Independent advisory practices have an applicant awareness problem

Despite ticking off many boxes on students or career-changers’ checklists, less than half are aware of financial planning as a career

Independent advisory practices have an applicant awareness problem

When an industry has trouble finding talent for their workforce, it’s typically because they’re seen to offer jobs or benefits that prospective applicants want. But as firms push the limits of their hiring practices, they’re discovering that potential employees might not be seeing them at all.

That was the finding suggested by a new study of over 2,000 advisors, students, adults changing careers, and university program directors commissioned by TD Ameritrade Institutional.

Based on the study, only 37% of students and 44% of career-changers were aware of the existence of financial planning as a career. But after learning more about it, 63% of students and 44% of job-switchers became interested.

“Much needs to be done to make the financial planning profession more attractive and sustainable, and our first job is to make it more visible,” said Kate Healy, managing director of Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional.

The survey revealed that 57% of registered independent advisors (RIAs) had taken on new associates within the past year, and 56% offered internship programs. However, most recruiting efforts were focused on experienced advisors with an existing base of clients; high-potential students, career-changers, and professionals from diverse backgrounds are apparently overlooked.

Polling RIA on their recruitment efforts revealed that 36% of advisors depended mainly on referrals, while 7% explored recruiting services and LinkedIn when searching for potential hires. However, a major obstacle to their search is the fact that career changers and students harboured misconceptions about careers in financial planning that dampened their interest.

Among participating students, 37% said they wanted to pursue a different career. Thirty-three per cent said they were not interested in sales, while 31% said they had no interest in finance.

For career-changes, the most significant turnoffs were a fear of starting over or losing tenure (46%) and a lack of interest in sales (41%). Another third expressed concerns over having unsteady income — concerns that are unfounded, according to the study.

When asked what they considered when assessing job candidates, advisors agreed that people-oriented skills were perhaps more important than math and analytical skills. That included enjoyment in working with people (something that 75% of advisors reportedly sought in candidates), self-confidence (71%), clear communication (70%), and entrepreneurial spirit (66%).

A bright spot for RIAs, the study found, is that the professional path they present actually has many of the features prospective hires are looking for in a career, such as:

  • Work-life balance (prioritized by 53% of students and 52% of career-changers);
  • Compensation (53% of students and 45% of career-changers); and
  • Personal fulfillment (35% of students, 38% of career-switchers)

“With so many advisors expected to retire in the next decade, combined with the rising demand for financial advice, our industry needs to expand its access to talent if it hopes to be sustainable and serve future generations,” Healy said.


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