It’s a question that inevitably will come up at some point in our lives: How on earth did I get so old? It’s a question that advisors especially are asking. As I have blogged about here, here and here, advisors are not a young bunch. The average age in the industry is 55.
How is it that advisors have grown so old? Some chalk it up to demographics. Baby Boomers are one of the largest demographic groups in the country, second only to Echo Boomers, so the aging advisors simply mirror the population at large.
But demographics alone don’t provide a full explanation. The financial crisis in 2008 washed out many advisors, with the youngest and least experienced suffering the greatest consequences, says Jim Applewhite, an advisor with Wells Fargo in Raleigh, N.C.
“Young people dropped out because the going has been so tough,” he says, adding that he himself is just getting back to where production was in 2007.
Another possible explanation is even more obvious: Could it be that young adults simply aren’t interested in the business of giving financial advice?
Industry observers don’t seem to think so. It’s highly compensated and there’s a need for it in the market, notes Applegate.
In fact, it’s not lack of interest but higher barriers to entry that are preventing people from getting into the field, according to industry observers. Increased regulation and do-not-call lists, they say, have made it harder for aspiring advisors to break into the business than it was 20 years ago.
“The days of ‘here’s the phone book and call all your family and friends’ is over,” says Matt Fryar, an advisor with Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa.
What’s more, advisors need more knowledge than ever before, Fryar and others say. Clients today demand advisors with experience and a track record. Some even ask for recommendations.
And wirehouses, where many beginning advisors get their start, are cutting back on their training programs, according to Sophie Schmitt, an analyst at Aite Group, an independent research and advisory firm. The large firms, she says, are less aggressive about “hiring newbies fresh out of college” because the failure rate of the training programs is so high. Only 30% of the recruits survive the training programs, she says.
With such high barriers to entry, how can the industry ever hope to reinvigorate its image? More specifically how can young advisors break in to help soften the workforce’s growing wrinkles? I have two tips for novice advisors:
Find a Mentor:
The most successful advisors credit their success to mentors. Take William Oliver, the No. 1 advisor on BIC’s most recent Top 50 Bank Reps list. The longtime financial advisor in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Wells Fargo sought out a mentor in the early days of his career at Prudential Advisors. His mentor pushed him hard and helped him understand what it takes to run a successful practice, Oliver said. He remembers working “seven to seven, Monday to Thursday; until 6 on Friday; and six to seven hours every other Saturday.” Today Oliver mentors five rookie advisors. “Everybody needs help,” he said. “When they’re willing to work, I’m willing to help them.” He’s generous with his time, he says. He’s willing to meet with mentees for breakfast, dinner and even Saturday morning.
Join a Team as a Junior Advisor
As I mentioned in previous posts, a good way to break into the advisory business is to team up with a senior advisor and help that advisor with his or her accounts. The arrangement is mutually beneficial. Senior advisors gain an extra resource, while the junior advisors gain experience. The approach worked well for National Penn Bank’s Doug Leonzi, No. 22 on BIC’s Top 50 Bank Reps list. He joined a senior advisor’s team as a junior broker in 2004, helping the senior advisor with about 30% of his book, while simultaneously developing his own accounts. By 2006, Leonzi and the advisor were partners, sharing the same book of business.
Aspiring advisors should “join a team and work their way up,” Fryar reiterates. “There’s no other way.”