Succession planning is preoccupying many independent advisor firms. But what are some concrete steps owners can take to make sure their firms continue to thrive far into the future? Financial Planning talked to Dave Grant, CFP, a financial planning analyst with Vantage Financial Partners Limited and founder of NAPFA Genesis (a group for fee-only planners under 33 years old), about how RIA firms can create a working environment that will attract — and keep — younger hires.
Q: What should advisory firms do to keep their young hires happy (and keep them from leaving for competitors?)
A: Through conversations I have had with members of NAPFA Genesis, it seems there are a number of things that keep young employees tied to an organization, even when presented with potentially better opportunities. Here are three ways companies can keep these younger employees committed:
Set realistic expectations
Success for young planners will not come overnight. They will need to spend many years learning how to have a real conversation and actually hear what their clients are saying. They will need to understand what their own biases are and how to not let these interfere with their recommendations.
Companies that have made this clear from the onset have had better success in retaining employees. Younger planners I have spoken to who are switching companies are telling me one reason is that the training and development turned out not to be as described during the interview process. There may be many reasons for this, but my initial advice to owners in this situation is not to sugarcoat a situation when interviewing potential hires. If it takes five years to be an advisor and there is no official training program, be honest. Break this journey down into milestones so that your new hire can measure progress and understand that progress. If this timeline is to be changed, keep that employee informed every step of the way.
When you find a driven, committed person, job tasks will most likely be done in a very efficient manner, which leaves plenty of time available for other things. Present these people with projects (or encourage them to design projects) to improve the company, build a personal marketing plan, prospect a target demographic, and become a subject-matter expert in an area of interest. If it’s appropriate, provide advancement faster than usual by assigning current client relationships. When there are signs of improvement in these areas, provide rewards in non-financial, creative ways to encourage further development.
Reward them well
If you think you have found a gem, then don’t risk letting another company poach your talent. Use a salary survey to find out what you should be offering in compensation, have a conversation with the employee and discuss both of your expectations. If the employee’s expectation is 5% more than what you anticipated, pay more. Not sure how many sick or vacation days to give? Make it unlimited. Red Frog, a Chicago-based event planning company, has done just that and found that the system is rarely abused. The people who abuse this system don’t belong at your company.
One of the most frustrating and expensive situations owners face is when they invest time and resources training an individual, only to have the person leave with short notice. However, with the prospect of an individual now having multiple jobs in their career, it should be understood that loyalty from some of these employees only goes as far as their next best option. Make sure your company is the best and you’ll reduce your risk of high turnover.
Danielle Reed writes for Financial Planning.