways to tell your story, such as your website and social media. Also utilize resources like your clearing firm’s relationship managers, centers of influence (e.g., CPAs and attorneys), business development teams, conferences, collateral materials, and traditional media and public relations.
2. Differentiate your firm from the competition. Be ready to demonstrate what things distinguish your firm from other advisory firms. For example, do you offer superior product solutions or a portfolio of unique products? What about the latest in cutting-edge technology and open architecture? Do you have a unique brand identity and strong reputation in the local market? Or strong marketing programs to help generate new leads for advisors? And how about future partnership opportunities for advisors who excel in their jobs?
3. Refine your value proposition. You need to create a value proposition that resonates with advisor candidates and sets your firm apart. A few examples:
- Boutique diversified financial services firm
- Trust and transparency
- Acclaimed, industry-recognized principles
- Un-conflicted advisory services
- Cooperative partnership
4. Don’t try too hard to “sell” candidates on your firm. It’s tempting to pull out all the stops to convince candidates that yours is the greatest advisory firm and you have no drawbacks. But no business is perfect so don’t be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses and a competitor’s strengths. Also, don’t use corporate colloquialisms when talking to candidates like “Just touching base,” “checking in” or “circling back.” And when you contact candidates, call with something to offer like new developments in your firm or an industry update.
5. Invest in technology. Most top advisors don’t want to work for firms that skimp on their tech stack, so having the most up-to-date technology in place is critical to hiring and retaining them. Tech-enabled advisors usually have higher levels of AUM, higher AUM per clients and greater compensation than other advisors. Modern advisor technology typically includes financial planning software, account aggregation tools, portfolio management software, and document management systems, among others
6. Mentor and coach new advisors. The best young advisors usually welcome coaching and mentoring from more experienced advisors because they know how much this can help them succeed. Therefore, assign an experienced coach or mentor to work closely with new advisors and teach them the “tricks of the trade.” Make sure prospective hires are aware of your commitment to coaching and mentoring during the interview process.
7. Offer career opportunities. Finally, remember that most top financial advisors are looking for more than just a job — they’re looking for a career with the firm they choose. This is especially true for new advisors who are just starting out. To attract them to your firm, present a career advancement track with specific milestones for promotions, pay raises and greater responsibility. This way, they can see where they might be career-wise three, five or even 10 years down the road.
So far, there’s little sign that the stress of the labor shortage caused by the Great Resignation is going to let up anytime soon. This makes it critical to create a recruiting and retention plan designed to attract the most talented and skilled financial advisors and keep them with your firm for the long term.
Gino DeRango is a Senior Vice President at Axos Advisor Services.