Why students want to know about wealth industry’s ‘on-ramps’

Seasoned advisor reports amazing interest as he reaches out to universities

Why students want to know about wealth industry’s ‘on-ramps’

Many people in the financial industry are talking about how to entice younger people to become advisors, but Mark Hougen of Calgary is doing something about it.

Hougen, the senior vice president and portfolio manager of Hougen Wealth Management in Raymond James, paid his own way to go to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. this fall to make a presentation about choosing financial advising as a career and how to get into the business – even though he wasn’t looking for anyone for his team.

Staff at the university, which has about 20,000 students and is located three hours north of Vancouver, contacted him about another matter, but they ended up discussing the fact that accountants, lawyers, and other professionals have recruiting drives and clear “on-ramps”, but those aren’t as clear for the wealth profession. The staff noted that students may know about investment banking, but not wealth management, so invited him to present.

Hougen assembled a 25-minute PowerPoint presentation, explaining his background and what financial advisors do – planning, investing, and mentoring clients, and then keeping them on track. More than 150 students attended, and he ended up answering questions for another 85 minutes – 40 minutes after the presentation and another 45 minutes with students milling around.

“The students really wanted to know: ‘Where’s the on-ramp? Who do we talk to?’ It was so very practical,” Hougen told Wealth Professional, noting there were a range of questions, but that was the most popular. 

“I went to Simon Fraser University business school in the late ‘80s,” he continued. “I wish somebody like me would have come to the school and done the talk that I did. I would have come into the business sooner. At the time, I didn’t know anything. My parents weren’t super-wealthy, so I didn’t have a connection to the industry. So, I thought: ‘here’s my chance. I could do something like that’.”

The venture was such a success that Hougen and his staff are now working with two Calgary universities to do the same thing next spring. He also plans to return to Thomson University every two or three years, once there’s been some student turnover.

While the level of engagement was extremely high, many students have also reached out to him on LinkedIn since – still asking questions – even though he suggested they talk to Raymond James’ human resources staff.

Given the reception, he’s encouraging other advisors to do similar outreach in their own areas – and demonstrate their passion for their careers rather than leaving it to their human resources staff.  He suggested that they ask the institutions to arrange for at least 100 students to attend.

“I want to get the wheels in motion, and I hope that other advisors will take up this challenge, too. They could phone or talk to their local universities or colleges and say, ‘I want to come in for half a day’, like I did,” said Hougen.

“It’s super-rewarding because I just wanted to be able to give back. I didn’t do it for me. I did it because I want the industry to continue and be strong and have good replacements. So, when I retire, the next generation that follows will be high-quality people and there’ll be enough of them. The least we can do is tell them about our amazing profession because they don’t know anything about it.

“It may not do anything specifically for your business, but that’s not the reason to do it in the first place. You should do it because it’s the right thing to do. We have this amazing profession, and we want more young people to think about joining us.”